VICTORY: Iowa students' free speech rights prevail
A free speech rights organization has won its battle against Iowa State University.
The university was accused of squashing the political speech of its students.
A recent settlement agreed to between a free speech advocacy group and Iowa State University has restored some confidence in the rights of Iowa students.
Speech First, an organization that advocates for freedom of speech across all American campuses, filed its initial lawsuit against Iowa State University in January due to what it said were infringements on students’ First Amendment right by the university.
Specifically, the university was accused of impeding on students’ ability to send political emails relating to elections and having an unjust policy against chalking political slogans, phrases, or terms on Iowa State's campus.
The complaint also noted that the university employed a “Campus Climate Reporting System,” which was said to trample on students’ free speech rights by encouraging other students to report the speech of their peers.
Students were subjected to being questioned by the university’s authority which consisted of contacting students privately or meeting with students directly to discuss speech accused of exhibiting “bias.”
“Iowa State University maintains a series of policies that have both the purpose and the effect of chilling student speech,” said Speech First President and Founder of Nicole Neily at the time. “One month out from a major political primary, students have been significantly – and unconstitutionally – burdened from participating in the political process.”
Due to the efforts of Speech First, none of these three policies and practices in question exist any longer, according to a settlement reached earlier this month. Speech First has indicated that it will continue to monitor the situation at ISU when it comes to freedom of expression, but that for now “Iowa State now agrees to never reinstate the political email policy or the chalking ban; in addition, the school’s Campus Climate Reporting System will not contact or meet with students accused of ‘biased’ speech.”
“Speech First is pleased that Iowa State University has agreed to repeal and never reinstate the policies we challenged, which clearly violated the First Amendment rights of its students,” Neily said in a statement.
Neily added that she is confident that the organization will be made aware of any further infringements by the university, saying “our student members at Iowa State University deserve major credit for their vigilance in defense of their rights, and I have no doubt that if the University’s new policies are used to chill students’ speech in the future, our members will notify us immediately.”
Neily pointed out that the university waited until after the Iowa caucuses to change its policies, noting that waiting impacted “students’ ability to fully participate in that important process.”
“These students deserved better, and parents who are considering where to send their students to ISU in the future should bear that in mind,” said Neily.
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