Iowa Board of Regents Hear Protests of Univ of Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa- The Iowa Board of Regents heard comment from the public, and University of Iowa staff, and students regarding the planned closure of the UI Labor Center,  a part of the College of Law.

The Center employs a full-time director, plus five employees, it focuses labor and workplace issues.

“We’ve had a tremendous turnout of people who have shown to give their support the Labor Center,
people who’s lives have been touched by the University of Iowa Labor Center," said sup: Bill Gerhard, who is President of Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council.

A number of speakers told the Regents, this is the only academic center in Iowa which looks at union/company issues.  The University staff has determined the closing would not affect the overall mission of the school.

"We share the UI’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive campus," said Jennifer Sherer, UI Labor Center Director. "For that reason we really strive to serve as a bridge to working class communities, rural communities, communities of color, and first generation immigrant families in Iowa."

The closing is planned to take effect at the end of June 2019, if the Regents vote to proceed with the closure.  Board President Michael Richards said the Center offered useful services, but was not essential to an undergrad student mission at the University of Iowa

The Regents are also considering the closure of 5 centers total at the University of Iowa, and 5 centers at Iowa State University.

The meeting was paused for around 20 minutes when a group began shouting regarding negotiation over wages and benefits with non-tenure track faculty.

"My name is Liz Weiss, I’m a lecturer at the University of Iowa, where I teach writing for a salary for $27,500 a year," said Liz Weiss. She was one of several who talked to the regents about low pay and benefits.

The University of Iowa issued a statement saying how the school had worked in good faith with that faculty group to understand their concerns. The school also recently improved benefits for those working more that 50% or greater regular appointment to the faculty.

"We had a meeting to conduct today, and they did have an opportunity to speak at the first part of the meeting" said Regent President Michael Richards. "I hope they continue to respect the Board of Regents meetings."