Board to consider proposed Harkin Institute

Paige Godden

The Board of Regents will be considering Iowa State’s approval request to establish a new Harkin Institute of Public Policy.

The proposed institute would honor Senator Tom Harkin, a distinguished ISU alumnus, who has served more than 35 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

“The senator’s policy concerns, including those related to agriculture, education, international affairs, disabilities, nutrition, health and labor will guide and direct the proposed institute’s teaching, research and outreach priorities,” according to the request.

The institute will serve as the venue and catalyst for innovative interdisciplinary research, teaching and outreach on local, state and international public policy issues.

Sandra Greiner, state senator from district 45, wrote a letter to Regent’s president David Miles with questions and concerns regarding the possible new institute.

“The inclusion of this proposed institute raises serious questions about transparency within the Regents system and also prompts very alarming ethical challenges,” according to the letter.

Greiner wrote that it is clear that the proposal has been discussed at length within the Regents and Iowa State, but their representatives in the legislature and the Office of the Governor have been left in the dark about the proposal.

“… Naming an institute for a sitting elected official at a public institution raises very serious ethical and legal concerns. Senator Harkin is a current elected official and designating a functionary at a state institute bearing his name clearly presents a serious, unfair and questionable political advantage to an official that seeks political approval and favor from the Iowa electorate,” Greiner wrote.

The letter asks that the Regents postpone any consideration of the policy.

“Unfortunately, the secretive and rushed behavior around this proposal also brings an even greater cloud of controversy to the potential institute,” Greiner wrote.