Iowa public university presidents oppose proposed bill to bar tenure

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld voiced his concerns about the proposed bill that could phase out tenure in Iowa’s public universities at a meeting on Wednesday morning in the Iowa Capitol.


Ryan Adams

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld talks with members of the Daily Iowan during an interview at the Adler Journalism Building on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2019. President Harreld has been the president at the university since November 2, 2015.

Sabine Martin, News Reporter

Iowa public university presidents were in unison when Iowa lawmakers asked about the validity of tenure at a committee meeting in Des Moines on Wednesday.

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld said good faculty sets the tone of excellence at the UI and if the state removed tenure, a lot of faculty would leave the UI in the next three to five years.

Previously reported by The Daily Iowan, Iowa Republican lawmakers have proposed a bill for the third consecutive year that would phase out tenure. Tenure is employment status that allows faculty members to receive job security in order to “create and maintain an atmosphere for the free exchange of ideas and inquiry necessary for educating Iowa’s students and advancing knowledge in democracy,” according to the state Board of Regents.

Harreld said there is a false presumption that once a faculty member receives tenure, they are not reviewed again. In fact, tenured faculty members at the UI are reviewed every year with a more extensive peer-review every five years, according to the UI’s faculty review procedures.

“The minute we start politicizing where we put research, and how our faculty conduct research, we’re starting to tilt the scale of the outcomes of that research,” Harreld said.

Wendy Wintersteen, President of Iowa State University said that without tenure, ISU is not able to compete in the market of high-quality faculty for research and teaching.

“I will lose faculty because they will see it as an embarrassment that they are now at an institution where tenure is prohibited,” Wintersteen said. “We compete every day in the market for the best faculty and staff. This will hurt us terribly.”

In agreement, Mark Nook, President University of Northern Iowa said tenure is an essential part of higher education, whether it is public or private. He said it will cost Iowa’s universities the quality of the education and research offered.

“People will leave, regardless of what we choose to pay. But if we take it away and we try to hire people of the same quality without that benefit, the costs go up tremendously,” he said.