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Provost clears up tension over graduate task force

BY MORGAN OLSEN | FEBRUARY 03, 2010 7:30 AM

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In response to concerns expressed about the graduate-school task force, Provost Wallace Loh addressed the UI Faculty Senate Tuesday and assured the members that university officials have made no decisions.

Loh emphasized that the preliminary reviews of the graduate programs were an initial step in the task forces’ overall objective.

“The results will be posted immediately when we get them,” Loh said, referring to six task forces exploring budget-saving options. “We asked for it by Feb. 8, but if time is needed, we will take the time.”

Loh also pointed to the larger economic problem that the university faces if changes are not made.
If the UI doesn’t take action by July 1, 2010, it will have to cut 132 faculty, 150 teaching assistants, and 88 staff positions, Loh said.

Generating revenue, reducing the budget, and reorganizing programs were three solutions the provost discussed.

“We have some teachers who teach only 20 students for the whole year,” Loh said, suggesting consolidating curriculums. “We can’t afford to have these very small classes in these economic times.”

Some faculty members were not sold on the task forces’ initiatives. When the Senate opened the discussion to the public; UI faculty spoke out about remaining concerns.

“I think you need to slow down the process. It’s better that we get this right,” philosophy Professor Richard Fumerton told the provost.

While Loh agreed the process should be deliberative, he argued that there must be closure.

“All I can promise you is that you have six months for further deliberation, and then someone has to make a decision,” he said.

Some members of the audience were concerned about the extent of deliberation in the reports.

“I’m really happy to be at the University of Iowa, and I’m willing to make sacrifices,” said David Cunning, an associate professor of philosophy. “But what really upset me was the lack of external review.”

Because the full reports have not been released, Loh couldn’t comment extensively on the issue. He expressed interest in seeing the results and data the task force collected and said he would make a judgment after this.

Other faculty members asked about the steps the UI administration is taking toward cutting its own budget, rather than turning to faculty and staff.

UI Faculty Council President David Drake asserted that the UI administration is the smallest in the Big Ten and has already made cuts.

“We are a bare-boned administration right now,” he said.

Both sides of the discussion walked away with different reactions to the question and answer session.

“I appreciate the fact that [Loh] came, but we obviously still disagree with the process,” Fumerton said.

But Loh said he thought the meeting went well.

“It was a good exchange of views; that’s what a university community should be about,” he said after the meeting.

Earlier, he asked the Faculty Senate to work with him on budget cuts.

“Just as this university came together after the flood, I hope you will all come together to become a leaner and strong institution,” he said. “The economy will eventually turn around, and we will truly be stronger.”


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