Education

University of Iowa rehires five of 15 laid-off lecturers

'These positions reflect student enrollment demands'

The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top l
The Pentacrest on the campus of the University of Iowa including the Old Capitol Building (center), Macbride Hall (top left), Jessup Hall (bottom left), Schaeffer Hall (top right), and MacLean Hall (bottom right) in an aerial photograph. (The Gazette/file photo)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa’s largest college has rehired five of 15 lecturers it cut earlier this summer as part of the former dean’s efforts to trim $15 million to $25 million from a budget feeling the pressure of COVID-19-compelled enrollment declines, tuition losses, and state funding cuts.

One week after the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences replaced its former Dean Steve Goddard, who laid out massive cuts and layoffs in June, UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck on Wednesday confirmed contract renewals for five lecturers “whose appointments had not been renewed due to budget constraints.”

“These positions reflect student enrollment demands and will allow CLAS to offer a robust curriculum this fall,” Beck said via email.

Although the university didn’t disclose which departments received back their lecturers, Department of Rhetoric Executive Officer Steve Duck on Wednesday confirmed, “Three rhetoric lecturers had their terminations rescinded.”

The rehires come just over two weeks from when more than 30,000 students are expected to return for a novel hybrid fall semester that prioritizes in-person learning but keeps larger courses online while supplementing face-to-face instruction with virtual options.

Despite warnings from the former dean that the college was facing a 10 to 15 percent drop in students this fall — creating a “huge” impact via lost tuition — dozens of the college’s courses currently have waitlists, including hybrid rhetoric sections, political science seminars and discussions, and biology labs, among many others.

On July 17, the chair of Iowa’s Health and Human Physiology Department emailed lecturers to alert them that an associate dean was requesting enrollment caps in wait-listed courses “be increased to allow more students into the courses.”

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“This is a good problem to have at this time of budget cutting as it indicates many students want our courses,” Chair Warren G. Darling wrote. “This will help the department maintain instructional-track faculty lines in the face of future budget problems that are expected over the next few years.”

He said some courses would see only small cap increases — fewer than 10 students. The change was relatively simple for online courses and more complicated for in-person courses, given COVID-19-mitigation measures and limits on room capacities.

“For in-person taught courses we will have to see room assignments to determine whether a small increase in the cap is possible,” he said.

Regarding courses with “quite large waitlists,” Darling suggested further discussions on how to accommodate more students.

Another administrator that day warned instructors the registrar’s in-person classroom assignments had been delayed “due to the complexity of the project,” and even those already assigned could be changed.

Further complicating the scramble to schedule classes, make buildings safe, and trim the budget — even as hundreds of UI educators this week have demanded the campus change course for fall and keep everything online — is consequential turnover atop the university and liberal arts college.

Former UI Provost Montse Fuentes stepped down from her post in July, just a year after being hired, and her interim replacement Kevin Kregel just two weeks later replaced College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Goddard, who also had only been at UI one year.

Goddard had come under fire following a sharply-criticized town hall in June, during which he laid out looming budget cuts and layoffs, pressured faculty and staff to teach in person this fall, and said they could lose their jobs if they refused.

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In a letter to Goddard and Sara Sanders — who was an associate dean at the time but has been appointed as Goddard’s interim replacement — the UI Council on the Status of Women criticized the 15 lecturer layoffs, which that group said disproportionally affected women, including women of color.

Of the 15 layoffs, 12 were women, at least three were women of color, at least two were first-generation college students, and at least two were single mothers, according to the council.

“We know 80 percent of CLAS faculty are not women,” according to the letter. “Women should not represent 80 percent of the layoffs.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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