Administrators give thoughts on Saturday protest, presidential candidate visits


Donald Trump walks around Jack Trice Stadium with President Leath on Saturday before the Iowa vs. Iowa State football game.

Adam Sodders

Representatives from two ISU administration offices have given their thoughts on Saturday’s silent demonstration, as well as various presidential candidates visits to the Cy-Hawk tailgate.

Tensions still run high as community members look toward administration during the aftermath of the protest during the Cy-Hawk tailgate last weekend. More information about candidates tailgating can be found here. Read more about the protest here

The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs hosted a discussion Monday night in the aftermath of the protest. Protesters shared their experience at the demonstration, which many said included being jeered at and harassed by supporters of presidential candidates. 

Among the most talked about concerns at the discussion were the photos taken of Republican presidential candidate and billionaire businessman Donald Trump with ISU President Steven Leath prior to Saturday’s game.

“Some have interpreted [the photos] as President Leath supporting or endorsing Trump, and that is not the case at all,” said Miles Lackey, associate vice president and chief of staff for the Office of the President.

Lackey said Leath takes advantage of any opportunity to engage current and potential political office holders, no matter what party or affiliation they claim. Additionally, both Lackey and a statement given Tuesday afternoon by Leath deny any political affiliation or endorsement of any candidate.

“As president I do not and will not endorse any candidate, but I will accept any opportunity to discuss higher education policy,” Leath said in the statement.

Lackey said the government plays a key role in funding regent universities.

“The federal government is a major supporter of Iowa State,” Lackey said. “It would be shortsighted not to engage these presidential candidates.”

Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were the only two candidates who visited the presidential suite, Leath said in his statement. He said he was not attempting to support Trump in any way.

Many students said they did not like that Leath was seen with Trump in photos taken of the two, such as Jovani Rubio, senior in mechanical engineering.

“What [Leath] did was wrong,” Rubio said. 

Denise Williams-Klotz, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, was present at the post-protest discussion. She said the role of office was to give students a chance to have productive conversation about Saturday’s events.

“I think some of the students were offended,” she said in reference to photos of Trump and Leath. She said political leanings and feelings toward Trump’s comments on immigration and Latinos probably influenced many students’ and protesters’ opinions.

Williams-Klotz said it was not the job of her office to agree with all students but to facilitate conversation that would move the university forward.

Lackey said it is unclear exactly when Leath learned about the treatment of the protesters. He said the president is currently out of state and departed sometime Sunday.

“Harassment evidence has been trickling in,” Lackey said. He added the position of the president is that the actions of harassment against the peaceful protesters were deplorable.

One part of the Leath’s statement refers to protester harassment. Part of the statement is in response to a video showing Shelby Mueller, 20, of West Des Moines ripping a sign held by Rubio. Mueller is not an ISU student.

“These [derogatory] actions are deplorable and not consistent with the type of atmosphere the university seeks to maintain,” reads Leath’s statement. “[Mueller’s] actions and the disrespectful actions of others have no place on our campus.”

Mueller also issued an apology Monday, saying it was a mistake to rip Rubio’s poster.

“I wasn’t thinking. I don’t have anything against him at all. I respect his belief and that we may have different beliefs on some things,” Mueller said. “This is something that got taken out of context and I never meant for anyone to get so upset about it. Everyone is entitled to their own belief, and I respect people who are strong in their beliefs, no matter what they may be.”

Lackey also said he was in opposition to the actions of other people at the political events Saturday.

“It is unacceptable, when folks are having a peaceful protest, to say derogatory remarks or destroy their personal property,” Lackey said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous that people would behave like that.”

Williams-Klotz believes the protest and ensuing issues have spurred important discussion about race, ethnicity and immigration at Iowa State.

“I think this specific event has brought to the surface other issues,” she said. “I’m always in support of students seeking to understand and searching for answers.”