UNI Quietly Shifted More than $1 Million to Cover Athletic Deficits

General Support Funds Bail Out Athletics While Academics Suffer from Low Funding

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (Dec. 5, 2023) – The University of Northern Iowa administration has quietly shifted nearly $1.06 million of General University Support Funds to the UNI Athletics in the past two fiscal years, to bail out the athletics program for shortfalls in its budget.

The shifting of General University Support Funds, from which the university’s academic affairs operations are funded, to UNI Athletics comes at a time when UNI academic programs are suffering from deep cuts and shrinking faculty numbers.

“We are completely astonished to discover this,” United Faculty president Chris Martin said. “This amount is equivalent to funding 10 or more tenure-track faculty positions, which we desperately need as many faculty positions have remained unfilled. It’s a gut punch to our high goals and expectations for UNI academics.”

The number of tenure-track and instructor positions at UNI have decreased substantially, from 506 in 2018 to 408 in 2022.

The transfer of funds was revealed in UNI’s Comprehensive Fiscal Report for FY 2023, which was received by the Iowa Board of Regents at their Nov. 15 meeting on UNI’s campus.

The report notes:

  • UNI moved nearly $1 million ($906,593) of General University Support Funds to UNI Athletics in FY 2023, which ended on June 30, 2023.
  • This came at time when funding for faculty salaries and faculty lines continued to be reduced — by more than $2.087 million in FY 2023 from the previous year, making it the single largest line for defunding.
  • In FY 2022, UNI administrators shifted $148,606 General University Support Funds to UNI Athletics, making a total of $1,055,209 in General University Support Funds moved to UNI Athletics over the past two fiscal years.

The shifting of the funds to UNI Athletics was done with no consultation with faculty leadership.

“The loss of academic funding ultimately affects students at UNI,” said United Faculty vice president Fernando Calderon. “It also raises a significant question about the budget priorities of this institution.”

UNI Athletics is an auxiliary program, which the UNI Factbook defines as “essentially self-supporting operations of the institution.” Yet, unique to Iowa regents universities, UNI Athletics is already annually supported with about $3.4 million in General University Support Funds, and $1.28 million in scholarship support. The $1.06 million shifted to UNI Athletics was unplanned and in addition to the typical annual support.

The fund transfers came at a time when UNI Athletics had been cited with a “yellow” warning for the BOR’s internal audit process on Sept. 14, 2022. UNI Athletics remained in yellow audit status as it missed its May 2023 original follow-up report deadline for corrective action.

In FY 2023, UNI Athletics came in over-budget in several sports, and simultaneously fell short $871,212 in budgeted revenue from football, athletic marketing, and miscellaneous sources, according to the regents report.

United Faculty, established in 1976, is the chief negotiating agent for the University of Northern Iowa’s faculty, and is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

The 2023 winners of the United Faculty “Above and Beyond” Award

Sharon Mord

Chris Schrage

Nikki Harken

Sheree Harper

Libby Fry

Robert Earle

Cedar Falls, Iowa – April 30, 2023  United Faculty, the faculty labor union at the University of Northern Iowa, awarded its first Contingent Faculty Above and Beyond Awards. UF gave six $1000 awards this year in honor of exemplary non-tenure track faculty members. The winners:
  • Chris Schrage (College of Business, Marketing)
  • Sharon Mord (College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Applied Human Sciences)
  • Nikki Harken (College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences, Communication and Media)
  • Sheree Harper (College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences, Biology)
  • Libby Fry (College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Social Work)
  • Robert Earle (College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences,Philosophy and World Religions)
United Faculty also presented several other awards.
  • UF Member of the Year: Andy Anderson (College of Business, Marketing)
  • UF Emerging Leader of the Year: Rebecca Dickinson (CSBS, Social Work)
  • UF Department Head of the Year: Theresa Spradling (CHAS, Biology)
  • UF Award for Advocacy and Courage: UNI Proud
  • UF Legislator of the Year: Timi Brown-Powers
  • UF Award for Outstanding Advocacy: Mary Braun
The awards were presented at UF’s annual faculty picnic, which as held indoors for its “Sunday Fun Day” for faculty and their families at UNI’s Wellness and Recreation Center.




  • Together we are stronger. Your solidarity helps us achieve more for ALL faculty.
  • UF enjoys broad support among faculty. In our Fall 2018 recertification vote, 547 faculty voted yes to support UF and only 17 voted no. In the following recertification vote in Fall 2020, 97.5% of those voting supported UF with a YES vote! And again, in Fall 2022, 97% of faculty voting supported United Faculty.
  • UF collaborates effectively with other faculty leaders and administration to solve problems, create fair policies, and to protect your rights and fair working conditions
  • As UNI confronts falling enrollments and budget challenges, as a new faculty evaluation system is rolled out, and as our general education curriculum is revised, the potential for serious threats to faculty abounds. We need a strong union to stand up for faculty, and we need you with us.
  • More than 80% of our dues go to our membership in American Association of University Professors (AAUP) or our legal counsel. Both of these have been powerful assets and critical allies.


  • UF fought to protect your health and safety during the COVID pandemic.  We advocated for you on the COVID Response Team, filed OSHA complaints, took your concerns to the press, and assisted individual faculty for health accommodations. Tragically, there have been nearly 10,000 COVID deaths in Iowa through September 2022, but we are glad that UNI faculty were kept safe from serious illness during this difficult period.
  • UF supported Dr. Steve O’Kane when he was disciplined for his class masking policy. On Sept. 23, 2022, an external arbitrator ruled that UNI violated the Faculty Handbook when it imposed a “needs improvement” evaluation rating on Dr. O’Kane as part of his discipline and made a directive to rescind that rating and replace it with the one his Department Head assigned.
  • UF leaders’ work in collaboration with other faculty and administrators Faculty Handbook Committee has resulted in:
    1. A new handbook chapter that preserves due process rights for faculty who are disciplined or terminated. Pressure from a case letter from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) that UF solicited on behalf of Dr. O’Kane was instrumental in instigating and approving this policy.
    2. A new promotional ladder for temporary, term, and renewable term faculty that will go into effect in 2023. (If you are a temporary, term, or renewable term faculty member and would like our advice or assistance on promotion, please contact us.)
    3. New handbook language for more flexible office hours (such as online hours) as a new post-COVID norm.
    4. New timetable language so that annual PAC evaluations of renewable term faculty are not required after six years.
  • UF collaborated with the University Benefits Committee to reduce costs to the plan, resulting in only small increases to health care premiums for two years.
  • Preserved faculty ownership of online curriculum and secured paid summer training for online pedagogy and curriculum development.
  • UF communicated faculty displeasure with the lengthy paperwork for filling out the annual Faculty Activity Report, and worked with the Provost’s office to substantially reduce annual reporting requirements.
  • UF has assisted and advocated for more than 120 individual faculty-related issues ranging from major discipline, discrimination, termination, denial of tenure, evaluation issues, insurance issues, teaching assignments, office assignments, OCEM investigations, travel questions, search issues, and many other smaller issues.

These accomplishments, and more, are why 97% of the voting faculty supported recertification for United Faculty in 2022. We never stop working to ensure that UNI supports faculty development, rewards faculty excellence, and safeguards faculty academic freedom. Not a member? Contact President Chris Martin for details on how to join at martinc@uni.edu.


  • Child care
  • Termination procedures and tenure protections
  • Expansion of benefits
  • Academic funding

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