ISU College Republicans tweet causes aftershocks

In a tweet sent after the projected election results came in, Iowa State College Republicans called for everybody to “arm up,” prompting a response from the university.

Kylee Haueter

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect a letter that will be sent to Iowa State administration calling for action regarding the tweet.

Thursday afternoon, members of Iowa State faculty and Iowa State students prepared a letter to be sent to Iowa State University administration at 3:45 p.m. calling for action to be taken against the Iowa State College Republicans.

“We are appalled that Iowa State University administration has decided it will not invoke disciplinary action on a student organization, the Iowa State University College Republicans (@IStateCRs), for a tweet that, having nothing to do with the political nature of the organization, incites violence and creates a campus climate that feels threatening to and isolates students, faculty, and staff of marginalized and historically oppressed populations,” the letter reads.

The letter goes on to say that this lack of action proves that the statements made by the university over the summer during the George Floyd protests were “merely symbolic” and “now serve as further evidence of its history of denouncing some harmful behaviors, only to abdicate themselves of responsibility when given the opportunity to show their commitment through action.”

The letter cites other tweets from the group that feature “derogatory language toward undocumented immigrants, racist calls to deport naturalized immigrants of color, calling members of the LGBTQ community mentally ill, and more.”

Marginalized groups on campus feel unsafe due to the nature of this tweet in the political climate and that lack of action from Iowa State makes them feel like they do not matter, the letter also says.

It calls specifically for disciplinary action against the group as well as an amendment to the Student Code of Conduct to specifically address how the school responds to hate speech and speech that indirectly or directly threatens physical safety and free movement of the campus community.

“We demand Iowa State University demonstrate its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and its goal of education students on these very important issues by issuing a charge to the Provost to begin working with academic units on campus to increase the University-wide U.S. diversity requirement and review the approved coursed to ensure the course content is centered on diversity issues,” the letter also states.

If Iowa State does not discipline the group, the letter adds, administration should provide a clear response that states the rationale for its inaction as well as provide a statement addressing those that feel threatened by this rhetoric. 

Everyone may sign the letter and it will be available until it is sent out at 3:45 p.m.

Following a Saturday tweet from Iowa State College Republicans calling individuals to “arm up,” Iowa State University will not be taking disciplinary action against the group.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to Iowa State administration Monday “reminding them of their obligations under the First Amendment and calling on President Wendy Wintersteen to not punish the group for protected speech,” according to Daniel Burnett, director of communications for FIRE.

“Iowa State University’s ban on merely suggesting armed action shows a shocking disregard for its students’ First Amendment right to express core political speech,” said Zach Greenberg, senior program officer for FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program and author of the letter. “FIRE calls on Iowa State to rescind this ban and promise to uphold its students’ expressive rights.”

The letter also cited groups on campus such as Army ROTC, Students for 2A, the Rifle and Pistol Club, Iowa State Trap and Skeet Club and the Kendo Club.

Iowa State said in a statement Wednesday they are “committed to the constitutional protections of the First Amendment.”

“The university’s statement was not directed at the speech contained in the Twitter post but at conduct that would violate university policy,” the statement read. “University policy and the Student Code of Conduct prohibits the possession or use of weapons, including firearms, on campus and in the course of university-related activities absent prior approval in circumstances not applicable in this matter.”

The statement continued to say violations of these policies will be addressed according to the Student Code of Conduct.  

“No students were subject to discipline by the university for the language in the tweet,” it read. “This distinction was communicated with the student organization.”

The statement did not say whether or not students were subject to disciplinary action for anything not expressed in the tweet.

Iowa State Student Senate was also made aware of the tweet and created a bill to vote for the removal of Ryan Hurley from the Senate. Hurley is president of College Republicans and an Inter-Residence Hall Association (IRHA) senator. The bill was not based solely on the content of the tweet.

Two members of Student Government who wished to remain anonymous also confirmed Hurley was the author of the tweet.

“As previously stated in our initial statement as well as numerous personal emails to Mr. Hurley, we did not come to this decision on the tweet incident alone,” an email to the Student Senate read. “Mr. Hurley’s attendance record is disappointing, and if a senator is not present in Senate meetings, it is fair to say that cannot represent IRHA’s interests in those meetings.”

The email outlined the right to remove a senator.

“According to IRHA Bylaws, the Executive Board and/or Parliament reserves the right to remove a senator with a vote,” the email continued. “Our governing documents give us the right to remove a senator as we see fit since they were elected into their position without the opinions and notice of the organization (IRHA) they are representing.” 

At the meeting, the bill was postponed indefinitely. Another email sent to student senators said there is unfinished business and postponement would most benefit everyone involved.

“A bill of this severity deserves more time and discussion than what it will receive on Wednesday night,” the email read. “It will be our last meeting of the second session, along with reviewing P&C and Election Code, which are two very important conversations. We also have a handful of other bills, which will overall demand most of our time.”

In the email, Vice Speaker Mariana Gonzalez said she does not plan on indefinitely tabling the bill because of the approaching Winter Break and the amount of senators that would need to be present.

“I want to do what is best for this organization and make sure we can move forward in a structured and efficient manner,” the email finished. 

Hurley commented on the bill that would remove him from the Senate.  

“[It is] very sad, not a good move to attempt to remove a senator because you disagree with him,” Hurley said.

The Iowa Federation of College Republicans (IFCR) also defederated the Iowa State College Republicans chapter Tuesday night. 

This defederation came on the basis of inflammatory tweets, inappropriate behavior and disregard for fellow citizens, according to a press release.

The University of Iowa College Republicans said in a tweet they stand by the decision made by the IFCR. The group did not respond to requests for comment.

Hurley said the group is a victim of “cancel culture” on the right and that they have been met with an outpouring of support from other right-wing college groups.

“The very small group that denounced us has been counteracted by massive support, we can see that California College GOP has stated their preference for our chapter compared to University of Iowa,” Hurley said. “Iowa State College Republicans has received an outpouring of support from various Republicans groups. We are not alone but rather are the future of the GOP.”

Contributed reporting by Amber Mohmand.