Group disrupts Regents board meeting

Dan Mackenzie

Protesters interrupted the Iowa Board of Regents meeting several times the morning of Friday, Aug. 3, in Cedar Falls, shouting slogans of “Fire this man!” and “Why can’t you enforce your own ethics rules?”

Members of the rowdy crowd were from Des Moines based Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, an activist group that has for called the ouster of Regent President Pro-Tem Bruce Rastetter.

The group began their morning with a rally outside of Northern Iowa’s Maucker Union. With chants and drums, they called out their version of events regarding Rastetter’s involvement in a land deal in Tanzania. Pleasant Hill resident Ross Grooters, 38, said Iowa CCI was there to make sure the board heard their concerns.

“The Regents should be free from corporate influence, Grooters said. “Rastetter is in violation of [the board’s] own ethics policy. For this and many other reasons he needs to resign, right now. When a man who professes to be a self-employed farmer stands to make millions through corrupted influence on Regents Institutions, he cannot possibly represent the people of Iowa in good faith. … Iowans can not trust Bruce Rastetter.”

Grooters was referring to the complaint of Rastetter abusing his positions as Regent board member, major donor to Iowa State, and managing director of AgriSol energy to create a deal to build large-scale farms in Tanzania.

The board began the public session around 10 a.m and almost immediately members of Iowa CCI began to interrupt proceedings. When Rastetter was named in roll call, the crowd began to boo.

Board of Regents President Craig Lang scolded the crowd, saying, “We will stop this meeting, and we will have you removed from the room if you do not respect this meeting.”

It was not long before people were removed from the room.

In ones and twos, the crowd interrupted the board’s business demanding to know why the they would not address the complaint. Some stood and shouted; several were bold enough to approach the board members’ table. After about 30 minutes of interruptions, campus police had escorted the entire group out of the room, and the board was able to conduct its normal business.

Rastetter maintained his composure throughout the disruptions, keeping his focus the paperwork at hand and occasionally checking his phone and iPad.

Business passed

After they were able to get to business, the board announced that UNI President Ben Allen will retire in July of next year. Lang said a search committee would be formed within the next few weeks.

The board also voted to increase ISU President Steven Leath’s salary by 2 percent for fiscal year 2013, along with the presidents of Iowa and Northern Iowa. Leath’s salary will increase from $440,000 a year to $448,800.

Leath presented to the board his plan for Iowa State in his upcoming term and his vision of how the university would operate under his control.

“I [will] not run the university like a business, but I [will] do it more business-like,” he told the board members. He followed this statement up by saying he would try to incorporate incentives into the operating budget, to try and drive innovation from faculty.

Leath also stated that “maintaining the Iowa State University brand” was one of his top priorities and made clear he would be pursuing an increased focus on investment in scientific research.

Also among his goals were to maintain affordability, citing his recent trip to Washington to speak before the U.S. Senate about the subject.

Looking forward for Iowa State

Other votes involving Iowa State included approval for three new master’s programs: Master of Engineering in Engineering Management, Master of Urban Design and Master of Design in Sustainable Environments.

The board finally authorized the university to begin planning for expansion of Frederiksen Court, and the purchase of 17.2 acres of land adjacent to to the Applied Science Center at a cost of $120,000.