The Board of Regents took the unusual step Thursday of responding to a letter written to the student newspaper at Iowa State University. The letter written by Thomas Walker, a lecturer in the English program, was critical of college Republicans for collecting items to put in care packages for soldiers who are on active duty.
One of the criticisms in Walker’s letter said the soldiers are not doing anything for the U.S., but are instead “creating anti-American terrorists in the countries they occupy.” Regents president pro-tem, Craig Rastetter was presiding over the meeting and took a moment to comment on the letter.
“I want to make it very clear that the Board of Regents does not share or support Mr. Walker’s opinion. And that is exactly what it is, his opinion,” Rastetter says, “I along with many Iowans, was offended and disgusted by the unfortunate and highly inappropriate remarks made against our soldiers in uniform.”
Rastetter says Walker’s letter was wrong on several points. “Not only did Mr. Walker insult our sons and daughters in uniform, he also questioned the kind and humanitarian efforts made by our students to ensure that our soldiers know that we care about them and are exceedingly grateful for their service,” Rastetter said. He says the students should be commended for their efforts to create holiday baskets for soldiers instead of being criticized.
The I.S.U. ROTC Cadet Battalion Commander, Kyle Bitterman, also spoke, and said members of the ROTC had read and discussed the letter.
“We were all shocked definitely at the words that appeared to be unjustified and unwarranted, and hopefully they are,” Bitterman said. “These discussions led to questioning if this is the way the whole university feels, and thankfully, we have been educated enough to realize that that is not the case. We have a great amount of support here from the university as a whole, so we did not feel that at all.”
Bitterman says the letter is the unfortunate opinion of one person. “The words no matter how much we disagree are opinion. And that opinion is what every American has a right to express because of the freedom of speech. A part of our Constitution which each U.S. soldier, sailor, airmen and even cadet, swears an oath to defend,” according to Bitterman.
Bitterman says there are several veterans on campus who would be willing to talk to Walker and tell to him about what they do as soldiers. “To explain what it is like being in a third world country risking their lives, veterans to describe the horrors they might wish to unsee, and veterans to say what it means…to receive a little bit of home when we are so far from it,” Bitterman said. “We also have some service men and women who will soon be going over to experience the same things, no matter the support, but it makes a world of difference to have that support.”
Iowa State president Gregory Geoffroy said Walker’s letter and opinions do not in any way represent Iowa State University. “I am very disappointed that he chose to write such a letter. As you’ve heard, the vast majority of Iowa Staters on campus and elsewhere simply do not hold the opinions expressed by Mr. Walker, and they simply do not reflect the values of this university,” Geoffroy told the regents, “We are indeed very proud of our alumni and our current students, faculty and staff who serve, or who have served in the military.”
Some national media outlets picked up on the letter which created more attention to the issue.
You can see the letter at the Iowa State Daily’s website.
Listen to the comments made at the regents meeting about the letter here:Letter discussion 8:30