AAUP president expresses concern over Allen’s actions
Published: Monday, November 12, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 12, 2012 13:11
The president of the American Association of University Professors expressed “grave concern” over the way University of Northern Iowa president Benjamin Allen handled a grievance filed against a UNI professor.
Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of AAUP, released a letter to Allen on Nov. 2, expressing his concern over the statement Allen made after freshman psychology major James Roethler filed a grievance against Cathy DeSoto, a UNI professor of psychology.
Dan Power, president of AAUP-United Faculty at UNI, said Allen’s action has increased the likelihood that the AAUP Congress will censure UNI at its meeting in June 2013.
“Censure is a serious matter,” Power said. “I hope remedial actions will be taken to avoid censure.”
Allen, in a statement released on Oct. 24 addressing the grievance against DeSoto, said he “strongly disagree(d) with the decision made by the professor in this case.
“We have been working with the student involved from the beginning, and continue to work with him to help ensure that he won’t be penalized for serving his country…” Allen continued, referring to the fact that Roethler filed the grievance after he missed an exam due to an out-of-state National Guard drill.
In his letter, Fichtenbaum wrote that as the university’s procedures eventually established, “Professor DeSoto neither altered Mr. Roethler’s grade nor took any other action that was either harmful to Mr. Roethler or in violation of university policies.”
Fichtenbaum, referencing a Nov. 2 article in the Northern Iowan, also said DeSoto has received multiples threats, something Roethler said he did not want when he filed the grievance —he only wanted to see a policy created. Fichtenbaum also said DeSoto’s car was vandalized.
According to Fichtenbaum, Allen’s actions were retaliatory against DeSoto for her public criticism and resistance to many university actions.
“I am known as an outspoken critic of the UNI administration,” DeSoto said in a Nov. 2 Northern Iowan article.
“I fear that your rash action in condemning Professor Desoto and your failure to retract your public statements once the full story had been established have not only endangered Professor DeSoto personally, but have had a chilling effect on academic freedom and free expression at UNI generally,” Fichtenbaum wrote to Allen in his letter.
Fichtenbaum said a “principle tenet of academic freedom is the faculty’s right to independently evaluate student performance within the context of policies and procedures established through a process of shared governance.
“Your unfortunate decision to ignore your university’s own procedures and to pass judgment in the press has made a mockery of due process at UNI,” Fichtenbaum continued in his letter to Allen.
Fichtenbaum called upon Allen to “issue a public retraction” of his initial statement and to “employ the university’s public relations staff to restore Professor DeSoto’s good name and UNI’s reputation.” He also said Allen should personally reimburse DeSoto for the damages done to her vehicle and that he holds Allen personally responsible.
Power said he hopes the Iowa Board of Regents “takes actions to ensure shared governance for faculty, to ensure due process for faculty and students and to remedy the wrongs that have occurred in the past year.”