Faculty Senate welcomes President Leath and addresses diversity issues

Aimee Burch

The ISU Faculty Senate met for their March meeting this week.

President Stephen Leath addressed the Senate in a special order of business. In his seventh week on the job, he said it has been a priority of his to get out more and meet those involved with the goings-on in the ISU community. He wants senators to know his office is open to their questions and concerns.

Leath’s goal in his presentation to the senate was to share his vision for ISU in his term as president.

“Iowa State is the kind of school I want to be at,” he said as he began his speech.

His passion for land grant universities like Iowa State was apparent throughout his presentation, saying land grants get their mission right and that faculty and staff should be proud of that and use it to propel the school forward.

“The university was turned over to me in a great state,” he said, showing appreciation to former president Gregory Geoffroy for the work he did in making the school great in spite of record cutbacks.

Leath wanted faculty members to know that he and his office will be approachable and involved for faculty. Transparency will be a priority, with faculty knowing what is going on and the principles of shared governance being utilized in thinking what is best for Iowa State, as well as the state of Iowa as a whole.

“We need to think broadly,” he said. “We have first-class programs in design, humanities and hospitality. We won’t abandon engineering and agriculture, but you will see other program having a higher profile.”

Faculty Senate President Steve Freeman addressed recent diversity and inclusion incidents, particularly the recent issue with the Daily’s former “Just Sayin’” column, in his remarks.

“Faculty sets the tone across campus for diversity,” Freeman said. “We need to step forward and participate in the discussion.”

Freeman asked Tom Hill, vice president for Student Affairs, to address the Senate to bring everyone up to speed on the recent controversies. Hill spoke about the discussions he had with the impacted students and showed examples of the offensive “memes” found on various social media sites bearing the Iowa State name. He said the faculty needs to be involved, be aware and be attentive to diversity and inclusion issues.

“We have made faux pas in handling this,” Hill said. “I have heard from students that faculty do not care. This is an issue we must deal with, and it won’t be an easy road. The intention doesn’t matter when we have the outcomes that occurred.”

Freeman said all faculty have a role in repairing the image of Iowa State for students to feel welcome.

Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Hoffman was recognized with a standing ovation when Freeman announced that the search for a new provost would be underway with Hoffman’s recent announcement.

“You have set the bar high for the next provost,” Freeman said. “I hope the senate will have a similar relationship with the next provost.”

In her remarks, Hoffman also addressed the recent racism controversies. She said that while attending a meeting at her alma mater Smith College, she saw them dealing with a similar issue of inclusion and diversity. An alumna wrote a letter to Smith College’s president saying she believed the image and quality of her former institution was being degraded by the influx of minorities attending Smith College.

Hoffman said the president wrote a scathing letter in response, saying that the percentage there is no different than anywhere else and that this person’s views do not reflect what the majority of people believe.

“This is a national issue,” she said. “These views others have are ignorant but do not reflect the entirety.”