UPDATE: Labor Center responds to program closing decision

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- UPDATE: Labor Center responds to closing decision

"We don't know what happens to all of the curriculum and resources that people ask for constantly," said Jennifer Sherer. "Where do they go?"

The University of Iowa's Labor Center Director Jennifer Sherer said she feels blindsided by news that her center and others are closing. She said she has a lot of unanswered questions.

The University of Iowa announced Tuesday it's closing several of its campus centers and it's cutting dozens of staff. University leaders blame state budget cuts. The university plans to close seven centers and programs and reduce funding to six other centers or initiatives. This means 33 jobs will be cut because of the changes, with other workers placed on furlough.

The university told TV-9 it tried to avoid hurting students in these decisions. But the Labor Center, which will close and eliminating five full time positions, said this directly impacts students and it intends to fight.

"Who is it that wants to cut Iowans off from access to information and education and research about their rights on the job?" said Sherer.

The Labor Center tackles issues like workplace injuries and sexual harassment. She said the decision doesn't make sense.

"The consequences, in comparison to the tiny budgetary savings that would be attached to closing the program, is really impossible to measure," said Sherer.

University Provost Sue Curry said the cost-cutting measures are troubling but necessary due to financial realities.

"There's no joy in this. these are very hard decisions," said Curry. "They affect people's livelihood and that doesn't feel good. The work that the centers do is important work so I'm not going to sit here and tell you this feels like a good thing."

The school said choosing these programs was intentional because they hurt students less than eliminating majors, for example.

"We are looking forward to our students coming back in the fall and having a great educational experience and not feeling any loss," said Curry.

"(We) have helped students who want to be experts in labor and employment law, practice that while they're still in school, we have helped students do groundbreaking research on workplace issues that other units don't have the ability to do," said Sherer.

Sherer said she isn't giving up just yet.

"Thousands of people from around the state who have benefited from our programs and who care about our programs and this center to my mind is really the property of the citizens of Iowa," said Sherer.

Some of the closures will start this year, others will happen next year, and others don't have a set timeline yet. Employees on furlough can expect that to last up to a year.
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The University of Iowa Tuesday announced it is closing several campus centers and cutting dozens of staff because of state budget reductions.

The closures include the Center on Aging Labor and the Center for Higher Education, which is the former AIB College of Business in Des Moines.

In fiscal year 1998 the state budget was more than $4-billion . Of that, the University of Iowa got $223-million, or about five percent. In the current fiscal year, the state is spending $7.5-billion. But the University’s share is $9-million less, $214-million, which is less than three percent. At the same time, enrollment has gone up 20 percent in that time.

University Provost Sue Curry said it was a difficult decision to make but that the closings shouldn't affect the students. As for the 33 employees whose jobs are now on the chopping block, the university said they will be working with them over the course of the next year so that they still have a job, even if it's not with them.

"Within the university or outside the university, we help with networking, with resume building if we need to so we're very committed to making what is going to be a tough transition as smooth as possible for people who are affected," said Curry.

Stay with TV-9 for the latest updates on this story.