The University of Iowa is requesting the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, vote to reconsider the closure of the Labor Center at the board’s next meeting on Feb. 28. The request comes after the Labor Center presented a plan to become self-sufficient in four years.
College of Law Dean Kevin Washburn and Center Director Jennifer Sherer have signed a memorandum of understanding to immediately eliminate General Education funding for the Labor Center while providing limited financial support for four years to give the center time to generate new or additional revenue. The General Education Fund, or GEF, is a combination of tuition revenue and state funding, which UI President Bruce Harreld has said should be directed at the university’s core academic mission.
“I would like to thank Dean Washburn and Director Sherer for working collaboratively to find a solution that preserves an important resource for the state while also protecting tuition dollars for teaching, research, and student success,” Harreld says.
Phasing out direct financial support from the College of Law over the next four years provides the Labor Center the necessary time to establish additional revenue-generating programming, acquire grants, or raise philanthropic support. During this time, the college will primarily fund the center using unspent revenue from the Institute of Public Affairs, which closed in May following the retirement of Director Jeff Schott.
“I believe strongly in the mission of the Labor Center and the community it supports,” says Washburn. “Providing supplemental funding until new sources of revenue can be secured is a positive outcome for the college and the center. This agreement would not have been possible without the support of our local legislative delegation and Iowa’s labor community. We are thankful for their commitment to the center and the work.”
The university announced in July it was closing seven centers, including the Labor Center, following back-to-back state budget cuts by the Iowa Legislature. At the time, President Harreld stated, “We can no longer ask our students to support activities previously supported by the state just a generation ago.” Since then, Washburn and Sherer have been working to find alternative sources of funding that would allow the Labor Center to remain a part of the university.
“I am excited for the Labor Center to move forward under this new agreement,” says Sherer. “Students, faculty, workers, and community leaders have all reminded us of how critical the center’s education and research are for our university and our state. I am grateful that we worked together to find a way for this work to continue.”
Under the agreement, the Labor Center will retain current staffing levels but will undergo more frequent budget reviews to ensure its operating plan is sustainable.