Benjamin Allen (university president)

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Dr. Benjamin J. Allen
University of Northern Iowa
In office
June 5, 2006 – May 30, 2013[1]
Preceded by Robert Koob
Succeeded by William Ruud
Personal details
Spouse(s) Pat Allen
Alma mater Indiana University
University of Illinois
Profession President of the
University of Northern Iowa

Benjamin J. Allen is former President of the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), and replaced retiring President Robert Koob.[2]

He was named the ninth president of the University of Northern Iowa on April 28, 2006, and assumed his duties on June 5, 2006. He received his doctorate and master’s degree in economics from the University of Illinois and his Bachelor of Science degree in business economics from Indiana University.

President Allen was vice president for academic affairs and provost at Iowa State University and was responsible to the president in all aspects of the academic programs at Iowa State.[3] He has the distinction of having been named the first University Distinguished Professor in Business at ISU.

Before joining the ISU faculty in 1979, he taught at Washington State University and was a Brookings Economic Policy Fellow in the Office of Transportation Regulatory Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation. He was the Visiting McKinley Professor of Economics and Public Utilities at the University of Illinois in 1986-87 and held the Oren Harris Chair in Transportation at the University of Arkansas during the 1990-91 academic year.

In 2007, President Allen was appointed by two state college associations (the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges) to the Presidential Advisory Committee for the National Commission of University Accountability.

Under his leadership, the University of Northern Iowa has established priorities of increasing student achievement in undergraduate programs and providing statewide leadership in Pre-K through 12 education, including UNI’s lead role in the Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership with Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.

President Allen is co-chair of the Institute for Tomorrow’s Workforce, a non-profit educational foundation created to help prepare all Iowa learners for the 21st century global marketplace. He is an ex-officio board member of the Iowa Department of Economic Development, and he co-chairs the education subcommittee of the Iowa Business Council, composed of education and business executives committed to enhancing Iowa’s economic vitality. A staunch supporter of the local community, President Allen is a member of the executive committee of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance.[4] He is a director for Heartland Express Company.[5]

President Allen was diagnosed with prostate cancer on November 15, 2010 and took a leave of absence starting on February 7, 2011.[6] Provost Gloria Gibson served in the role of Interim President during the absence. President Allen underwent a routine procedure and made a full recovery.

On February 29, 2012, the Teacher Education Faculty at the University of Northern Iowa voted 15-1 (with one abstention) to support a motion of no confidence in President Allen, Provost Gloria Gibson, and the state Board of Regents. Their vote was a protest of the decision-making process in President Allen's recommendation to the State Board of Regents to close the Malcolm Price Laboratory School[7]/Northern University High School, effective June 30, 2012.[8] On March 2, 2012, the university faculty voted 197-53 in support of a motion of no confidence in President Allen. Speakers cited the lack of faculty consultation in the decision making process to close the Price Lab School, and several academic programs on campus.[9][10] On March 15, 2012, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) said they would investigate reports that the UNI administration had violated rules of academic governance in making budget cuts and firing faculty, and that their probe could lead to a formal censure of the university by the AAUP.[11]


On October 24, 2012, President Allen released an online statement[12] regarding a student in a psychology course at UNI. The student, a member of the Iowa National Guard, would not be able to be in class on the day of an exam due to the requirements of the Guard, and spoke briefly with professor Cathy DeSoto, who said she would look into the university policy for military service which caused missed classes, but that the standard missed-class policy would apply. The student later filed a standard grievance, as DeSoto had recommended.

In his statement, Allen went on to write: "As university president and a veteran, I strongly disagree with the decision made by the professor in this case. We have been working with the student involved from the beginning, and continue to work with him to help ensure he won't be penalized for serving his country."[13] President Allen released this statement before speaking with Professor DeSoto, and no penalty was or has been placed on the student in the case. Yet Allen's statement led to angry calls and emails to DeSoto and her family, as well as vandalism of her car, such that DeSoto needed a police escort.[14]

A letter from American Association of University Professors (AAUP) President Rudy Fichtenbaum questioned President Allen's handling of the case: "The media response, which unfairly and falsely characterized Professor DeSoto’s actions, was a direct result of your premature and provocative press release. As a consequence of your actions, Professor DeSoto and members of her family received numerous threatening e-mails and phone calls." [15]