Controversy has surrounded the Harkin Institute at Iowa State from day one. While researching and teaching public policy issues, the Institute would also house Senator Tom Harkin’s papers from his four decades in office.
“I`ve worked very hard for Iowa state all the time I`ve been in the House and the Senate,” says Harkin.
On the Insiders Sunday morning, the Democrat says he was honored when his alma mater approached him about creating an Institute that would bear his name. But before long, some Republicans raised concerns that an institute for a sitting Senator would raise ethical questions.
“Some fierce partisans started to make a political football out of it which I had never imagined that this would be any kind of political issue,” he says.
Then came a memo last month in which ISU President Steven Leath said “any public policy research conducted by the Harkin Institute focusing on areas found elsewhere on campus is expected to be planned, conducted and published in a cooperative, collaborative manner.”
“No other institute at Iowa State has restrictions. They don`t have to clear it with someone else before they do something. Why would this institute have shackles put on it and be denied this academic freedom?” asked Harkin.
Sunday, the Director of the Harkin Institute issued a statement. David Peterson says “President Leath’s directive doesn’t restrict academic freedom, rather it addresses efficient management of the University.” Peterson goes on to say that there are “no restrictions on what the Harkin Institute can do” and as director, he would voice concerns if he thought that was being challenged by the administration.
Still Senator Harkin says it could still be a deal breaker.
“I cannot leave my papers to any University or Institute wherein there`s not this full academic freedom and to this day that has not been forthcoming.”
Peterson says there are no academic freedom issues with Senator Harkin’s papers. They “will be archived by the university library, where any student, faculty member, or researcher will have access to them and be able to conduct any research that they like. No one will need prior permission of the institute or anyone else on campus to access senator Harkin`s papers.” The papers will be digitized for online access to anyone.
Monday, the Harkin Institute will host a workshop called “Social Science, Presidential Campaigns, and Political Reporting.” The event at ISU’s Memorial Union is free and open to the public.
Click to watch the whole interview on The Insiders.