University of Northern Iowa

Subject: University of Northern Iowa
From: Lee S. Williams
Date: 11 Mar 2014

An open letter to Iowans (concerning the University of Northern Iowa)

In an attempt to elicit good publicity, the University of Northern Iowa (hereafter referred to as UNI) held UNI day at the Iowa State Capitol. This open letter will refute their claims that UNI is beneficial to our state, and it will also inform people of: their horrendous misuse of funds, the university’s discrimination of certain protected people, and what the Iowa Board of Regents does to fix these issues.
For a university to tout platitudes but not honor those promises, that is morally corrupt, and it is detrimental to anyone associated with said university. Is it not egregious in our society to be called a hypocrite? to prove itself a hypocrite, UNI asserts that the following is true:

No person shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination in employment, any educational program, or any activity of the University, on the basis of age, color, creed, disability, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status, or on any other basis protected by federal and/or state law.[1]

However, students are forced to purchase a meal plan if they live on campus: “All students who live in University of Northern Iowa residence halls must contract for a meal plan.”[2] This policy forces protected people to purchase a meal plan that does not provide them with food in adherence to their religious beliefs: “Special menus to comply with dietary requirement of religious faiths or denominations are not provided.”[3] It might not seem like an issue to those it does not affect, but religious bigotry should not be tolerated in our state or in our state universities.
It is prejudicial to deny a person access to food that meets their religious requirements. It is downright unjust to require protected people to pay ten dollars per meal and have no guarantee that they can eat a full meal without violating their religious beliefs. Are Orthodox Jews, Muslims, or any other religious person with dietary requirements less human? Well, UNI seems to think so, and its utter disregard for these people is indicative of UNI and its student population’s moral character if they sit idly by and let this policy stand. UNI might respond by saying that there are numerous options for quality food, which might satisfy their religion’s dietary needs. Let me pre-empt that possible rebuttal with the attached photo. Yes, that’s a biscuit with strawberry sauce smothered on top of it. Just think, students pay ten dollars per meal for food like that. Scrumptious isn’t it? And it is neither the first nor the last time that this “Strawberry Shortcake” will be served.
Institutional discrimination is not UNI’s only failure. The mismanagement of funds should be apparent to any informed Iowan. The university known for its education college had to get rid of its Price Lab due to budget concerns, but it has the funds to renovate a building to create a LGBT center. If it will sacrifice education program for non-essential expenses, then how can our state trust UNI with any money? I’m not trying to denigrate the LGBT cause; I am advocating for responsible spending of taxpayers’ dollars. A public university’s primary goal is educating the populace – not political activism. If UNI were a private university, then it would be a different story, but it is not a private university. UNI is a public university overseen by the Iowa Board of Regents.
What’s the Iowa Board of Regents? According to the Board of Regents, “The Board’s nine members are citizen volunteers appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Iowa Senate to serve staggered six-year terms.” Of these nine members, one is none other than Senator Harkin’s wife. Claims of cronyism aside, these nine members oversee the budget of UNI, and 35% of the budget is from taxpayer dollars. What is the Board of Regents doing to make UNI improve? They are doing nothing. It is up to the taxpayers to let our politicians know that the Board of Regents and their political supporters need to be held responsible for the failings of the Board of Regents. If you are not happy with UNI’s wasteful spending, then tell your representatives, senators, and the Board of Regent members. UNI is attempting to gain more funding, and it is up to the taxpayers to notify the politicians that wasteful spending will not be tolerated.

[1]UNI policy “13.03 Equal Opportunity & Non-Discrimination Statement”
[2] University of Northern Iowa Department of Residence Residence and Dining Contract Terms & Conditions 2013-14 section II: J
[3] University of Northern Iowa Department of Residence Residence and Dining Contract Terms & Conditions 2013-14 section II:N

Lee S. Williams
Current UNI Student