UI Faculty Senate approves new freedom-of-expression policy

The UI Faculty Senate unanimously approved an updated statement on Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom as the free-speech discussion continues to gain traction on campus.


Ryan Adams

Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Brent Gage speaks during the Senate Faculty meeting on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

Katie Ann McCarver, News Reporter

In its meeting at the Old Capitol on April 23, the University of Iowa Faculty Senate unanimously approved the final draft of its statement on Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom.

The document, which outlines the parameters of free speech at the UI, began as a reaction to protests on campus. Faculty Senate Past President Peter Snyder said the statement is intended to define the university’s point of view on freedom of expression.

“The University of Iowa is fully committed to freedom of expression for all members of the academic community and visitors to campus,” the statement read. “That commitment underlies and informs the many other policies and procedures that touch on speech and behavior on … campus.”

The statement follows a new state law protecting freedom of expression for student organizations, an updated free-speech policy by the state Board of Regents, a court battle between the UI and Business Leaders in Christ, and an executive order protecting student speech by the president.

“Freedom of expression is … treasured as essential to the educational mission,” the statement said. “The expression and consideration of differing opinions promote intellectual development and advance cultural and intellectual inclusiveness.”

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Faculty Sen. Donald Macfarlane originally objected to the statement, saying the idea that students should expect their opinions to be “challenged” should be reworded.

Snyder disagreed, saying it would be unwise to adopt that change. The motion did not carry, although many changes had been made since the first draft of the document. For example, “Academic Freedom” was added to the title during revisions.

The UI should do its best to avoid the suppression of unpopular ideas, but any threats of violence, incitement to violence, etc. cannot be tolerated, the statement said. It provided that any speech sparking disagreement and rights to intellectual inquiry must be protected.

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