Free speech training, survey are in the works

Iowa's regent universities and community colleges jointly hired a digital training production company, Boston-based Six Red Marbles (SRM), to produce training on free speech. The intent is that students and employees at all 18 schools will complete the training, an annual requirement approved in February by the state Board of Regents and one of 10 recommendations from the board's new free speech committee.

In an update to the board at its Sept. 15-16 meeting in Ames, board counsel Aimee Claeys said the state's community college system also was searching for a free speech module, so the two groups opted to share the project. Attorneys for both are developing an outline of necessary content. SRM will develop the training module, and a joint committee will review, edit and make suggestions. The goal, Claeys said, is to complete the project toward the end of fall semester and go live early in the spring semester.

A second recommendation the board approved in February is that the three universities complete a survey of faculty, staff and students on free speech every two years. The board's chief academic officer, Rachel Boon, assembled a committee of campus representatives (diversity, equity and inclusion; institutional research, survey specialists) to find or build a survey all three universities can use. The group will develop a free-standing survey because "no vendor has what we're looking for," she said, but it is drawing from various survey models. A draft survey is nearly done, and the next piece is to develop the guidelines for administering it.

Boon said she and Claeys are strategizing on the timing of the free speech training and survey "and how we layer those to ensure it works most effectively." Boon is hopeful the survey could be ready to use yet this semester.

New facility for engineering department

The regents approved Iowa State's request to name the industrial and manufacturing systems engineering department's new building for alumni C.G. "Turk" and Joyce Therkildsen, who are providing the lead gift ($42 million) for the estimated $50 million facility. It will be named Therkildsen Industrial Engineering.

In August 2019, Iowa State received board permission to begin planning a new building for the department. Because it will be paid for only with private gifts, no further board approval is required. The proposed building site is southwest of Howe Hall.

The board also approved Iowa State requests for two other building projects:

  • Final approval on a $2.85 million project to replace the 43-year-old external office windows on the College of Design building and replace the sealant around the concrete panels between the rows of windows. Earlier attempts to repair the windows weren’t successful. Work will begin in the spring and wrap up by the end of 2022. University funds will cover the project.
  • Permission to begin planning for a two-story north addition and infill to the east side of the one-story perimeter to Town Engineering Building, home to the civil, construction and environmental engineering department. The project also would renovate approximately 25% of existing space and add teaching and research labs, classrooms, collaboration areas and offices for graduate students. The project (estimated at $25 million) would be funded completely by private gifts.

Next year's state funding requests

Ahead of an Oct. 1 submission deadline, the board approved the universities' state funding requests for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Iowa State seeks an increase of $7 million in general university operating support and nearly $1.4 million more in economic development funding in two pieces:

  • $376,519 in recurring funds to fully fund, based on the FY20 request, the three state biosciences platforms managed by Iowa State (biobased products, vaccines and immunotherapeutics, and digital and precision agriculture). The University of Iowa manages the fourth, medical devices.
  • $1 million in one-time funds to serve as matching funds for two U.S. Economic Development Administration regional "challenge" programs: one that spurs industry growth, and another that builds coalitions of educators and industry representatives to design and implement STEM instruction to address private sector needs.

"Iowa State is already one of the leanest and most efficiently run universities in the country," said President Wendy Wintersteen in her remarks to the board. "We will continue to do our part by taking prudent actions to reduce spending and generate cost-savings, but we also need the state to do its part to invest in Iowa State University for today and for the future."

Without an increase in state support, she said it will get more difficult to retain excellent faculty and staff through competitive salaries, implement "tens of millions of dollars" in technology that improve operations and the student experience, or put a dent in the backlog of deferred maintenance projects.

The board also will include two Iowa State projects in the five-year (FY2023-27) capital funding proposal it submits to the state Oct. 1:

  • A $60.8 million request over four years (FY23-26) for an estimated $64.3 million, 69,300 square-foot second phase to the under-construction Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, scheduled for completion in August 2023. Construction on the addition could begin in 2024, said facilities planning and management director Paul Fuligni. With the addition, the VDL could consolidate all testing, research and administrative services under one roof. Included in the current building project is space for the lab's case receiving, sample processing, pathology, necropsy and bacteriology functions and a new incinerator. The addition would provide space for these functions: molecular diagnostics, virology, toxicology, serology, analytical chemistry and administration.
  • An $18.9 million request over four years (FY24-27) to replace LeBaron Hall and renovate a small portion of MacKay Hall. A proposed $21.5 million in private gifts and $14 million in university funds would round out the funding for the two-phased, estimated $54.4 million project. As proposed, phase 1 would replace the existing building with 50,000 new square feet and renovate a connecting area in MacKay; phase 2 would add another 20,000 square feet to the south end of the new building.

Campaign summary

Wintersteen said more than 96,000 donors designated their gifts to the recently completed $1.542 billion "Forever True, For Iowa State" campaign for these purposes:

  • $500 million for student support, including 56,000 scholarships.
  • 148 new named faculty positions, which provide faculty with resources to invest in teaching programs, research and other strategic priorities.
  • $548 million for program support such as the "One Health" initiative in the College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • $275 million for new or renovated facilities, including the Student Innovation Center, Stark Performance Center and Gerdin Business Building addition.

In other university business:

  • During the public comment portion of the meeting, Faculty Senate president Andrea Wheeler and president-elect Jon Perkins asked board members to reconsider their prohibition of a mask mandate on the university campuses and allow faculty to set the rules for their classrooms.
  • The board approved a request to close four outreach or research programs due to concluded funding, a leader departure or both: Center for International Agricultural Finance, Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, Center for Arthropod Management Technologies and Center for Nanotechnology in Cementitious Systems.