Regents updated on free speech survey, training

At their Feb. 23 meeting, members of the state Board of Regents received updates on a November survey and current training requirement for all regent employees and students on free speech and the First Amendment.

The survey was conducted Nov. 9-Dec. 1, 2021. Iowa State achieved an employee response rate of 47.5%, and a student response rate of 10.3%, the highest among the three schools for both audiences. The results shared Wednesday were a composite of the three universities, and board chief academic officer Rachel Boon said she will share each university's data file with its institutional research office for local analysis.

Across the three universities (including a large hospital staff at the University of Iowa), nearly 29,000 employees and nearly 69,500 students received an email invitation to complete the survey. The overall response rates were 38.2% for employees and 10.2% for students. A few highlights:

  • 78% of student respondents said they feel comfortable expressing their opinions in their classrooms. Fewer expressed the same comfort about expressing their opinions off campus (68%) or on social media (60%).
  • 64% of employee respondents said they feel comfortable expressing their opinions both at work and off campus; just 44% expressed the same level of comfort on social media.
  • 90% of student respondents believe they are good at listening to, or seeking views different from, their own. They perceive less willingness in others on campus: 41% of other students, 61% of staff and administrators and 66% of faculty will listen well to others, students responded.
  • 69% of employee respondents agree their university provides an environment for open expression of ideas, opinions and beliefs, and 64% agree it does not restrict free speech. However, only 49% of respondents said they feel the environment allows them to say things they believe, and 56% said the environment allows others to say what they believe.

Board counsel Aimee Claeys provided a progress report on the universities' participation in the board-mandated free speech training, developed in tandem with the survey. All employees and students were alerted to the new training Feb. 2 and have until May 13 to complete it.

Free speech training: Completion rates as of 2-18-22



Faculty and staff

Iowa State



Northern Iowa







Parking rates

The board had its first review of proposed parking permit and student housing and dining rates for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Votes on the proposals will come at the April meeting.

The parking division is proposing to raise parking permits about 4% on July 1. The hourly rate ($1.25) at parking meters or metered lots would not change.

ISU lot permits

Permit type






24-hour Reserved



General staff*



Staff motorcycle









*Includes residence department and Ames Lab

Similar increases are proposed for the Memorial Union parking ramp, which is managed by the MU, not the parking division. Hourly rates at the ramp also would go up a proposed 25 cents per hour (to rates of $2.25 to $2.75 per hour), and the daily maximum would go from $17 to $20. The MU also wants to raise special fees (lost ticket, illegal exit, lost permit replacement) by $10 each.

MU ramp permits

Permit type






Fall or spring






Winter (Nov-Feb)




Student housing rates

Meal plan options would increase a proposed 3% and room and apartment rates also would increase 3% on average (range of 2.9% to 3.3%) next year. The proposed price for the standard package of a double room without air conditioning and Cardinal meal plan is $9,358, a 3.0% increase.

Guest rates at the dining centers would rise to $11.10 for breakfast and $14.30 for lunch and dinner, as proposed.

The increases reflect additional cost increases anticipated for utilities, food, maintenance, repairs and particularly labor. Associate vice president for campus life and residence department director Pete Englin said increasing the student wage to $13 per hour this fall and the staff hourly rate to $15 in December helped ISU Dining compete for workers, but turnover remains constant, particularly for custodians and cooks.

Still, Englin praised housing and dining staff for their commitment to serving students in constantly changing dynamics.

Englin told board members the pandemic's negative impact on students' desire to live on campus in fall 2020 began to reverse this fall and looks brighter for fall 2022. Oak-Elm residence hall reopened in August and will stay open for fall 2022. In addition, the residence department will reopen Linden Hall, which has served for two years as isolation housing for students with a positive COVID test. In addition, the department "is on the cusp" of opening either Wallace or Wilson hall for fall. Apartments closed in fall 2020 have reopened due to interest in on-campus housing, he said.

The department's most recent facility investments include $2.4 million for wireless connectivity and $4 million in renovation projects at the Union Drive Community Center.

Public radio assets

In other business, the board approved transferring from the three public universities to Iowa Public Radio (IPR) the radio station call signs and licenses with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), towers or tower leases and equipment used to operate the stations. The board incorporated Iowa Public Radio in 2006, and the intent is to build on efficiencies and collaborations among the various stations to further improve public radio service in the state. Claeys called it "a logical next step for the stations."

Board executive director Mark Braun received authority to negotiate leases between IPR and the universities for operational spaces on the campuses.

The changes also have to be approved by IPR's board of directors and the FCC.

Other ISU items

The board also approved ISU requests to:

  • Establish two centers, the Translational AI Research and Education Center ("TrAC") in the office of the vice president for research and led by professor of mechanical engineering Baskar Ganapathysubramanian; and the Center for Wireless, Communities and Innovation ("Wici Center") in the College of Engineering, led by Hongwei Zhang, professor of electrical and computer engineering.
  • Begin planning for a second phase to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, which is under construction and scheduled for completion in fall 2023. Phase I contains the lab's sample processing and receiving functions. The proposed $64.3 million second phase would allow all remaining testing sections of the laboratory, diagnostic research activities and administrative staff to be in one facility.
  • Add $1 million (to $9.1 million) to the athletics project budget for a 330-stall gameday RV parking lot east of the football stadium, to be completed in time for the 2022 season opener. The increase is due to pandemic effect on construction materials and labor costs.
  • Award an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Daniel Houston, a 1984 alumnus in marketing who serves as chairman, president and CEO of Des Moines-based Principal Financial Group, to recognize "one of the world’s most influential business leaders."
  • Name the new Turkey Teaching and Research Facility, scheduled for completion this spring, for alumnus Stanley Balloun, a former professor of animal science and international expert in the science of turkey feed. A lead gift was provided by Jim and Julie Balloun of Atlanta, Georgia. Jim, also an Iowa State alumnus, is Stanley Balloun's son.
  • Demolish nine buildings on ISU's Bilsland Memorial Farm (two miles north of Madrid) that were heavily damaged in the August 2020 derecho and restore the land to cropland.