After a search for a new ISU president, Steven Leath, vice president for research at the University of North Carolina, was elected. He took office on Jan. 16 of this year. But [Board of Regents President] Lang and [Board of Regents President Pro-tem Bruce] Rastetter emerged as the people really running the university. Leath told me he talked with Rastetter almost every day - as astonishing change. In the past, except in times of crisis, board presidents usually talked with university presidents once every couple of weeks, if that. The board presidents concentrated on strategy and legislative relations and, when needed, crisis management and let the presidents run the universities.
Lang was behind change in Harkin agreement
Meantime, unbeknownst to the Harkins, the ag interests were at work against the institute. Early this year, the Harkins and the institute's advisory board discovered, almost by accident, that ISU officials last fall had produced a "memorandum of understanding" that removed agriculture from an area of scholarship at the Harkin Institute - an area emphasized in the brochure produced at lunch and listed foremost in the regents docket item - rendering useless the boxcars of the senator's ag papers. [...]
"I don't believe there should be conflicts. ... (The institutes) should work together and find what the university believes best represents the interests of agriculture," Lang told the Ames Tribune. One view, presumably, on nutrition and red meat. One view on conservation practices. One view on hog confinements. One view on no-till farming. Views that, not unlikely, would parallel the views of the Farm Bureau.
There are two problems: One is that not Leath, not Lang, not Rastetter - no one - has the authority to alter or renege on the policy in Docket Item #31 that established and outlined the Harkin Institute. Only the Board of Regents can alter that. Harkin thought the institute proposed by Iowa State would be what was outlined in the docket item - with no special constrictions, no special favors.
The second problem is even more troubling. A university is supposed to be a stew of ideas, a place where teachers and students and scholars and writers can debate and discuss, explain and expound. A place where minds can be opened to new ideas, where old truths can be challenged or affirmed. A place where freedom is unfettered.
Instead, the current leaders of the Board of Regents, Lang and Rastetter, and Leath, either on his own or acting at their direction, are seeking to restrict and restrain, to mandate the agriculture version of political correctness. They are in grave danger of repeating an awful chapter of Iowa State history.