UNI Faculty Criticize President Ben Allen's Leadership

By Emily Christensen, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - A recent performance review of the University of Northern Iowa's President Ben Allen shows a wide divergence in opinions between faculty and other administrators.

Of the 35 percent of voting faculty members who responded, more than half rated Allen's performance as "poor" or "fair" during his first six years of service at the institution. According to the results, which were presented to the UNI Faculty Senate Monday, the surveyed faculty members have "serious reservations about the leadership" of the president.

However, senior administrators' responses indicated Allen is "highly respected in the cabinet," the report stated.

Jeffrey Funderburk, the Faculty Senate chair and a music professor, said the further one gets away from the cabinet-level administrators the bigger that disconnect seems to be.

"The big question is why. All that this shows is that clearly there is a disconnect," he said. "If these people can be that much in support of everything that is being done, how come, right at this line, no one down here seems to know what is going on?"

The review, which was first mandated in 1976, was conducted between Feb. 6 and Feb. 21, just one day before Allen announced his plans to close Malcolm Price Laboratory School. At the time academic cuts had not been announced. Funderburk said the review was supposed to have been completed during the spring of 2011, however, several factors, including Allen's cancer diagnosis and medical leave, worked against that timetable.

Though respondents said Allen is considered personable and effectively represents the university to outside constituents, they repeatedly criticized his ability to effectively work with them. Concerns included his communication efforts and lack of a clear vision for the future of the university.

The senators had little to say about the survey results, but some did question how the results were provided to Allen.

"For the evaluation to be useful it needs to be tied to concrete recommendations," said Chris Edginton, professor of health, physical education and leisure services.

Edginton said Allen visits with each of the college deans, but recommended that he and Provost Gloria Gibson widen their scope and make individual visits with each of the departments.

"Then at least maybe (the faculty) would feel like their concerns are being listened to," he said.

Funderburk said the review committee presented Allen with the results and that Allen asked similar questions, but no formal action plan was developed.

A statement released by the university said that changes in higher education require proactive, strategic leadership to make tough choices and that Allen "appreciates the role the Faculty Senate plays at the university, and looks forward to working with it and the UNI faculty in the future."
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