Senators hold listening post



Jeff Danielson, Iowa State Senator, was one of several officials who held a listening post on UNI’s campus. The others were State Senators Rob Hogg and Brian Schoenjahn, The listening post was held to promote discussions, questions and concerns about UNI’s future.

JOSHUA DAUSENER, Copy Editor | [email protected]

Three Iowa State Senators painted a dire picture of UNI’s funding situation at a listening post Sept. 15.

Iowa State Senator Jeff Danielson, along with State Senators Rob Hogg and Brian Schoenjahn, hosted a community discussion Thursday, in the University Room at the Maucker Union. There were about 70 in attendance, consisting mostly of concerned university faculty, as well as several students.

The leading topics of discussion included funding for UNI and Iowa’s other universities, transparency and accountability in the Board of Regents (BOR) and the ongoing UNI presidential search.

While discussing funding for UNI, Schoenjahn described a past conversation with former UNI President Bill Ruud.

According to Schoenjahn, Ruud had told him, “We have tremendous infrastructure upgrades that are needed here, especially in our IT department. We’re holding the place together with duct tape, literally.”

Schoenjahn went on to say that during his time as a student at UNI, the state of Iowa provided 70 percent of university funding, while today it only provides 30 percent.

Hogg told those in attendance that the state of Iowa is providing its public universities less funding today than in the fiscal year 1999.

Schoenjahn also laid out the concerns of several university presidents he had spoken to, such as losing faculty to different schools, food safety and infrastructure.

Schoenjahn said that while in discussion with Bruce Harreld, the president of the University of Iowa, Harreld said, “I’m losing my best faculty to the Big Ten. Just this summer, I lost a research professor and five of his assistants, and $5 and [a] 1/2 million dollars in research grants.”

The group also discussed at length the mechanism through which the Board of Regents is appointed. The governor appoints a volunteer to the board, and the Iowa Senate confirms the appointee. The Iowa Constitution states that no more than five members of the board can belong to the same political party.

The board currently consists of five registered Republicans, three registered independents and one registered Democrat. Danielson said some of the independent members of the board changed their voter registration to quality for appointment to the board.

All current members of the board were appointed by Governor Terry Branstad, a Republican.

Joe Gorton, an associate professor of criminology at UNI and president of UNI’s faculty union, said he thought the Board of Regents has prevented university presidents from strongly advocating for their respective schools, saying that university presidents are “muzzled.”

Gorton went on to discuss Ruud’s advocacy, saying, “Bill Rudd was a strong advocate for this university – maybe too strong.”

Hogg expressed concern over Gorton’s comments, saying, “We want our presidents to be able to fully advocate for their universities.”

Iowa’s whistleblower laws were also under fire during the discussion, as was BOR President Bruce Rastetter’s recent appointment to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee.

Lastly, the community discussed UNI’s ongoing presidential search. Hogg talked about the importance of conducting this current presidential search differently from the search that occurred at the University of Iowa earlier this year that resulted in UI being sanctioned.

“We can’t have happen at UNI what happened at Iowa,” Hogg said. “I am hopeful about this process […] If you ever see something that’s going off the tracks, please let one of the three of us or Senator Dotzler know.”

Kenneth Elgersma, biology professor, was in attendance at the meeting. He said he was “concerned about the procedure the board uses to select the new president.” Elgersma cited the controversial process used to select the University of Iowa president and the lack of transparency within the BOR as the main reasons for his concern.

“It’s important we have a good process for selecting the president,” Elgersma said.

The meeting concluded at 1 p.m., with several audience members engaging in further discussion with the three senators.