Ben Allen at Iowa State: Good Luck, ISU


NI Archives

Heppeard revisits the program cuts and closing of Malcom Price Lab School in 2012 under President Ben Allen. Allen is slated to take over as interim president of Iowa State University beginning in May.

ANDREW HEPPEARD, Opinion Columnist

Let me take you back to a UNI most current students never knew, and most past students never knew could end.

The year is 2011. We have programs in French and German, let alone other languages and the teaching programs and minors therein. The University Museum and the Malcom Price Laboratory School still stand in use, rather than standing in part just north of the Towers as an empty reminder of abject desolation.

Thanks to a 2012 decision made by former university President Ben Allen acting with the Iowa Board of Regents, roughly 25 precent of the programs offered at UNI in previous years came under fire, many of them being gutted or completely removed. The University Museum was essentially turned into storage, and the Price Lab stands in memoriam of a UNI lost to shady budget cuts and illegal termination of tenure positions.

It is also important to note that these decisions were made without proper notification or inclusion of United Faculty, the faculty union on campus here at UNI — blatantly ignoring UNI policy on budgetary actions of such a large scale.

In fact, these actions brought the threat of censure from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which would have made UNI one of the largest universities to be rebuked in such a way.

Due in no small part to former professor Betty DeBerg of the Department of Philosophy and World Religion, and numerous other faculty members, United Faculty was able to save many of the positions under fire. But it was too late for some.

In particular, Allen’s plan succeeded in gutting our language departments, and condensing them under the single heading we have today. French, German, Russian, all essentially gone, but allowed to stay as shells of their former selves in some cases.

The programs were cut to less than the bare minimum of faculty so that it could be said that the majors and minors in the programs could finish their studies and graduate. Many either dropped the programs or transferred, because there were not enough professors to handle the courses, however.

Today, UNI has begun to bounce back in the aftermath of the crippling blow dealt by Allen and the Regents.

French and German are offered to fulfill the liberal arts requirements of foreign language, and French has seen a spectacular recovery beyond that. As noted in my previous article, a new French major, together with a minor and a certificate, have blossomed into a soon to be fruitful tree.

The major, as readers may recall, allows a student to spend two years studying at UNI, and two years abroad in Besançon, France, all while paying UNI tuition.

The UNI Museum is now largely located downstairs in the Rod Library, and stages free exhibits on campus for students and the general public to browse and learn at their leisure. They have also recently received funding to take part in the restoration of the Mastodon tusk within their collection.

Despite the damage done to UNI by this ill-advised and unlawful decision, the Board of Regents has elected not to allow Allen to stay in whatever hole he crawled into after his “retirement” following a vote of no-confidence by United Faculty. It seems the Regents will pull him out from under his rock in order to serve as interim president at ISU after their current president, Steven Leath, leaves for Auburn University in Alabama.

This will be the second university president to leave Iowa in as many years, as administration members flee sinking Iowa schools in the wake of the holes drilled in our state education system by the Board of Regents, like the one outlined above, by using people like Ben Allen.

Some of you might remember that former President Bill Ruud, who took the reins after Allen’s dumpster fire and worked with United Faculty to begin UNI’s reconstruction, recently left for Marietta College in Ohio.

Given the history between them, one can only wonder what the Regents have in store for ISU with the appointment of Allen.

Maybe ISU will be the next university on the chopping block, and their departments should gird their loins for the battle to come. Or perhaps the position, whether it remains interim or becomes permanent, is a generous $525,000/year thank you gift from the Regents for a job well done with the butchering of UNI’s programs.

Whatever the reason, I cannot say why someone who has proven themselves to fall short when given this type of responsibility would be handed another institution. All I can say is, good luck ISU. You’re going to need it.