With just one month left before the Iowa Caucus, Iowa State University is stifling students’ First Amendment rights by prohibiting them from using email to communicate about campaigns and ballot issues. Students are also limited from “chalking,” a tradition of drawing both political and apolitical messages on the sidewalk with chalk.
University officials approved an interim policy that restricts chalking on Iowa State’s campus to registered student organizations publicizing upcoming events open to all students. This limits thousands of students from participating in chalking.
Speech First, a non-profit advocating for First Amendment rights, filed a lawsuit challenging Iowa State University for their anti-free speech policies.
“The state of Iowa is a major destination for presidential candidates, who are on or near campus on a regular basis,” said Speech First president Nicole Neily. “Many students learn about meet-and-greet events because events have traditionally been promoted through chalking – and by banning these advertisements and emails, students are missing out on major civic participation opportunities.”
Iowa State University’s President Wendy Wintersteen issued a statement highlighting the institution’s commitment to First Amendment and other constitutional values. However, the statement made clear the university will limit what it decides is “hate speech.” No word on what the criteria for “hate speech” will be. It has sometimes been used to smear basic conservative ideas like slimming the United States’ world-leading welfare state.
Unfortunately, our campus has also experienced bigoted, hateful, racist, and anti-Semitic messaging that, while protected by the First Amendment, is also hurtful and harmful to many students.
Iowa State University also takes seriously its obligation mandated by federal law to create and maintain a campus that is free from illegal discrimination and harassment. Iowa State University will continue to champion the First Amendment in our efforts to create a campus where all individuals and ideas are welcome and included.
Hindering free speech is no new phenomena on college campuses, even at state universities that are technically bound to honor students’ free speech rights because such universities are extensions of government. In fact, Speech First has filed similar lawsuits all across the country, including against the University of Texas, University of Illinois, and University of Michigan. This case is particularly concerning because it is stifling speech among a voting bloc in a key swing state.
In two separate Emerson polls, data indicates the plurality of Iowan voters consider themselves moderate, particularly, a plurality of young people aged 18-29 identify as moderate. In the first Emerson poll, 30.4 percent of Iowans considered themselves “moderate,” with the next closest group identifying themselves as “somewhat conservative” at 24.2 percent. In the second Emerson poll, the plurality of Iowans aged 18-29, 49.6 percent, identified as “Independent.” Based on this data, it’s fair to presume young Iowans are open to a broad array of information to determine how they will vote in the upcoming election.
Anti-First Amendment policies, such as the ones implemented at Iowa State University, will hinder students from sharing political ideas with their peers. This is leftist intolerance trying to influence a national election by thwarting young Iowans from receiving all the information available to them on their college campuses.