Letter: Accountability, alumni and asterisks

Letter writer Brennan Goodman advocates for Dennis Muilenburg to be removed as a distinguished alumni. 

Brennan Goodman

Late last year, I submitted a request to the Office of the President to have a named minor unit removed from the university, but you would not know it by looking at the request log. This minor unit was the distinguished alumni flag that bears Dennis Muilenburg’s name on it for his time as a vice president at Boeing Corporation. His time as vice president was not the extent of his career at Boeing.

He went on to become CEO and chairman, then just CEO and then fired CEO due to his handling of the 737 MAX groundings. The result of this incident resulted in two plane crashes and cost the lives of over 300 people due to a malfunction in the aircraft software.

Accountability was met with the ousting of Mr. Muilenburg from the company, after all, he acknowledged accountability for this disaster multiple times during a hearing with the House of Representatives. I wondered if Iowa State, too, would recognize any accountability. But no, he is still a distinguished alumni. I do not believe Mr. Muilenburg is a distinguished alumni, but unequivocally, he is a wealthy one: he left the company with a $62 million severance package.

I can certainly see the temptation of Iowa State administration to not want to wade into this quagmire of legacy, but it is one in which I believe is vital and central to the renaming policy. What does it mean to be a distinguished alum?

You may have your answer, but what about the university? The university is actively dodging this question we should all want answered. University Counsel reached out to me, claiming my submission did not include a minor unit. Minor units include campus areas or sections of facilities, including physical features. I believe a flag is a physical feature on our campus: I can see its bright cardinal color outside Beardshear Hall, I can hear it flap in the stiff Iowa winter winds and I’d imagine it tastes unbearably salty. (Counsel must be arguing it is metaphysical or a theoretical one.) The university created a policy to be transparent, but when push came to shove, look below and see how they’ve added asterisks along the way. You wonder why, but in the actual interest of transparency, perhaps now you know. 

Dec. 30, 2020:

Feb. 5, 2021:

Brennan Goodman is a second year in veterinary medicine.