University launches free speech program, requires faculty training

Campus Reform spoke with a student who was concerned about how the University of Iowa's new free speech program will unfold.

The program includes a series of panel discussions and workshops between February and April 2022.

The University of Iowa is set to offer a free speech program later this month, part of which is required. 

“Participants will learn about policies and expectations related to free speech, how to identify if a situation needs to be reported based on a policy or values violation, and how to locate resources for consultation or report possible violations,” the “Free speech and challenging conversations” program description states. 

Panel discussions and workshops will run starting Feb. 16 through Apr. 7. 

The university’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion announced the series in January. 

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Notable panel and workshop topics include “negotiating potentially contradictory values/policies” and “acknowledging and caring for those directly targeted or impacted by harmful speech.” 

Campus Reform spoke with University of Iowa student Jasmyn Jordan, who expressed concern that the program may not promote tolerance for political disagreement. 

“It must not be forgotten that hateful speech, offensive speech, and controversial conversations are all protected by the First Amendment,” Jordan said.

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“If you do not agree with something that someone says, you do not have the right to cancel that person by silencing their voice and eliminating their relationships, opportunities, and future,” she added. 

Per the university’s webpage, “[a]ll faculty, staff and students are expected to complete” a “15–20-minute training module” on free speech. The program’s additional panels and workshops are voluntary. 

The program’s webpage directs readers to the university’s “Free Speech at Iowa” page. 

”Free expression, academic freedom, and diversity of perspectives are all crucial to the fulfillment of our core mission. The robust exchange of diverse ideas is the essence of a public research university,” the Free Speech webpage states. 

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Iowa for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

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