Iowa State issues response to student and faculty letter

Faculty works to modify U.S. diversity requirements, but because of the bill passed by the Iowa Senate that does not allow divisive topics in the classroom, the changes have not been installed.

Kylee Haueter

Iowa State administration responded to a letter sent on Thursday afternoon.

The letter, which was signed by over 500 Iowa State students and faculty members, called for action to be taken against the Iowa State College Republicans after a tweet the group posted calling for individuals to “arm up.”

The letter was sent in as a response to a lack of action on the administration’s part. It expressed disappointment in the lack of action taken and said the tweet “incites violence and creates a campus climate that feels threatening to and isolates students, faculty, and staff of marginalized and historically oppressed populations.”

In response to the letter, Iowa State said “we live in a very divisive time where much of the rhetoric of the day is designed to divide us, with a focus on our differences, rather than to unite us around our common humanity. This type of rhetoric can be personally hurtful and frightening to individuals on our campus. We appreciate and share your concern about the impact this has on members of our community.”

The response also said hateful rhetoric causes the “campus community to suffer.”

Specifically, the letter said the tweet posted by the group is classified as protected speech.

“The tweets that are the focus of this demand are protected speech, and standing alone,  they do not violate university policy. The university cannot, and will not, punish students or  student organizations for their constitutionally protected expression,” the statement said.

If students were to bring weapons on campus, the statement continued, it would result in action per the Student Code of Conduct.

The letter sent Thursday also called for changes to the Student Code of Conduct to include punishments for hate speech. Iowa State said that other university codes of conduct that tried to implement this were struck down as “unconstitutional.”

“[…] the university cannot establish its own thresholds for threatening or hateful speech that are  broader than the limited exceptions currently allowed in federal law,” Monday’s statement read.

It continued to say that while the Principles of Community are standards everyone should aspire to, they are “not enforceable” because they are neither laws nor policies.

According to the statement, the Faculty Senate’s Working Group on the U.S. Diversity Requirement and Class Learning Objectives has been working together with the Office of the Senior Vice President, Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion in reviewing the diversity requirement to make sure it is being met by the current approved courses.

The statement ends by saying that the university’s responsibility is to encourage discussion, thought and new ideas.

“This responsibility is not accomplished through suppressing speech or dictating thought. Rather, it is accomplished  through education, example, discussion, debate, demonstration and building relationships,” it said.

“We pledge to do more in the coming year to educate the campus community on the history and  benefits of the First Amendment, as well as how to exercise its freedoms responsibly, and in  ways that are consistent with the Principles of Community.”

The statement ended by saying that if anyone feels unsafe, they should contact ISU Police, Student Counseling Services, or Student Assistance.

It was signed by Sharron Evans, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Michael Norton, University Counsel, Reginald Stewart, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Jonathan Wickert, Senior Vice President and Provost and Toyia Younger, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs.

The full letter can be found on the University’s Campus Climate website.