CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Proposed academic cuts at the University of Northern Iowa have yet to be made public, but those on campus are already talking about what they may mean for the university.
UNI President Benjamin Allen is expected to announce the cuts next week following additional meetings with the Faculty Senate and United Faculty. However, Adam Butler, a psychology professor, said most faculty already know what the administration has presented to faculty leaders based on the criterion shared with United Faculty representatives.
"The only thing that was said was that the administration was proposing cuts to programs that had graduated 10 or fewer majors in each of the last five years," he said. "Some of those programs seem to be pretty integral to the notion of a university. Sometimes there are small programs on campus, but programs which are nevertheless necessary to call yourself a comprehensive university."
Butler wouldn't say which programs are at risk, but said, in general, programs like philosophy and German rarely have a large number of graduates. He said he would "be ashamed to have a university without a philosophy department."
Cathy DeSoto, the United Faculty president, said union representatives requested a copy of the proposed cuts and consolidations as part of the discussion regarding how layoffs and recalls would work should they be needed.
"The reorganization that they've proposed, if it went through, it would eviscerate the university," she said. In a statement released to the press today, the United Faculty said the cuts would eliminate undergraduate degrees in "fields as diverse as physics, geography, religion, philosophy and teaching of English to speakers of other languages."
She said that the faculty union has shared the information with colleagues. Department heads have also begun talking with faculty who could be affected.
Butler called the latest round of cuts "the proverbial last straw."
"This has been growing for a number of years. There doesn't seem to be any vision from President Allen on the future of UNI in this rapidly changing and increasingly competitive higher education landscape," he said.
According to a United Faculty survey taken this fall, more than 83 percent of the faculty responding said their morale has declined since arriving at UNI, with more than 41 percent strongly agreeing with the statement.
The entire faculty has been asked to gather Friday afternoon. Butler expects if a quorum is present, a vote of no confidence will be brought to the floor. The Teacher Education Faculty senate, which represents about 180 faculty, Tuesday passed a no-confidence vote in Allen, Provost Gloria Gibson and the Board of Regents.
Butler said it isn't even the proposed cuts that have faculty most upset. It is the process by which the administration reached those decisions --- largely without input from faculty.
"This is not a new trend in leadership for President Allen," Butler said. "Leading up to this year morale was low, as low as it's been since I've been here. Nobody is confident that President Allen can lead us forward."
Butler, who used to work as an organizational psychologist, said that kind of atmosphere could have a significant negative impact on recruitment and retention of quality faculty.
"You cannot have a demoralized workforce and simultaneously expect them to perform at their best," he said.
However, Spencer Walrath, the Northern Iowa Student Government President, said no matter how upset faculty are about what is happening on campus they need to engage in civil discussions, especially when communicating with students. Walrath wrote on open letter to faculty in the student newspaper expressing his concern. He said while most faculty have had open and honest discussions with their students others have resorted to anger and name-calling.
"I had a number of students come and complain to me. Some were even crying because of the things faculty said, calling the president names, their tone and demeanor. They said the tone of the conversation frightened them," Walrath said, adding that he has not witnessed any of these exchanges.
Butler said many faculty members are talking to students about the pending cuts but he questioned how many, if any, have engaged in that kind of conversation.
"It's all hearsay, and we've played the game of operator before," he said. "Even just in informal conversations with faculty I have not heard people speak disrespectfully or disparage the administration personally, only complain about their performance and lack of leadership."