UF Responds to Concerns About Agism

UF Responds to Concerns About Agism

Dear Colleagues:

It is sad but true that overt and subversive discrimination against older people is frequently treated as unimportant. This is troubling, because with the aging of the baby boom cohort, agism is becoming more widespread. United Faculty is committed to a vigilant response to any direct or indirect discrimination against all protected classes.

On August 25th, Interim President Provost invited, “early-to mid-career members of the UNI faculty, staff and administration to apply for the 2016-17 ‘President’s Leadership Academy.’” Like many of you, United Faculty regarded the de-facto denial of applications from faculty in the later part of their career as tantamount to ageism.

Soon after Interim President Wohlpart’s email, United Faculty Vice President Becky Hawbaker met with the administration to pursue a solution to the unfair restriction placed upon older faculty. Interim Provost Wohlpart was out of town and unable to attend the meeting. She was assured by Interim Provost Bass, Associate Provost Cobb and UNI Counsel Fogt that Interim President Wohlpart did not intend to exclude older faculty.

During her meeting with the administration, Becky stated that United Faculty objects to any training that would exclude older, late-career faculty. She expressed UF’s unequivocal assertion of the right of every faculty member, regardless of age, to access any training program offered by UNI. Becky stated in very clear terms that Interim President Wohlpart should send a second email stating explicitly that his program is open to faculty who are in the later part of their career. She was very clear that the clarification should be obvious and the email should be noticeably different from the initial email so faculty would easily see it was not merely a reminder of his initial announcement. She specified that the second email should not be just an empty “all are invited to apply.” The administration’s representatives said they would pass this on to Interim President Wohlpart.
On Friday, September 2 Interim President Wohlpart sent the second e-mail. Contrary to UF’s request, the only difference between the second and first email was that the words “early-to mid-career members'” were replaced by the words, “any and all.” Because the second email was virtually indistinguishable from the first it is unlikely any faculty regarded it as more than a reminder of the original announcement. It is unlikely that late-career faculty became aware they could apply for the leadership academy. On Tuesday, I communicated to the administration that Interim President Wohlpart’s response failed to address UF’s concerns and recommended again that a stronger and more clear statement correcting the problem be sent to the faculty. I agreed to wait 24 hours for that statement. Unfortunately, Interim Provost Wohlpart decided not to send the faculty a strong email that would amount to a clear repudiation of agism.

Let me be clear, any member of the UNI faculty who did not apply for Interim President Wohlpart’s leadership academy because of their age or late career status should feel free to apply. Individuals should apply despite the passage of the application deadline. Moreover, those faculty should contact UF in the event their application is denied. Indeed, any applicant not admitted into the program should feel free contact United Faculty.

I’m fairly certain the unfair restriction against older faculty will not affect many people. In truth that does not matter. When it comes to equal treatment for members of protected classes, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (Martin Luther King, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963).


Joe Gorton

President, United Faculty

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