Iowa State University President Steven Leath is moving to put his own stamp on supervision of the controversial Harkin Institute of Public Policy, saying Friday that he will appoint members of his choosing to its advisory board after bylaws and guidelines are implemented.
The institute, named after Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, has been a source of political controversy since the Iowa Board of Regents voted in April 2011 to establish it. Harkin, a Democrat, agreed to leave his papers with his alma mater. Republicans immediately questioned the ethics of naming the center after Harkin, a sitting U.S. senator.
The latest controversy involved restrictions Leath imposed nearly two months ago on the institute’s agricultural research. Current advisory board members, including the senator’s wife, Ruth, publicly criticized the restrictions, characterizing them as an affront to academic freedom. Ruth Harkin is a member of the Iowa Board of Regents, which governs ISU.
Leath, who did not set a deadline for establishing the bylaws, said he has not ruled out keeping current members on the advisory board. New rules will make “a clear statement” about the role of the advisory board, whose members will play an important role in the growth of the institute, Leath said.