The University of Northern Iowa faculty has issued a vote of no confidence in UNI President Ben Allen and Provost Gloria Gibson.
Just over 250 faculty members, as well as dozens of students and community members, gathered in the great hall of the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center Friday in a meeting unprecedented in the history of the University of Northern Iowa.
On the motion for no confidence in Allen, 197 voted yes, 53 voted no and four abstained. On the motion for no confidence in Gibson, 172 voted yes, 69 voted no and nine abstained, with one spoiled ballot.
Faculty chair James Jurgensen read the results, which were taken by secret paper ballot.
The full text of the vote has been attached to this article as a PDF. The faculty members amended that text to separate Allen and Gibson's names.
"We find this deeply disappointing. President Allen has worked diligently to lead the university and position it for the future. Changes in higher education and reduced state support requires proactive, strategic leadership demonstrated by President Allen to make the tough choices," UNI spokesperson Stacey Christensen said. "We have a responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of our students and the taxpayers of the state of Iowa."
The vote came after a petition circulated among faculty members in the wake of controversial budget cuts at UNI, which include closing Malcolm Price Laboratory School, and closing the doors of the University Museum, as well as cuts to academic programs that have not yet been announced. At least 30 had to sign such a petition to call a full meeting of the faculty. To hold a vote, 160 faculty members needed to be present.
The faculty members voted to suspend normal procedure and take the vote on the no confidence motion in the same meeting it was presented, instead of in a future meeting.
On Feb. 28, the teacher education faculty senates had issued a similar vote, declaring no confidence in Allen, Gibson and the Iowa Board of Regents.
Arguments, almost all in favor of the vote, lasted for a little more than an hour, with many faculty members speaking out against both the recent budget cuts and the way they were made, saying little input had been sought from faculty members.
"I believe that may of us are understandably upset about the prospect of program cuts and the announced cut of Price Lab School," psychology professor Adam Butler said. "However, I and other faculty are also upset about the process used to make these decisions. If any faculty member here was consulted recently about the programs cuts, I’d be interested to see your hand."
Less than ten members of the audience raised their hands.
"That is not an adequate representation of the faculty. It is not adequate consultation," Butler said.
Some faculty members spoke against cutting academic programs based on number of graduates, which Gibson said in an interview last week would be a strong criteria for deciding which programs would be eliminated.
The physics department is potentially on a list of programs, along with the philosophy department, that could be cut, according to faculty members at the meeting.
Physics professor Andrew Stollenwerk said the value that comes out of his department could not be measured in the number of graduates.
"I’m not fighting for my job right now. I can get one when we’re done at IBM. I'm fighting for what I believe in," he said.
Political science professor Scott Peters said he was worried about what a vote of no confidence would mean for the ability of the faculty senate to work with the administration moving forward.
"I don't know what a vote of no confidence means. Can we continue to meet with the provost? Can we continue to meet with her representatives? I just don't know," Peters said.
Not everyone at the meeting was hostile toward the UNI leadership.
About 50 students gathered in support of Allen in the Gallagher lobby before the meeting. Some signed a card to give the president.
"As students we are subject to listening to our professor's opinions. Classes are hostile; discussions get derailed. It's been stressful," said Sarah Crim, 19, a sophomore studying sociology. "We want to show Ben Allen we still support the decisions he is making. He is making the best decision he can in the situation he is in."
The students sat in the auditorium as the faculty debated, holding up letters reading, "Team Ben Allen."