Student stages walk out ahead of Leath address during ISCORE


Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily

Chairs sit empty at the 2017 Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity. 

Jacey Goetzman

As Iowa State President Steven Leath took the podium at the Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE), a woman with a megaphone stood up to make a statement of her own.

The student, Itzel Zuniga, stood in the middle of the Sun Room of the Memorial Union and read a prepared statement to Leath off her phone.

Zuniga presented a variety of problems she has with Leath, including his usage of university planes, as well as what Zuniga called his lack of public advocacy for students who have been impacted by President Donald Trump’s actions thus far – among them, transgender students, Muslim students and students from the seven banned countries in Trump’s executive order.

“I have stood on that stage, sharing my experience as a woman of color at this university and I was not listened to,” Zuniga, senior in women’s studies, said. “I am tired of my, and my peers’ trauma, being used as a tool for white educators on this campus.”

Snaps of support resounded within the room while silence occupied others.

The statement came after months of tension on campus, where students called for a stronger condemnation of white heritage posters found on campus in October 2016 and after protesters marched to Beardshear Hall in November 2016 to deliver the message of “not my president” to President Leath.

“By allowing Donald Trump on this campus and refusing to shut down white supremacy, you have put our safety at risk,” Zuniga said. “You hang out and spend time and spend our tax money with racists.”

Zuniga did not stop there.

“You sir, are a racist,” Zuniga said. “You do not deserve the brilliance of a single student of color in this room.”

Zuniga concluded her statement by asking others to join her in solidarity as she walked out. A group of 40 to 50 people were reported leaving.

Leath issued a statement after the conference:

“I value the feelings and concerns of all members of the Iowa State community, including this student and those who walked out in protest. It is unfortunate that this student decided to express her feelings through personal attacks on me and in a way that disrupted a program that aims to bring our university community together. Many staff, students, and faculty work very hard each year to put ISCORE together and nearly 1000 members of the Iowa State community registered to attend this year to cultivate awareness and understanding of issues of race and ethnicity. Launching personal attacks and treating each other with disrespect is not the way to create a campus culture that supports diversity, inclusion, and equity; that is the antithesis of the Principles of the Iowa State Community. However, despite the manner in which the feelings were expressed, I realize they came from a place of hurt and frustration. Moving forward, I will commit to making myself even more accessible so that we can address issues and concerns through civil discourse and respectful dialogue to effect meaningful, sustainable change here at Iowa State.”

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