Editorial | UI must address transphobic speech on campus

Rising tensions have called into question the boundaries of free speech.


Margaret Kispert

UI senior Spencer Smith writes on a board for the Freedom of Speech protest put on by Young Americans for Liberty group on the Pentacrest on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015. The student-run group allowed anyone to write whatever they wanted on the board.

DI Editorial Board

The University of Iowa must do a better job of fulfilling their obligation to protect their transgender students.

Free speech is an inalienable right granted to all. However, the university has a responsibility to create and maintain an inclusive environment. In this instance, they have failed to do so. The university must find a balance between maintaining free speech and maintaining respect and safety for all students simultaneously.

As an independent student publication, The Daily Iowan Editorial Board understands the importance of free speech. But we also believe that free speech must coincide with a safe and inclusive campus culture.

Free speech is a crucial value, especially at universities. The ability to hear from all different perspectives is an indispensable aspect of education. As important as the right to free speech is, it does not mean that all speech comes with freedom from consequences.

The DI Editorial Board believes while everyone has a right to hold and express those beliefs, how you choose to practice your freedom of speech is a reflection of oneself. Similarly, who one chooses to invite on to campus reflects on them.

Recent tensions on campus have invited us to explore the boundaries and limitations of the first amendment. It forces us to ask questions like: What speech is and is not protected? What is hate speech? How can we ensure that free speech can co-exist with a safe and welcoming campus?

Freedom of speech also includes the right to counter-protest. Counter-protesting does not mean they are denying the free speech of whoever they are protesting. It means they choosing this method to exercise their own free speech.

The imminent lecture of Matt Walsh was one cause of rising tensions on campus. Following protests of the event, a Young Americans for Freedom UI Chapter member used an anti-trans slur in a leaked group chat, and a screenshot of the chat was put on posters and put up in public across campus, leading to more protests and various exchanges on social media between Iowa YAF and other groups and protestors. Several campus groups called for YAF to be suspended from campus.

With the right to belief comes the duty to respect. Student organizations and clubs should promote their cause while maintaining a safe and inclusive campus.

On Monday, protestors wrote chalk messages on the pentracreast in support of the transgender community in response to the event. This is one example of practicing your freedom of speech while maintain a safe and inclusive environment.

The DI Editorial Board believes that the right to free speech is a cornerstone of any democracy. However you choose to use that right, and whatever consequences that may come, is a reflection on you.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.