Panther PAC combats inadequate funding


With only 16 percent of public higher education funds going to UNI, advocates decided it was time to act. That was how the Panther Political Action Committee (Panther PAC) was formed.

Panther PAC is a non-partisan, independent group whose goals involve supporting and endorsing state candidates who will believe in and advocate for UNI.

According to Sarah Eastman, co-chair,  the committee has already received a great amount of support.

The group also wants to ensure the person they choose to support will recognize and fix the lack of adequate funding that UNI routinely receives from the legislature in comparison to the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.

Joe Gorton, associate professor of criminology and co-chair of Panther PAC, stressed that, despite the important role that UNI plays in the state of Iowa, past and current governors continue to under-fund the university.

“Primarily, this is done through a funding model that appropriates approximately 16 percent of public higher education general funds to UNI and 84 percent to the other two universities,” Gorton said. “Unlike UNI, [University of Iowa] and [Iowa State University] receive huge revenues from out-of-state tuition and external grants.”

According to Gorton, the model is extremely unfair not only to students at UNI, but to the entire Cedar Valley.

“We are long overdue for a funding model that will appropriate 24 percent of the state’s university budget to UNI,” Gorton said.

Gorton and Eastman have worked together on several advocacy projects in the past few years. Because of their prior work together, Eastman was happy to join Gorton’s efforts to form a political action committee that would work to elect those who would fight for UNI.

“We have both witnessed the consequences to our community when UNI faces budget problems,” Eastman said. “Having seen the need to fight for adequate funding every year and feeling the frustration when that funding didn’t always come through, when not all of our elected officials seemed to understand or value the unique mission of UNI, I felt strongly that we needed to do what we could to change that.”

Many of those who have joined the newly-formed PAC are either Cedar Valley community members or UNI faculty/staff members.

“It is our hope that as we grow, students will join us in our efforts to advocate for UNI too,” Eastman said.

Eastman also shared that even though Panther PAC is fairly new, a number of individuals have already donated over $2,000.

“We’ve had a really great response to Panther PAC in just the first two weeks. We’re very appreciative of those who have recognized the need and stepped up to join us,” said Eastman.

Gorton expects that support and membership will continue to grow.

As of now, the group is working on establishing several different committees to help things move forward. Within the next couple of weeks, Gorton and Eastman hope to schedule additional public meetings to get their message out, answer questions anyone may have about Panther PAC and encourage more university and community members, as well as students, to join in their efforts.