UI student organizations denounce Matt Walsh lecture

Walsh was invited to campus by Young Americans for Freedom to screen his recent documentary titled “What Is a Woman?” discussing transgender identities, and speak about the film following the event on Wednesday.


Avi Lapchick

University of Iowa students write with chalk on the Pentacrest in support of the transgender community on Monday evening, April 17, 2023. The event took place two days before political commentator Matt Walsh is set to arrive to Iowa’s campus.

Liam Halawith, Politics Editor

Ahead of conservative commentator Matt Walsh’s lecture Wednesday at the University of Iowa, nearly a dozen student organizations have declared their opposition to the event and called for the suspension of the student organization that invited Walsh.

In response to Walsh’s lecture, student groups have chalked the T. Anne Cleary Walkway in support of transgender people, planned counter-protests, and released a Change.org petition against Walsh that has garnered almost 500 signatures. 

Walsh will lecture at 7 p.m. in the Iowa Memorial Union on Wednesday following a screening of “What Is a Woman?,” an original documentary by Walsh at 4:15 p.m. in the Iowa Theater in the IMU. He was invited by the UI Chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom.

Walsh lecture receives student pushback 

LGBTQ+ and progressive UI student organizations released two statements over the last week denouncing an increase in on-campus transphobia and asking the UI to suspend Young Americans for Freedom for facilitating transphobia. 

Walsh has previously been criticized for transphobic remarks in his columns for The Daily Wire and on his Twitter account

The University Democrats at Iowa, Young Democratic Socialists at Iowa Steering Committee, Ignite UI, Student Advocates for Planned Parenthood UI, and the Environmental Coalition at Iowa called for the suspension of Young Americans for Freedom via a joint statement Friday for facilitating transphobia and hate speech, alleging that their behavior violated rule 9 of the bylaws governing student organizations at the UI.

Student organizations including LGBTQ+  Greek organizations Gamma Rho Lambda and Delta Lambda Phi , Reaching OUT in Business, QTPOC Leadership, Trans Alliance, and Queer Liberation Front, released a similar statement Monday. 

“Events and organizations that incite violence, and frankly push to refute the existence and validity of other students, should not be allowed on this campus,” they wrote in an open letter to the UI community. “While the focus of this letter is for the transgender and LGBTQ+ communities, we want all students to feel safe and welcome.”

RELATED: UI student organizations call for suspension of Iowa Young Americans for Freedom

UI YAF chapter Vice Chair John Piaszynski wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that YAF’s mission is to foster debate on some of the most difficult issues in American society. 

“While some groups may disagree with us, we believe that it is possible to have a civil, respectful discourse on any topic,” Piaszynski wrote.  

Petition protesting Walsh events receive hate comments, violent rhetoric from some campus members

In the comments of a Change.org petition in opposition to the event on Wednesday, several signers received comments on their posts explaining the reason for their signature from a user named “Kill them.” 

The user posted several threatening messages on the petition and according to their profile on Change.org is located in Iowa City. 

“It is clear that Walsh is nothing other than a man prone to violence, and a danger to the University of Iowa’s community at large,” the petition states. “By continuing to allow Matt Walsh to have a platform to speak, we endanger the LGBTQIA+ students that call this campus home.” 

UI aims to promote safe discourse, demonstrations at Wednesday’s event 

Several student organizations have called for protests outside of the IMU, and the university has designated protest rooms inside the IMU for protestors of the event. 

Hayley Bruce, the UI Police Assistant Director of Communications and External Relations, said in an email to the DI that UI police is in communication with the event and protests organizers to support a safe environment 

“All Iowa students are expected to follow the Code of Student Life, which sets standards for student behavior and conduct necessary to maintain a campus where ideas are freely exchanged, university property and processes are safeguarded, and conflicts are peacefully resolved,” Bruce wrote. 

Piaszynski wrote in an email to the DI on Tuesday that YAF hopes to facilitate safe discourse on the issue and has been in contact with threat assessment officials to keep the event safe. 

“Iowa YAF supports the rights of all students to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression, whether that means holding a protest outside the venue or challenging the speaker by asking a question during the Q&A portion of the event,” Piaszynski wrote. 

LGBTQ+ student organizations will be hosting several events aimed at supporting transgender students on campus following the event and during Walsh’s event on Wednesday. 

The UI Pride House will be hosting a Processing Space from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday in room 208 at the IMU and will be holding solidarity events during the event at the Women’s Resource and Action Center on Wednesday.