Iowa State University President Steven Leath has provided the following statement in connection with an incident that occurred outside Jack Trice Stadium during Saturday’s Iowa State-Iowa game and questions about his interactions with presidential candidates, two of whom attended the game.
On Saturday, outside Jack Trice Stadium before the Iowa-Iowa State football game, a group including students from Iowa State University held a peaceful rally protesting the visit of Republican presidential candidates to Ames. A video that was posted to social media and has since gone viral shows a woman ripping apart one of the protester’s signs while making derogatory remarks. We have been told there were others who also made derogatory comments to the protestors. These actions are deplorable and not consistent with the type of atmosphere the university seeks to maintain, one of respect even when opinions differ and emotions run high. This perspective is shared by everyone on my senior team. The woman shown in the video is not an Iowa State student or alumna. Her actions and the disrespectful actions of others have no place on our campus. The incident should serve as a reminder to everyone – students, faculty, staff and visitors – to treat one another with respect even in such highly emotional situations. As a university, we value free speech, but we also value safety and respect for differences. The individual whose sign was destroyed has filed an incident report with Iowa State University Police, and the investigation is ongoing. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the many others who reacted calmly and responsibly to the situation Saturday.
Furthermore, as president I do not and will not endorse any candidate, but I will accept any opportunity to discuss higher education policy, promote Iowa State University, and advance our mission of providing an affordable, accessible, high quality education. I welcome the opportunity to discuss these priorities with members of any political party, and on Saturday I was able to meet with Donald Trump and Scott Walker. The pictures on the football field were taken as Mr. Trump and I were walking to the president’s suite, which unfortunately has been misinterpreted as my endorsement of Mr. Trump – any interpretation of an endorsement is false. Scott Walker also visited the president’s suite, as well as other leaders from both political parties. In addition, I have hosted candidates for political office from both parties at other athletic events. During the last presidential election, I had the opportunity to meet with both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. This ultimately resulted in members of the Iowa State community being appointed to committees and receiving invitations to the White House to engage in further discussion on educational policy – which is certainly a positive thing for our university.