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Armed Guard is Protecting UNI Professor Criticized Over National Guard Students' Missed Test

Cathy DeSoto, a professor who has received threats since being named in a grievance by a military student who missed a test, says it feels like the school is retaliating against her for past criticisms of school leadership.

An armed guard is protecting a University of Northern Iowa professor who is receiving threats and some want fired for not letting students retake an exam missed for National Guard training. 

This week, Specialist James Roethler and Private Dustin Hiller were assured their final grades won't be negatively affected, but professor Cathy DeSoto said she is still scared after she and her husband received expletive-laced phone and email messages telling her to leave town and worse.

"Right now, I feel like I am in danger," said DeSoto, a professor of psychology. "I am scared."

The university is now paying for an armed guard, who stands watch outside her classroom when she teaches, DeSoto said.

UNI declined to comment on the story or DeSoto's accusations that the school President Ben Allen is retaliating against her.

"At this time, the issue has been resolved and we do not wish to add speculation or further discussion around this case," UNI spokeswoman Stacey Christensen said in an email. "The next steps are to move forward with looking at policy and making sure we are being responsive and reasonable to the needs of our military and veteran students."

DeSoto said she has been falsely branded a military hater.

She blames the university, particularly Allen, for emboldening her critics by releasing a public statement saying he disagreed with her decision and vowing the students' wouldn't be penalized for serving their country.

If the school didn't know initially, it quickly learned the students' grades were never in danger yet have refused to clarify or remove Allen's statement, which remains firepower for critics, she said.

DeSoto says Allen is retaliating for her speaking out against the school over the years, including the challenging past year in which several academic programs and Price Laboratory School were closed. 

As head of the Faculty United union, DeSoto worked on cases against the university to get severance for fired professors. In March, she testified before the Iowa Senate Legislative Government Oversight Committee that the university wasn't in financial peril but rather overspending, particularly at the senior leadership level.

"They want me to suffer, to leave. They want to send a message. This is what happens when you criticize the university," DeSoto said.

DeSoto is speaking with faculty about filing a grievance against the school.

DeSoto and other faculty are criticizing Allen for taking sides publicly without ever speaking to DeSoto about the grievance filed by the students. And, without letting the school's grievance process play out.

Colleagues in her department say they stand in support of DeSoto and her job is not in any jeopardy. 

"She is an award-winning teacher, who did nothing wrong," psychology department faculty wrote in a statement shared by associate professor Kim Maclin. "Her course policy on makeup work is and was appropriate, complied with university policy, and did not negatively impact the grade of either student. We remain committed to our reserve and active military students, and honor their service."

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