A Conversation with ISU President Wendy Wintersteen

Jul 6, 2018

This week, the Trump administration reversed seven Obama-era policies on affirmative action that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses. The Trump administration will now encourage school superintendents and college presidents to adopt race-blind admissions standards.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen about how this may impact admissions at Iowa State, the rise in faculty resignations, and college affordability.

Financially, Iowa State University has faced a tough year with a $5.4 million permanent reduction to their budget. Wintersteen says that these budget cuts may be impacting faculty retention. This year, 44 faculty members resigned from Iowa State, marking a 10-year high in faculty resignations.

“I’m very concerned. When we think about what we do at Iowa State, we do it with great people in our faculty and staff ranks,” Wintersteen says. “When you lose that level of faculty in a given year, you start to understand that when you’re not able to give a salary increase like we were not able to do last year, these individuals have the ability to go and get a better job at another university."

Despite the recent news that the Trump administration will be reversing affirmative action policies, Wintersteen says that Iowa State's admission policy is already considered “race-neutral.”

“What I know about being a great land-grant university is that we believe in accessibility. If you are a student that meets our very minimal admissions standards then we welcome you at Iowa State,” she says.

However, Wintersteen emphasizes the importance of cultivating and supporting a diverse student body.

“We also believe at Iowa State in the strength of diversity. We have a very strong, diverse population at Iowa State,” she says. “About 24 percent of our students are multicultural or international and they bring a great wealth of knowledge and opportunity for all of our students.”

Moving forward, Wintersteen hopes to continue going out into the ISU community to listen to the voices of students, faculty, and staff.

“I have to tell you, I learn every day, and I’m going to keep learning every day as I continue on in my presidency.”

Later in the hour, IPR's legislative correspondent Joyce Russell and Associated Press Iowa government and politics reporter Barbara Rodriguez join the conversation to talk about new Iowa laws that went into effect on July 1st.

Many of these new laws could have an impact on the upcoming elections, Rodriguez says.

"A lot of the legislation that was passed this year, you can expect it to play a role in the gubernatorial race. This is really going to be the first test of the 2016 elections in terms of Republican policies."