After sit in, Iowa president agrees to meet with non-tenure-track faculty
After staging a "sit in" at University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld's office, Wednesday, a group of non-tenure-track faculty came away with a 'huge victory.'
According to a spokesperson for the group of about 15 protesting at Jessup Hall, the president was planning to meet with them and other UI "decision makers" for a face-to-face discussion of non-tenured faculty work conditions, within the next week.
The talks come after the group spent the day waiting in the lobby of Harreld's office, refusing to leave after closing time, 5:00 p.m., unless they had a chance to share their concerns with the president-- who was said to be out at meetings all day.
The non-tenure-track faculty members said their group wanted better wages, job security, adequate health care and more respect.
"Really, just improving the conditions under which we work," said Elizabeth Weiss, a writing lecturer at the UI. "So, we can work to the best of our ability and have stable careers here in Iowa."
Though the UI said the protestors needed to go through proper channels, and that these kinds of decisions are "collegiate in nature," it didn't dissuade. The group spent more than 10 hours in the lobby, starting at 10:00 a.m. and leaving around 8:30 p.m.
President Harreld originally told the Daily Iowan, Friday, he wasn't planning to meet with the group for fear of litigation. The faculty was thinking about unionizing-- and Harreld felt meeting with them could get him accused "tampering" with their decision.
"That’s their choice, their vote, go for it one way or the other, but my meeting with them opens us up for somebody filing some suit that I was tampering with the process," said Harreld in the interview with the student newspaper. "I’m not going to get caught in that."
Tensions spiked inside the president's office when police arrived about 20 minutes after closing time. But, rather than forcefully removing the protesting faculty, UI staff met with them and talked out a tentative deal.
The two sides were able to come to a written agreement to meet with the high ranking administrators-- including the president-- if the protestors explicitly said they would not to pursue litigation against Harreld for any perceived influence of the decision to unionize.
The University of Iowa released a statement before the final terms were agreed upon. It called the adjunct and non-tenure-track faculty "vital to the University of Iowa's mission."
"Colleges have and will continue to address issues that hinder competitiveness with our peer universities," said the statement. "The University of Iowa will continue to communicate directly with members of the university’s community."