State Board of Regents to announce required free speech training

The state Board of Regents will announce a new free speech training module via email from President Mike Richards on Wednesday. The training will be required for all members of the University of Iowa and other regent institutions and has to be completed before the end of the spring semester.


Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan

The Old Capitol building is seen on March, 6, 2021.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

University of Iowa students, staff, and faculty will need to complete a free speech training by the end of the spring semester, President Barbara Wilson announced in an email on Tuesday.

Wilson wrote that all members of the university community will receive an email on Wednesday from Mike Richards, the state Board of Regents President, and Greta Rouse, chair of the regents’ Free Speech Committee, announcing the release of the new free speech training module. The training will be administered to all three public universities in Iowa, including Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

“All faculty, staff, and students are expected to complete the training prior to the end of the spring 2022 semester,” the announcement reads. “This training is required by Iowa law, is being provided on all three university campuses, and is important to our efforts in educating the campus community about First Amendment rights to free expression.” 

The training module will be online and will take 15 to 20 minutes to complete, the email reads. 

The regents have implemented several freedom of speech-based policies in the last two years. In 2020, the regents created the free speech committee to study the issue and evaluate implementation of its 2019 free speech policy. 

The regents also sent out a free speech survey to the universities in November, asking respondents to rank various statements based on their level of agreement.

Free speech issues in higher education were a central focus of Republican lawmakers during the 2021 legislative session. The House Government Oversight Committee held hearings on a student who said he was threatened with discipline for remarks made in a College of Dentistry email thread, and the Legislature passed multiple bills relating to free speech on campus.

A 2021 Knight Foundation study, released this January, found that students’ views on the security of free speech fell 12 percentage points between 2019 and 2021. The study also found that people of color on campuses feel less protected by the First Amendment.