Iowa’s governor is defending University of Northern Iowa president Ben Allen amid the controversy over Allen’s decision to close the laboratory school that’s been the center of U.N.I.’s education courses for decades.

Governor Terry Branstad says he is disappointed the U.N.I. faculty issued a vote of “no confidence” in Allen late Friday afternoon.

“I called Ben Allen on Friday to indicate my support,” Branstad says. “First of all, I’ve known Ben Allen for a long time. I’m impressed with his knowledge and leadership skills.”

The governor says Allen deserves “respect and support” rather than criticism.

“I believe that the president of the University of Northern Iowa is in the best position to articulate a vision for the future of the university and make the tough decisions necessary to focus on its strengths and on the things that are critical to provide the best opportunities for students,” Branstad says. “And I believe that Ben Allen is doing that.”

University of Northern Iowa student body president Spencer Walrath — a senior from Cedar Rapids who’s majoring in music and psychology — supports Allen’s decision to close the Price Lab School on June 30.

“I think that President Allen is a great leader and over this past six years at UNI he’s shown he’s continually committed to serving students and I really appreciate all his of efforts and he’s in a tough position,” Walrath says. “UNI has to make some serious cuts.”

Students on campus began a five-day-long “study in” this morning as a means of protesting the closure. Walrath doesn’t plan to participate, but he’s not denouncing the effort either.

“It seems to be a peaceful protest. I don’t know how effective it will be, but as long as nobody’s getting hurt, I guess we’re o.k.,” Walrath says, laughing.

Walrath made his comments this morning during Governor Branstad’s weekly news conference. Branstad invited Walrath and the student body presidents of Iowa and Iowa State to participate in the event as a show of support for the governor’s proposal to send 20-million more dollars in state support to the universities next year.

House Republicans have proposed cutting state spending for the universities.