- Iowa State University President Steven Leath apologized to student government officials recently for his use of institutional airplanes in personal travel since 2014, according to the Associated Press.
- Leath told student leaders that he used two different planes for four trips to his home in North Carolina, and for other trips which combined business with personal time off.
- The SGA, which passed a resolution asking for state higher education leaders to investigate the use of the planes, has rekindled discussion about Leath's private-yet-legal land purchase deal with Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, and the potential overreach of executive privilege.
Higher education leaders should be cautious of Iowa State's example of executive perks gone too far. For some, use of university transportation may seem to be a very small thing that does not make a difference in a large context of university fundraising and enterprise. But with millions of students struggling to afford college and thousands of institutions cutting budgets while pay for executives continues to rise, the case for executive privilege is growing more problematic with every instance of abuse.
Presidents should be hyper conscious of their use of foundation or university purchasing cards, trips, gifts and access allowed to potential or existing donors, as all of these scenarios can create bad public relations for an institution, and potentially the ouster of the guilty executive.