The University of Northern Iowa’s president says the recent round of academic cuts at his institution will refocus resources to increase opportunities for UNI students who want to teach science. UNI will no longer offer a bachelor of arts degree in physics, for example, but it will offer a bachelor of science in physics. 

“The other areas that were cut, for instance in the areas of chemistry, will actually — I believe — will make us stronger because we can focus on the key chemistry courses. We eliminate a masters program, very few…were enrolled,” Allen says. “We can focus now on the undergraduates — where our teachers come from.”

Last year UNI awarded masters degrees in chemistry to four people. Language programs are among the dozens of programs affected by the cuts. UNI will no longer offer degrees in teaching German or French. Allen stresses the university is still offering a teaching degree in the high-demand language of Spanish.

“And I think we should be soon introducing Mandarin and Arabic and other languages that are going to be more important moving forward,” Allen says.

Allen made his comments this morning during taping of the Iowa Public Television program, “Iowa Press” which airs this evening at 7:30. Allen argued the cuts he’s implementing at the Cedar Falls school help fulfill the university’s focus on undergraduate education, particularly the education of future teachers.

“If you look at the types of faculty we hire, they are engaged in the classroom. We do not use teaching assistants in the classroom. We use tenure-track faculty. We have small classes. It’s that personalized education which we’ve been doing for years. We’ll keep making sure that people are aware of that,” Allen said. “These decision we are making now is quite honestly an effort to maintain that type of environment.”

The American Association of University Professors is investigating whether UNI’s president violated the rights of faculty in making program cuts. The investigation could lead to what’s called “censure” from the group, something that could prompt some professors to steer away from jobs at the Cedar Falls school. Allen’s response has been to focus on the reduced state support for the university and the difficulty of finding private funding sources to make up the difference.

“We are taking resources from low-enrolled programs where, despite the fact very important for those people in them, would be producing a lot more benefits for those students in high-enrolled programs and programs yet to be determined,” Allen said on the IPTV program. “To me, it’s really saying that this university is taking actions to improve it for the future. These are tough issues and I understand that when you make these tough (decisions) people get upset.”

A few dozen critics of the cuts on the campus staged a “Save UNI!” rally and march in Cedar Falls Thursday afternoon.

(This story was updated at 3:35 p.m. after UNI officials advised a university document which indicated the B.S. in physics would be discontinued, but the B.A. in physics would be offered was, in fact, the opposite of the final decision.)