Editor's note: This letter was written by the Iowa State Daily’s editorial staff. Iowa State Daily is Iowa State University's student newspaper.
Steven Leath came to Ames, Iowa, in the tail end of 2011 and took up his duties January of 2012.
Beginning in July of that same year, and continuing to July of 2013, he helped Iowa State University raise more than $100 million.
On Oct. 1, 2016, ISU announced its “Forever True, For Iowa State” fundraising campaign—aiming for a staggering $1.1 billion in donations—again, an initiative headed by Steven Leath.
Finally, ISU increased its enrollment each year under his administration and achieved record enrollment in fall of 2016.
These accomplishments, and more unlisted, combine to underline for Steven Leath something of a reputation for economic, administrative, political-know-how. By all the important metrics, his five years and change spent in Ames were a resounding success.
We know, however, that a university is defined by more than just its metrics and its statistics.
It is a place young people come to learn, live and grow.
And likewise, Leath’s tenure was also headlined by several immeasurable, controversial moments.
Firstly, his decision to discontinue “VEISHEA”—a wildly successful and popular week long university celebration of ISU—following Ames’ Campustown rioting was met with diverse reactions.
Many students, faculty and staff and community members were upset at the cancellation of a tradition so rich in Iowa State’s history.
Secondly, it was reported in September of 2016 that Leath had potentially violated Iowa State policy or state law barring the use of university property for personal use.
After two weeks of revelations that he used two university-owned planes for a mix of personal and business reasons—and in one incident caused $12,000 in damage after a hard landing in an aircraft he was piloting to an Illinois airport in July 2016—he commented during an interview with the Iowa State Daily saying that “I regret all of this,” and that he was not trying to hide anything.
These two instances were added to by a multitude of contentious moments—highlighted by a staged walkout during Leath’s address at the Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity—that provided for him a perceived lack of awareness, tact and action with regards to Iowa State’s cultural, social and diversity related issues.
As such, our Editorial Board would have liked to see from Leath’s administration a more transparent tenure at office.
This was a tenure that suffered severe ups and downs, and that came to an end, per Leath’s own resignation letter, “in order to pursue an outstanding opportunity at Auburn University.”