July 4, 2010 – Are You Smarter Than The Dean of Agriculture at Iowa State?

Before you read, quick, what have cows eaten for the last few thousands of years?  Remember that later on in the post.

Iowa State deservedly so received a black eye in an article regarding the search for a new director for the Director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. The Chronicle of Higher Education – the flagship journal of those in higher education wrote an article about the botched search.

In a nutshell, the search committee, composed of a broad range of people, selected four candidates to interview on campus. Of these, they recommended two to the President. Ricardo Salvador was the preferred candidate and another was acceptable, while two were deemed unacceptable. The job was offered to the 2nd candidate and at the same time the 1st candidate was sent a flush letter. The 2nd candidate eventually declined and the university was left with no other options. Now the hiring process has been hijacked by the hiring of the 2nd consecutive “interim director.”

According to the article in the Chronicle, an comment Ricardo made during a presentation that “cows evolved to eat grass” is counted as his downfall (this is a state whose agriculture is dominated by corn and confinements and feedlots that feed ruminants corn; the emperor did not appreciate this comment that suggests there was a lack of clothing.)

The Chronicle interviewed the Dean of Agriculture and asked her if she believed that “cows evolved to eat grass.” She said she had no opinion. (As though this is a question that is one of opinion!). The Chronicle continued to push her and finally she said something to the effect that she was trained as an entomologist and should not be expected to know about everything! Hmm. I’d think for $227,000 dollars a year, a Land Grant university could find some genius who is underemployed who is not an animal scientist who might have a broad understanding of agriculture that includes the knowledge that cows are ruminants.

Obviously, the Dean knows the answer, and no matter who was in that position might have answered the same. There is a structural problem. The problem is that the concept of a Land Grant University funded by public taxes, no longer serves those who pay the taxes, but captains of industry, much like many politicians in Washington serve who do not vote for them.

Somehow, this seems appropriate on the anniversary of our democracy. There’s still work left to do!  A recent billboard for Iowa State urged students to “Change your zip code and change the World.”  If the University blocks progress on changing less than 2% of Iowa farmland and intercedes to maintain the status quo, there is no hope the world will change anytime soon.  There are many bright faculty and students at Iowa State – they deserve leadership that allows them to do just that –  change the world.

This may be in Iowan’s DNA.  A Boone city councilman mulling over an ordinance to allow wind turbines:  “I think it’s really wise that we don’t jump into this until we make darn sure that everything is proper and there’s not going to be issues down the road, because it could really come back and haunt a lot of people,” Councilman Gary Nystrom said. “There are a lot of ideas that come up, but we don’t need to be the first ones to test them.”  Yep, let someone else get all the money and benefits of new technology and we’ll be happy here with our abacus and flint tools.

one year ago…”Happy 4th”