It appears The Harkin Institute may soon be closing up shop at Iowa State University.
The institute’s advisory board met by phone late this afternoon and recommended that Senator Tom Harkin not donate his papers to ISU.
Former Iowa Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson, a member of the Harkin Institute Advisory Board, summed it up this way: “While we were excited about the establishment about The Harkin Institute for Public Policy at Iowa State University, we believe the issues that have arisen regarding unrestricted research and academic freedom at the institute have made it impossible for the institute to flourish at Iowa State.”
Former Iowa State University president Gregory Geoffroy is a member of The Harkin Institute advisory board, but he did not vote on the proposal.
“I am very conflicted on this because of my loyalty to the university and the belief that the university would be well-served to have the papers located at Iowa State,” Geoffrey said, “but I also know that the controversy that has been created will make going forward difficult, so I’m going to abstain.”
Dave Peterson, interim director of The Harkin Institute, angrily rejected the idea ISU president Steven Leath had placed undue restrictions on research.
“I’m the one on the ground,” Peterson told board members during a telephone conference call. “I’m the one dealing with academics. I’m the one figuring out how academics are reacting to the environment around The Harkin Institute and, honestly, it’s not the Memorandum of Understanding that’s been creating headaches and problems. It is, I think, some of the accusations of limits of academic freedom which I think, on face, are wrong and…a little bit personally insulting.”
Peterson argued “bureaucratic lines” are necessary to ensure there’s no duplication in research at Iowa State.
Iowa Cubs owner Michael Gartner, a former newspaper and network TV executive, was among those who criticized Iowa State’s objective to have the university “speak with one voice on agricultural issues.”
“For lack of a better term, the well has been poisoned and would make continued ability for the Harkin Institute to thrive, it would make that extraordinarily difficult,” Gartner said.
Last weekend Harkin revealed he has talked with the president of Drake University about donating the work papers from his 40-year career in congress to Drake.
AUDIO of Harkin Institute advisory board discussion (mp3 runs 17 minutes).