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AAUP Criticizes Ben Allen Statement in UNI Incident

A national academic group has questioned University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen's initial statement in response to a student's recent grievance about missed coursework.

The American Association of University Professors on Friday sent a letter to Allen that was copied to a number of local media outlets. The letter, from AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum, expressed his "grave concern" to Allen about his statement regarding the grievance.

Allen's statement was issued before the facts of the case were established, Fichtenbaum says, calling the statement "highly prejudicial and inflammatory." The media response was "a direct result of your premature and provocative press release," Fichtenbaum also says in the letter.

The letter questions if Allen's statement was retaliatory, since the professor in this case, Cathy DeSoto, has been a vocal critic in the past of some UNI administrative decisions. Fichtenbaum in the letter calls on Allen to retract his initial statement.

UNI Spokeswoman Stacey Christensen said Monday there is a perception that Allen made a decision about his statement without speaking to people. Allen spoke with officials in DeSoto's college and her department, Christensen said. The statement did not say DeSoto didn't have the right to make a decision about coursework in her classroom, Christensen said, but it did say that Allen disagreed with DeSoto's decision.

"Certainly we want people to be civil," Christensen said. "Nobody should be the recipient of hateful emails or vandalism or anything like that."

United Faculty, the union that represents UNI professors, also was critical of Allen's Oct. 24 statement about the student grievance.

The student grievance was filed in regards to the course make-up work policy, after a student said he was not allowed to make up an exam missed due to National Guard duty. The grievance was informally resolved last week after a meeting of the involved parties. The specific details of those deliberations are confidential, United Faculty leaders said.

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