Iowa Board of Regents to discuss free speech on campus


National free speech survey data from a June Board of Regents meeting suggests that university students support the First Amendment but with some restrictions.

Finn Mcnally

Free speech will be one of the central items on the Iowa Board of Regents’ agenda during their meetings this week.

The Regents will also discuss requests for new academic programs as well as the termination of others and a potential land purchase for the University of Iowa.

The meeting will include a presentation from Todd Pettys, a professor of law at the University of Iowa, on freedom of expression and an update on the statuses of free speech campus training and free speech survey.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law this past May that prohibits faculty and staff at public universities from violating students’ First Amendment rights. In addition, the universities will be required to conduct annual free speech training for students, faculty and staff.

The law was in response to recent free speech issues at Iowa and Iowa State. In October 2020, a disciplinary hearing was scheduled for a student who disagreed with University of Iowa Dean David Johnsen’s stance on an executive order.

In January, Iowa State was sued by Speech First, a First Amendment organization, on behalf of students who felt Iowa State violated their First Amendment rights by banning chalking on campus.

The Board will also discuss requests to terminate the Center for International Agriculture Finance, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, the Center for Arthropod Management Technologies and the Center for Nanotechnology in Cementitious Systems at Iowa State.

Requests for new programs will be considered for approval by the Board. Masters of Midwifery has been proposed at the University of Iowa and Masters of Business Administration, Hong Kong Program has been proposed for the University of Northern Iowa.

A purchase of almost 30,000 square feet of land will be proposed to the Board. The land is in Coralville and would provide the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics with future development opportunities for clinical services and parking.

As usual, Board President Michael Richards will provide a report on Board activities, and the heads of each university will provide reports highlighting their institution’s recent activities.

The meetings will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. Wednesday and 9:15 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. Thursday in the Reiman Ballroom in the Alumni Center.  The meeting can also be live-streamed at