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Lang, Rastetter defend actions at UI professors meeting

BY STACEY MURRAY | APRIL 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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Members of the American Association of University Professors said that while the state Board of Regents has made progress in transparency between regent-university faculty and the board, it needs to recover the damage done from recent decisions.

University of Iowa law Clinical Professor Lois Cox said that while transparency between the faculty and regents hasn’t always been great, things are looking better.

“I think the regents have been increasingly open,” she said. “It hasn’t always been good, but we’re on an upswing.”

The Iowa Chapter of the professor association hosted Regent President Craig Lang and President Pro-Tem Bruce Rastetter on April 13.

The organization held its meeting in Art Building West. Katherine Tachau is president of the UI chapter.

Tachau said she was pleased with the conversation between the regents and the members because this openness hasn’t always existed.

“We haven’t always had regents that do that,” she said. “But I think they have fences to mend with UNI.”

The regents spoke to the importance of relationships among faculty members. The regents additionally defended positions they took on issues that have arisen over the last few months.

“The president of the Board of Regents must work to know who the faculty are and what their lives are like,” Lang said.

Rastetter echoed his sentiments.

“If anything, you want to improve or have knowledge of the people, you actually have to talk to people who are doing the job and making it happen,” he said.

Discussion followed with panel members from A. Frank Thompson, a UNI professor of finance, along with UI philosophy Professor Richard Fumerton.

The panel and regents discussed the issues with funding for the UNI and the closing of the Price Laboratory School, which left some UNI faculty members with hard feelings.

“Morale has never been lower,” said UNI Professor Joe Gorton. “I haven’t seen how they’re reaching out to us. They’re not reaching out to the Faculty Union.”

Gorton also expressed disappointment, saying the discussion was too focused on the regents asking for support for “the debacles they created.”

Rastetter said he doesn’t promote academic infringement, despite the wording of his emails in regards to the emails exchanged with a UI professor about biofuel research. Rastetter was accused of trying to alter the professor’s views.

Lang, who was rejected by the Iowa Senate for another term on the board earlier this month, said despite the bad press he’s received following controversy with the Harkin Institute, his service was worth it.

“When we have something as important as our regent institutions, it’s worth fighting for, even if you have to fall on the sword to win the battle,” Lang said.

Lang admitted regents’ decisions in the past regarding the Price Lab weren’t necessarily the best, but they look toward the future to right those wrongs.

The regents voted to close the Price Lab at the UNI in February 2012 because of budget cuts.

“We made some decisions to move ahead, and I’ll be the first one to admit we could’ve done it in a better way; we should have probably done it in a better way,” Lang said. “I wanted to get to know the UNI faculty better … so that as we move ahead we’re able to rectify what’s happened in the past.”

But while Gorton said there wasn’t any outreach to faculty, Fumerton said he thinks the conversations thus far between faculty and regents have been positive.

“When I’ve had those conversations, it always ends up better,” he said. “There are no evil people in this game. We can talk, we can discuss, we can find ways.”


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