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Mason defends UI's hiring process amid protests

BY ANNA THEODOSIS | APRIL 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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University of Iowa President Sally Mason defended the UI's hiring processes on Monday in the wake of a Johnson County Republican protest of what they call political inequality among the campus's faculty.

"We adhere strictly to federal law," Mason said. "We're careful to adhere to all the laws, all the guidelines. Political affiliation is not something we ask [during the hiring process.]"

The group's protest Monday afternoon was in support of a lawsuit filed by Teresa Wagner, a professor who alleged UI College of Law administrators denied her a job in 2006 because of her conservative political views. Wagner, a 1993 UI College of Law graduate, sued then College of Law Dean Carolyn Jones.

Local Republicans gathered outside Jessup Hall and contended that there is a disproportionately large number of liberal faculty at the UI.

"We want to keep this issue alive," Coralville resident Arleigh Clemens said. "The University of Iowa has a 'poly-paid' faculty person who is supposed to provide diversity. We have no quibble against that person at all. We are here to promote equal opportunity for the right as well as the left."

Johnson County Republican head Bob Anderson said the UI needs a range of political affiliations in the UI faculty to provide students a well-rounded education.

"It's obviously not an issue in certain science departments, but we're talking about those departments that specifically relate to history, law, political science," he said. "If there is a cross section [of political viewpoints,] the student body has a better opportunity for education rather if only one point of view is accepted in the faculty."

Johnson County Democrats head Terry Dahms disagreed, saying the university does an adequate job of hiring personnel from both political backgrounds.

"Sounds like a case of sour grapes to me," he said. "I think [the protesters] could spend their time on more worthwhile protests than on something like that."

Coralville resident Rich Clinite carried a sign at the protest stating "cut law-school funding." The only way to get the attention of UI faculty with liberal views, he said, is to take away their money.

"You cannot expect liberals to change their minds," he said. "The UI has gotten caught with its hands in the cookie jar. There is no explanation for what it did."

UI history Professor Jeffery Cox said a faculty member's political affiliation is not as important as the decisions made.

"[The UI] obviously doesn't have an equal representation," he said. "The question is whether the high decisions are made on a partisan decision. I really don't think partisanship comes into it."
Anderson said he hoped the protest would bring awareness to the case.

"That gets to the core issue about Teresa Wagner," he said. "We look at the definition of the provost studies at the UI, and it specifically stipulates that there be a qualified, diverse faculty."

This diversity, he said, should reflect Iowa's legislative makeup.

"If you look at Iowa's Congressional legislation we have both Republicans and Democrats," he said. "If you look at our state government, both parties are represented. There should be a broad cross section of political though that reflects Iowa."


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