In another apparent sign of Iowa State University’s tone-deafness on issues of race and diversity, Athletic Director Jamie Pollard on Monday went on Cyclones.tv, ISU’s Mediacom channel for sports programming, dressed as a member of the Duck Dynasty reality TV show family, whose patriarch Phil Robertson earned a rebuke from the NAACP in 2013 after claiming in an interview with GQ that black people were happier before they had civil rights. Pollard’s Halloween hijinks come just four days after white supremacist posters placed around campus caught the eye of the national media.
Matt Schoultz, the university’s assistant director of athletics communications, tweeted a shot of Pollard on the channel:
— Matt Shoultz (@mjshoultz) October 31, 2016
One version of the posters, which have previously appeared elsewhere in Iowa and on college campuses in other states, displayed a neo-Nazi symbol and a message warning that whites will soon be a minority group in the US, a popular claim among white supremacists:
Iowa State Police are investigating at least 20 posters referring to white heritage found on campus early Thursday. https://t.co/5srKzBzh4m
— Iowa State Daily (@iowastatedaily) October 27, 2016
In response to the posters, which were quickly removed, ISU President Steven Leath, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Martino Harmon, Provost Jonathan Wickert, and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Reginald Stewart signed an email that read in part, “These posters also depict historical references or messages that could evoke feelings of bias or racism.” It added: “We continue to defend any individual’s right to free expression; however, attacks directed at any individual or group are inconsistent with the Principles of the Iowa State Community: respect, purpose, cooperation, richness of diversity, freedom from discrimination, and the honest and respectful expression of ideas.” (Robertson is also known for his vitriolic anti-gay rhetoric.)
ISU’s previous track record recently on diversity hasn’t been much better. Last fall, a student group now called LUCHA staged a tailgate protest against Donald Trump, who Leath appeared with at Jack Trice Stadium before a football game. A young woman (who wasn’t an ISU student) allegedly directed a racist remark at the protesters, and later that month LUCHA held a forum on diversity, eventually convincing Leath to attend. After that, the group sent Leath a letter requesting that he further address bigotry at the university, and Leath responded with a list of actions ISU was taking to do so.
Earlier this year, former women’s basketball standout Nikki Moody sued ISU coach Bill Fennelly for alleged racial discrimination, charges Fennelly has denied.
Duck Dynasty‘s Robertson clan runs the Louisiana-based Duck Commander, a business that sells duck-hunting products. Duck hunting is also a hobby of Leath’s; in January 2014, he joined Gov. Terry Branstad and Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter on a duck-hunting outing in Texas facilitated by the ISU Foundation.