I want to make taxpaying Iowans aware of recent incidents at our three Regents universities. These show what we already know to be true: a heavy progressive and leftist viewpoint saturates our campuses and doesn’t respect divergent perspectives, especially the politically conservative view. Several months ago, I discussed this issue and explained the legislation passed in 2019, requiring respect for the First Amendment rights of students and staff on campus to protect intellectual freedom and free expression. I am concerned that respecting students’ rights on campus to voice different ideas has continued to be an issue. A reversal of this trend has yet to be observed.
University of Iowa
A 2nd-year dental student recently contacted legislators about the threat of disciplinary action from the College of Dentistry administration. The charge: he disagreed with the condemnation they issued to the whole College of Dentistry administration, faculty, and students regarding President Trump’s executive order prohibiting the use of leftist-type racial training for federal employees. And he received no help from the university to defend his free speech rights. This is outrageous!
Here is what he said in his own words: “The situation occurring here at a public university that is supported by conservative, liberal, and independent taxpayers should be very concerning to all people in the state of Iowa. I am pleading for your help in raising awareness for how I and others are being treated for pushing back against top-down liberal indoctrination and conservative suppression at the University of Iowa. I am also seeking legal protection due to a disciplinary hearing I am now subject to for disagreeing with the school….many students feel this (same) way. Please help us. We have no one in the school administration who will….They told me I was not allowed an attorney in this meeting (disciplinary hearing) and that I was not allowed to record it either. The three possible outcomes of this meeting are that nothing happens, I am put on probation, or I am expelled from school. Again, please help us. I no longer feel safe at this institution.”
This is absolutely inexcusable! No student should have to endure this.
A number of us contacted the university, and one of my fellow representatives had a meeting there, and the outcome was that the disciplinary hearing was canceled.
This incident should never have occurred. These university employees work for the taxpayers of Iowa to instruct our young people. They should be, of all things, setting an example for how to respect the free speech rights of others because the First Amendment is essential to living in a free society. It’s a bedrock stone of America. Plain and simple.
Furthermore, they should not be pushing their progressive and leftist ideas on the taxpayer dime.
The person who decided to issue the statement and hold a disciplinary hearing should be fired. They don’t even understand the basic rules of living in America and working for a public university.
Iowa State University
At the beginning of the fall semester, an Iowa State English professor in her introductory syllabus for the class threatened to dismiss any student that expresses a viewpoint in opposition to the leftist view on abortion, same-sex marriage, Black Lives Matter, or any other practice or group that disagrees with her.
Here is what she put in her syllabus in her own words: “GIANT WARNING: “Any instances of othering that you participate in intentionally (racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, sorophobia, transphobia, classism, mocking of mental health issues, body shaming, etc.) in class are grounds for dismissal from the classroom. The same goes for any papers/projects: you cannot choose any topic that takes at its base that one side doesn’t deserve the same basic human rights as you do (i.e., no arguments against gay marriage, abortion, Black Lives Matter, etc.) I take this seriously.”
This is disgraceful! How she could shamelessly deny students the right to express their viewpoints is unbelievable. For example, she has overlooked the obvious fact that students might disagree with her premise that “one side does not deserve the same basic human rights as you do,” and for a good reason. She obviously disagrees with the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech rights.
According to the university, I understand this professor has “received personalized training on the First Amendment and free expression in the classroom.” ISU assigned another faculty member to “provide oversight” for her, and students were offered the option to change classes.
She also should be fired as she, too, does not understand the basic rules of living in America and working for a public university. She should not require remedial teaching on something that basic. She should have already understood that before she was hired.
University of Northern Iowa
Recently the University of Northern Iowa student government denied the Students for Life, a pro-life group, application to form as a registered student group on campus. The Students for Life group would be a local chapter of the national nonprofit Students for Life of America, which also has groups at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.
The UNI student government said allowing the group would create a hostile environment and would not be formed in “good faith.” One student senator went as far as saying, “approving this bill is the same thing as approving a white supremacist group.”
Another said: “This is a hate group, this is hate speech, this is hateful rhetoric that is infringing on basic human rights of healthcare. We cannot support diversity and be complicit in its destruction at the same time.” The majority decision of the student supreme court states the Students for Life application was “lacking in evidence of being an equitable, just and welcoming student organization for our students and community found on campus of the University of Northern Iowa.”
These students’ comments are shameful! Somewhere along the way, they have adopted beliefs and ideas that are both false and are opposed to and incompatible with living in a free society with free speech and free assembly protections in its Constitution.
These beliefs and ideas are dangerous to freedom. What does this portend for our constitutional republic’s future if young leaders can’t tolerate beliefs and ideas different from theirs?
They, too, need a remedial lesson on what it means to honor others’ freedom of speech rights under our First Amendment and that it is the foundation of being able to live together in a free society. They need to understand that it is one of the basics of what it means to be an American.
Per university procedures, Students for Life leaders appealed the decision to UNI President Nook. Thankfully, he overturned the student government decision to deny the pro-life group registered status. Now the group is a fully recognized student organization at UNI, with all the rights and responsibilities afforded to all registered student organizations.
During the debate on our campus free speech bill in 2019, House Democrats insinuated that supporting free speech for everyone was akin to racism and Nazism. Democrats wanted policies that prohibited any speech with which they disagreed. However, our bill passed 52-44 with zero Democrats supporting free speech on campus. It appears that this intolerant attitude toward free speech is the same as that found at our Regents universities.
I will again be submitting a bill to increase “intellectual diversity” at our public universities. It won’t solve all the problems, but it can offer students exposure to viewpoints poorly represented on campus.
As a representative of the taxpayers of Iowa, it is difficult to become motivated to fund institutions when they don’t reflect the diversity of viewpoints represented by Iowa’s taxpayers. When they align with our Constitution, it’s great! When they align with tyranny, it’s awful!