Some professors at Iowa's three public universities feel their voices aren't being heard when it comes to important decisions made on their campuses. Saturday, they spoke out in a forum on the University of Iowa campus with Board of Regents President Craig Lang and President Pro Tem Bruce Rastetter.
The Iowa Board of Regents has made some high-profile decisions in recent years. Some, like the tuition freeze for undergraduate students, have the full support of university faculty. Others have professors wondering why they weren't included in the decision making process.
"Faculty are very concerned about the idea that the Board of Regents is making decisions without the benefit of direct faculty input," said Dr. A. Frank Thompson, a Professor of Finance at the University of Northern Iowa.
Professors at Iowa's three public universities want to be included when it comes to important decisions on campus. That was the main message at Saturday morning's meeting when Lang and Rastetter spoke to professors from across the state at the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Iowa conference.
"I think it was a really positive meeting," said Rastetter. "I think they heard from us that we don't have any concerns about what people say and they ought to have the academic freedom to say it. And people ought to have the academic freedom to criticize it."
Professors want the Board of Regents to defend their right to research. This comes after a dispute involving Iowa State University and Senator Tom Harkin.
The senator had promised his congressional papers to the institute in Ames bearing his name but has since withdrawn the donation, saying he's concerned about restrictions on research.
Many professors believe President Lang supported research limitations.
"In no way shape or form would I ever be engaged in anything that denied academic freedom except for the one issue that academic freedom cannot inhinge upon the academic freedom of another institute or center," said Lang.
Lang's term as a member of the Board of Regents ends April 30th. Earlier this week the Iowa Senate did not confirm Lang to another term.
The ISU incident wasn't the only problem professors mentioned Saturday. Many are concerned that University of Iowa President Sally Mason is working month to month. Professors say there's several problems at the University of Northern Iowa.
"We have declining enrollment," said Joe Gorton, President-Elect for United Faculty, the faulty union at the University of Northern Iowa. "We have an enormous amount of administrative waste, a bureaucratic bloat that's taking place. And I heard no discussion what-so-ever of that."
Another UNI issue brought up was the closing of Price Lab. Faculty members say they wish they had been included in the decision making process. Lang and Rastetter said Price Lab needed to close, but that they should have been more forthcoming about the situation.
Professors also asked if the Board of Regents would support a public hearing at meetings. Lang and Rastetter said they do not support the public speaking at regents meetings, but want to speak with them at more informal gatherings like the one held Saturday.