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California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools

Harkin’s Decision to Withhold Papers From Iowa State Sparks Debate

02/08/2013

THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION.  FEBRUARY 7, 2013.  U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin’s announcement this week that, because of concerns about restrictions on research, he would not donate his papers from nearly 40 years in Congress to an institute at Iowa State University that bears his name has sparked a debate over academic freedom and put the institute’s future in question, according to reports by The Des Moines Register.

Mr. Harkin, a Democrat and an alumnus of Iowa State, wrote in a letter to the university’s president on Tuesday that it had become evident to him “that the university would not grant the institute the very freedoms that I learned to cherish at Iowa State.”

Iowa State’s president, Steven Leath, however, rejected the idea that the university’s guidelines for research at the institute violated principles of academic freedom. The guidelines, in a directive he issued last month, had won the support of the university’s chief academic officer, faculty leaders, and the director of the institute itself, he said in a written statement. “In reality,” he wrote, “my directive lifted any and all restrictions originally placed upon the Harkin Institute … and instead simply requested that the institute function in a cooperative and collaborative manner with existing units on campus.”

Mr. Leath added that he could not say whether the institute would continue to function. The state’s Board of Regents created the institute, he said, and would have to approve any change in its status, including its closure.