CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- The American Association of University Professors said Thursday the organization will investigate reports that University of Northern Iowa administrators violated governance, academic freedom and tenure procedures when formulating the recent proposed budget cuts or expected release of faculty.
Gregory Scholtz, the associate secretary and director of the AAUP's department of academic freedom, tenure and governance, said it is their hope "to prevent worse things from occurring."
"We are moving more rapidly than we sometimes do in the hope of maybe causing the administration to change its mind," Scholtz said.
Jim O'Connor, a spokesperson for the university, said Friday that the letter was received and they will respond to the AAUP in the coming days.
The investigative team likely will be on campus before the end of June, when the affected faculty positions are expected to be eliminated. The committee will then file a report on their findings. The committee could then, depending on what they find, recommend the AAUP delegates vote to impose formal censure on the university during its June 2013 meeting.
Nancy Reincke, president of the AAUP Iowa conference and an associate English professor at Drake University in Des Moines, said the label may not mean much to the general public, but it is a "black mark" in higher education.
"People who might be considering taking a job at such a university are going to have real serious doubts about it ... and people who are already hired might already be looking elsewhere, too," Reincke said. "It puts into jeopardy the quality of faculty."
At least two Iowa institutions have been or are currently on the AAUP's censure list. Des Moines University was first placed on the list in 1977. According to an explanation on the AAUP website, penned by Robert Yoho, DMU's vice president for academic affairs, the administration made a commitment in 2004 to work with the AAUP leadership on the removal.
"By that time, the university had appeared on the list for nearly 30 years, and few, if any, faculty members or administrators remained from the time of the 1977 decision," Yoho wrote.
For two years the administration worked to adopt new procedures which allowed the university to be removed from the list in 2006. Yoho was not available for comment Thursday.
The University of Dubuque has been on the list since 2002.
Frank Thompson, a UNI finance professor and past United Faculty president, said it is rare for a "mainline university" to get to the point of violating those principles and standards.
"When a school does go on the list it marks the institution as a place that is not comparable to other well-known and valued institutions," Thompson said. "Well certainly, if UNI wants to be considered a Regents school or to be comparable to its peer institutions like an Illinois State or Indiana State or Creighton, certainly it would want to be off that list."
Requests for comment from the Board of Regents office were not returned Thursday.
Cathy DeSoto, the United Faculty president and a psychology professor, said the university is already in jeopardy of losing its relevance with peer institutions. The most recent round of academic cuts --- if approved Wednesday by the Iowa Board of Regents --- will erase the university's French, German, geology, earth science and some physics programs among many others.
"The programs that are being eliminated are programs that all of our peer institutions have, that all universities have, that are not servicing two or three students, but have 20, 30, 40 majors currently in them," she said.
She said censure is very rare.
"In 2010 only two universities in the whole country were censured," she said. "This is not something that is done lightly. It is a serious investigation."