JOHNSTON, Iowa --- University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen said he’ll stay on at the school “as long as the Board of Regents allows” and again defended his controversial slate of budget cuts.
Allen made the remarks Friday during a taping of Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press.”
“We think that under the constraints we had and the challenges we had, we did the right things in the right way,” Allen said.
On Wednesday, the Board of Regents approved Allen’s recommendation to cut 58 undergraduate majors and minors to close an $800,000 funding gap.
Those cuts came after additional reductions to the university’s sports program, an early severance program offered to some employees and the announcement that the university intended to close Malcolm Price Laboratory School.
“The first thing is, we see the chaos not as chaos but as the difficult choice we have had to make. It’s really saying that this university is really taking action to improve it for the future,” Allen said.
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The cuts — particularly the proposed closing of the Price Lab school, which is the state-designated research and development school — have made Allen a target of faculty at the school who voted “no confidence” in the president and of many in the Cedar Falls community who have rallied around Price Lab.
Republicans and Democrats in the legislature have asked Attorney General Tom Miller for an opinion on whether the regents acted appropriately in closing the school while Gov. Terry Branstad and the Republican leadership in the House have come out in support of Allen.
Allen said the school faces another potential $2.9 million in reductions if a House appropriations bill approved in committee this week, which includes a tuition freeze for regents schools, ultimately is approved.
“I think this is part of the process,” Allen said. “I hope that it will be changed as we get to the end. At the end of the day, it’s not about politics, it’s about progress.”
Speaking after the taping, Allen said the university’s plans are to demolish most of the lab school.
“We would, of course, go to the Board of Regents and request that we tear down most of the building. There’s one part that would remain because it’s a late addition to the building, but there are other parts that are in need of demolition,” he said. “It’s up to the Board of Regents to approve that, but that would be my recommendation.”