UNI Presidential Candidate Michael Wartell: Trust Can be Rebuilt
Michael A. Wartell was appointed chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in July 1994.
University of Northern Iowa campus presidential candidate Michael Wartell didn't dance around the issues Monday as he addressed faculty, staff and community members at a public forum.
Wartell, the third and final candidate vying to be UNI's next president, spoke candidly about topics that have rocked UNI after the closure of dozens of academic programs in 2012.
"Trust may have flagged a bit in the last year, but I believe that trust can be rebuilt and make this institution uncommonly strong," he said.
He answered questions about how he would deal with the possibility of censure by the American Association of University Professors.
"AAUP censure is not the worst thing in the Western world, and it’s going to happen, most probably. So get used to it," Wartell said. "The question is whether you learn and grow from it and whether this institution fixes what the AAUP feels is wrong with it."
And would he make the changes necessary to satisfy the AAUP, which has, in part, complained that the decision to close dozens of academic programs last year was reached without adequate faculty input?
"Follow AAUP principles? That’s like motherhood and apple pie," he said, adding he once won an award from the AAUP for protecting academic freedom.
UNI math professor Doug Shaw said he appreciated Wartell's answers.
"You need to know you’re in a room full of people who really, really love UNI," he told Wartell. "Your bluntness here is really appreciated, to the point where I’m actually choking up a little bit, so thank you."
Wartell also talked about what he called, "the other interesting elephant in UNI's room," the role of athletics at UNI. UNI's athletic programs are subsidized by the university's general fund.
"Athletics provides a structure around which alumni and student and community members can become loyal to an institution, and that’s important," he said.
At least some financial support for athletics was inevitable at a comprehensive university like UNI, he said, but the question was what proportion of the budget that should be.
"I am very much a believer in having an athletic program," he said. "But you never want to degrade the academic program in favor of athletics."
Wartell was appointed chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in July 1994. During the previous year, he was vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of chemistry at IPFW. He became Chancellor Emeritus in July 2012. He also currently serves as chair of the U.S. Army Education Advisory Committee.
He received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of New Mexico and an M.S. and Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1968 and 1971, respectively from Yale University.
His application to be UNI's next president comes after he was essentially pushed out of his job in July 2012 due to a policy that required top administrators to retire at age 65.
The move, according the several media stories, was unpopular with IPFW's faculty, and the faculty senate voted 40 to one to recommend keeping Wartell on as chancellor despite the rule.
"I love every aspect of running a university. I love the interaction with students and faculty, the back-and-forth with legislators, dragging money out of donors," he told the UNI audience, to laughter. "I kind of resented it when I turned 65 and Purdue said, 'We have a rule.' I’d like to lead another university, and here I am."
The Iowa Board of Regents will meet to interview and discuss the candidates on Thursday in West Des Moines before announcing the next president.
UNI criminology professor Joe Gorton asked questions of all three candidates. He said he was especially pleased with both Wartell and Ruud.
"I think the search committee in some ways has an enviable problem in that they have a couple of good candidates here," he said.
UNI community members were emailed a link to a feedback form to fill out after today's visit. Community members and any UNI employees without university email access who wish to give feedback should email CSBR@uni.edu. The deadline to submit feedback is 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Current UNI president Ben Allen has announced he will retire by July.