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Chapter 20 Statement

Sept 27, 2021


** Dear Members and Fellow Travelers,

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Tonight AAUP and COGS sent the statement below to the UI President and her cabinet, along with selected media outlets. If you feel so moved please send her a followup email expressing your support for our position.

Moving forward, please keep in mind that, while we are confident in our interpretation of Chapter 20, we are not confident that University leadership will agree with us, and we cannot protect anyone from disciplinary action should they choose to require masks in their classroom.


Dear President Wilson,

We write to express our concern that the University is in violation of Iowa Code Chapter 20, section 8, subsection 4, which gives public employees the right to “engage in concerted activities for the purpose of…mutual aid or protection insofar as any such activity is not prohibited by this chapter or any other law of the state.”

We have consulted a lawyer, who advises us that faculty, graduate instructors, and staff are public employees who have rights under Chapter 20, specifically the right to engage in concerted activities for mutual aid or protection in their primary workspaces, the classroom and personal office, insofar as the activities do not violate some other law of Iowa.

Accordingly, we believe that faculty, graduate instructors, and staff have the right to require masking in their classrooms and personal offices for the purpose of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our colleagues and coworkers represented by AAUP and COGS.

We intend to inform our membership that they have this right, and we hold that the University’s refusal to recognize this right puts it at legal risk.

We therefore ask that you consult legal counsel and explain why the university has put into place measures that violate public employee rights under Iowa Code Chapter 20.

Loren Glass

President, UI AAUP


Hadley Galbraith

President, COGS


Highlights and events from around the academic world


UNITED FACULTY letter TO UNI Faculty

Link to full text

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Dear Colleagues,

Last week, one of our respected faculty members, Dr. Steve O’Kane, took a brave public stand in the name of protecting the health and safety of our UNI family and the Cedar Valley community by announcing that he was requiring students to wear a mask in his classes, a mandate that our fall faculty survey found that 85% of respondents agreed with, and more importantly that the Centers for Disease Control recommends. Last Monday Dr. O’Kane asked the Faculty Senate to support a resolution asserting the right of faculty to do the same, counter to the May BOR statement lifting the state of emergency COVID rules on masking and social distancing. While he had other options to protect his own personal safety, he took this stand on behalf of all of us. In particular, he stands for other faculty he knows who are vulnerable in classrooms filled to capacity with unmasked students and more vulnerable economically and professionally to possible sanctions. You can read more about his thinking and decision making in his blog post for AAUP/Academe.

Although all of Dr. O’Kane’s students chose to mask following his announcement and none of them complained to UNI administration or the BOR, UNI announced it would sanction Dr. O’Kane by removing him from teaching his in-person classes, requiring him to complete a TBA training on obedience, imposing an automatic “needs improvement” rating for his evaluation this year resulting in no merit pay, and threatening him with further discipline up to and including termination if he does not comply with all university and BOR policies in the future. [...]