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An Insider’s View of an Iowa Town Hall Meeting

February 26th, 2017 · No Comments

Friday, Feb. 24 was the day of the last of four town halls Sen. Charles Grassley held in Iowa during that week. The town halls, each filled with hundreds of Iowans, have attracted the attention of statewide and national news media, whose headlines captured the general spirit of the events:

Sen. Grassley

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) addresses the crowd at a town hall in Parkersburg.

 

The town hall I attended was at the tiny Civic Center in Parkersburg, which has the modest look of a school cafeteria with its vinyl tile floor and low drop-ceiling. After a week of freakishly warm February weather, this was a day more like winter, with freezing rain and slick sidewalks and roads.

Still, people came out – more than 250 by one newspaper’s account – and the room was packed.

While the national accounts focused on the conflict of the meetings, what they often miss are the local context, the history of the relationship between the elected official and the citizens, and what the elected official says – and sometimes more importantly – what he doesn’t say. [Read more →]

→ No CommentsTags: Journalism Ethics

An Open Letter to Iowa Republican Legislators

February 10th, 2017 · 1 Comment

Let me introduce myself. I’m Chris Martin, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa. Please let me disabuse you of the notion that I worked just a couple hours today and spent the rest of the time sipping chardonnay. I’m like most Iowans. I work a lot (faculty members at my university average 52-54 hours a week), I have a family I love, I pay taxes, I vote, and I volunteer for my community.

I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I’m very good at my job. I’ve taught at UNI for 20 years, and I’m nationally known in the field of journalism and mass communication. I am a Fulbright Scholar and a recipient of the State of Iowa’s Board of Regents Award for Faculty Excellence – the state’s highest honor for university professors – and several other awards. I’m a public employee and member of the faculty union.

Because I’m a journalism professor, I can’t help but provide some needed fact-checking on several issues concerning Iowa’s collective bargaining law and the bills that seek to undermine it. I’ll speak to the collective bargaining tradition at the University of Northern Iowa, where the faculty have bargained peacefully and fairly with the Board of Regents for 40 years.

Alternative Fact #1: A Better Deal for Iowans

Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, told the Des Moines Register, “You know, we have heard loud and clear from Iowans that they believe that government can do much better in the service that we are providing, and are looking for a better deal,” he said.

So, Iowa Republican legislators want a better deal?

Let’s compare. UNI has 10 peer institutions (College of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Ferris State [Read more →]

→ 1 CommentTags: Bill Dix · Iowa Board of Regents · Journalism · Labor News · Universities · University of Northern Iowa · Walt Rogers · Working Class

The Iowa Board of Regents’ Stunning Lack of Accountability: Update

August 7th, 2016 · No Comments

BOR-sinking ship copy

When former University of Northern Iowa president Bill Ruud made his last appearance before the state Board of Regents in June, the board piled on the praise.

“Your leadership, your enthusiasm at a time when the university really needed that was really critical in bringing about a positive confidence level at the university,” said Board president Bruce Rastetter.

In his official statement the month before, Rastetter was equally approving of Ruud’s record, noting “his extraordinary service to the University of Northern Iowa and the state. Under his leadership, there has been great progress made at UNI, and he leaves UNI in a stronger position than when he arrived.”

So, it remains curious why Ruud had to go. Officially, the Board didn’t fire him. But, Ruud’s contract wasn’t renewed and he would have had to proceed with no contract. We already know how well that fared for Sally Mason, the former University of Iowa president. If Rastetter was sincere in his words about Ruud, then Ruud would have been the kind of person the BOR would work hard to retain, not put on a short leash with no job security. Ruud’s graceful exit masks the fact that the BOR did a real injustice to him and UNI. [Read more →]

→ No CommentsTags: Elections · Iowa Board of Regents · Journalism · Journalism Ethics · Politics · Price Lab School · State Budgets · Universities · University of Northern Iowa

Iowa Board of Regents’ stunning lack of accountability

August 5th, 2016 · No Comments

When former University of Northern Iowa president Bill Ruud announced he was leaving, Iowa Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter praised him for “great progress” and leaving “UNI in a stronger position than when he arrived.”

It remains curious why Ruud had to go.  Officially, the board didn’t fire Ruud, but his contract wasn’t renewed and that sends a message. Ruud’s graceful exit masks the injustice the regents did to him and UNI. Ruud’s departure is also another sign the board lacks accountability. <more in the Des Moines Register>

 

 

→ No CommentsTags: Journalism Ethics