Protestors interrupted the Board of Regents meeting in Iowa City today. The non-tenured track faculty were led by someone using a bullhorn demanding that the University of Iowa listen to their bargaining demands. They chanted “President Harreld you’re no good, treat your workers like you should.”
The university recently stopped talking with them about requests for increased benefits and pay. The protest came during a report from the Superintendent on the Iowa School for the Deaf. The president of the board adjourned the meeting for a time, and then they returned and resumed their meeting without addressing the protestors.
Those weren’t the only loud comments heard at the meeting. Several people spoke out during the public comment period at the start of the meeting on the proposal to close the University of Iowa Labor Center. U-I officials say they are cutting funding for centers they say aren’t directly tied to student instruction.
Student Cate Chenus was one of the people to speak. “The total 2018 budget for the Labor Center was $557,000. This is a tiny portion of the budget for the University of Iowa. And one that has helped educate and protect thousands of hard-working Iowans for more than 50 years,” Chenus says.
She says the Labor Center provides help to many students who have jobs, or who are looking for jobs. “This isn’t a question of resources, it’s a question of priorities,” Chenus says. “Will this become a private country club or will it recommit to being a public university with a public mission of bringing life-long learning to the people of Iowa? Thank You.”
The director of the Labor Center, Jennifer Sherer , also spoke at the meeting. “My staff and I have been proud to be ambassadors for the university for communities all across the state. As I think you heard this morning, we conduct 70 to 100 different education programs a year — typically reaching over two-thousand working Iowans from an average of 70 different counties,” Sherer says. Sherer went on to detail some of the other things she says the Labor Center does for the school and the state. She says the reaction to the potential closing has shown her the work they are doing is important.
“The sometimes strong responses of so many in recent weeks to hearing about the Labor Center’s potential jeopardy have been reminders to me of what all of us know — but perhaps who rarely have said. People value their access to the university and to this kind of research and education because it has truly equipped them to transform their lives, their workplaces and their communities,” according the Sherer. Sherer wrapped up with a plea for discussion on the the closing.
“I want to thank all the regents for their attention today, for you stewardship of our public universities. And I want to say that I am extremely hopeful that all of us can look forward from here to an informed and inclusive and really creative dialogue about the Labor Center’s future, thank you,” Sherer says. The Labor Center is still open, but on schedule to close.