May 11, 2008


Thanks to Iowans, ISU one of state's great assets (Gary L. Maydew, 5/10/08, Des Moines Register)

Iowa State University students who receive their diplomas at Hilton Coliseum today enjoy the distinction of graduating from a great university as it celebrates its 150th anniversary.

Much of the credit for that greatness goes to the citizens of Iowa and their strong, unwavering support for the state's colleges and universities through the years. [...]

ISU has had its share of missteps as well. Among them: [...]

-Abridgment of academic freedom. In the early 1940s dairy farmers in Iowa wanted to forbid the publication of a report that oleomargarine was just as nutritious as butter. Ted Schultz, an agricultural economics professor, insisted that the report be published in the name of academic freedom. The administration did not support him. He eventually resigned in protest and went to the University of Chicago, where he had a stellar career, winning the Nobel Prize in 1979.

More recently, ISU failed to grant tenure to Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, though his research record was solid. Failure to attain tenure is a familiar occurrence at strong research universities. However, the circumstances surrounding his tenure denial were troubling. Gonzalez stirred controversy by advocating the study of intelligent design, which theorizes that the complexity of life suggests the existence of a higher being.

Great universities need to support academic freedom and encourage thinking outside the box, regardless of whether faculty subscribe to prevailing wisdom. ISU's refusal to grant Gonzalez tenure creates a perception that academic freedom at ISU applies only to those holding main stream religious or agnostic beliefs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 11, 2008 8:39 AM

Iowa wanted to forbid the publication of a report that oleomargarine was just as nutritious as butter.

Iowa was right. Margarine is bad for your health. It's full of transfat which practically kills you, the only fat that simultaneously raises your bad cholesterols and lowers your good ones.

Posted by: ic at May 11, 2008 12:56 PM