More than a third of students have participated in training on freedom of expression

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Faculty and staff had significantly higher participation in the survey across all institutions than students. Some curators report a better learning environment in recent months.


More than one-third of students enrolled in state Board of Regents institutions completed First Amendment training in the spring 2022 semester.

On the University of Iowa campus, 35% of students and 57% of faculty and staff have completed the training.

Across all colleges, faculty and staff had a higher completion rate, and UI had the lowest attendance rate of the three schools.

The University of Northern Iowa recorded 39% student and 76% staff attendance, while Iowa State recorded 37% student and 81% staff attendance.

Iowa law required Board of Regents institutions to implement the training. Instructions from UI President Barbara Wilson and Board of Regents Chairman Mike Richards said students, faculty and staff must complete the training by the end of the spring 2022 semester.

This requirement arose in response to some instances on campus where conservative students said they felt unable to speak out. This included when college Republicans chalked up messages in support of the police, former President Donald Trump and anti-abortion sentiments. Other students then washed the posts with water, prompting IU to issue a statement on its chalking policy.

RELATED: University clarifies campus chalk policy after College Republicans chalk Pentacrest

Representative Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said he received a significant number of complaints from conservatives on Iowa campuses about the environment a year and a half ago, but the atmosphere seems to have significantly improved on campus over the past six to eight. months, he said.

According to the University of Iowa Campus Climate Survey conducted in 2021, 44% of UI undergraduates said they felt less likely to be respected.

“I’ve actually had some people reach out to me and say, hey, whatever you do, whatever university or whatever it is, it works because we feel a lot more fairly represented and a lot more fairly treated” , did he declare.

RELATED: University of Iowa College of Dentistry to Change Approach to Student Speech

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, who has worked as an educator and is a member of the Iowa House education committee, said she supports the intent behind the training.

“I have no problem teaching what is and what isn’t and making sure everyone is on the same page in terms of free speech and making sure everyone is on the same page in terms of what it entails,” Mascher said.

Along the same lines, Mascher added that she also doesn’t want to see books censored, including topics that some lawmakers find controversial. Republicans, such as Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Des Moines, have proposed punishing K-12 educators for submitting books that include topics on racial injustice and gay characters, claiming during the opening of the 2022 legislative session that some educators had a “sinister agenda.” .”

“I just think it sends a chill through the hearts of educators who are there to provide a good learning environment for students,” Mascher said.

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