The five freedoms of the First Amendment include speech, assembly, religion, petition, and the press.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The Iowa State Board of Regents spoke about free speech on campus and heard criticism from the Iowa State faculty about the Regents’ COVID-19 restriction.
The Regents met Wednesday at the Iowa State Alumni Center as part of the double session. Attorney and Professor Todd Pettys gave a presentation to the Board on First Amendment rights from an institutional perspective.
The Board of Regents recently issued a Freedom of Speech Policy Statement outlining the board’s commitment to freedom of expression on campus. The guiding principles state that it is not the role of the Regent Universities to protect individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment. This includes opinions and ideas that some may find unwelcome, unpleasant or offensive.
Instead, the role of universities is to encourage diversity of thought and the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression. Pettys said that because there is a transition of First Amendment liberties from K-12 public schools to colleges, he is encouraging the university to educate students before a free speech problem arises.
Point of view discrimination is when a government official declares that certain points of view cannot be discussed or that there is different treatment based on one’s point of view. When viewpoint discrimination occurs, Pettys said it is very difficult to survive a First Amendment attack. Council policy prohibits facial discrimination in a public university setting.
Within the disciplines of teaching, Pettys said there are different points of view. For example, if a student were to present an opinion that is not relevant to the course work or assignment, resulting in a poor grade, the student has no reason to argue discrimination from the teacher’s point of view.
The Free Speech Committee also briefly explained the freedom of expression training and research they are developing for the universities. Both initiatives are expected to be completed by the end of the fall semester, with the opportunity to enter universities by the spring semester.
During Wednesday’s meeting’s public commentary session, two professors from Iowa State University made statements to regents about COVID-19 policy. Andrea Wheeler, a professor of architecture and environmental design, told the board that professors are losing authority in their classrooms because of their inability to demand masks.
“Instructors at ISU have been through 18 months of a pandemic and students have been through a lot and they need our help, but I ask them to wear a mask in class and they stare at me,” he said. wheeler. “I think they prepare less and read less, but I need to help build them up and they need to be sufficiently prepared, curious and engaged to really achieve the serious learning goals of my class. They need my pedagogical skills and they need my authority.”
Jon Perkins, a professor of accounting at the state of Iowa, also expressed concern about the council’s COVID-19 decisions. He said faculty members feel the board has put individual liberties above faculty security. He also believes that faculty should have been consulted on decisions about mask mandates.
“Some of the faculty I spoke to confirmed their perception that the board has failed to meaningfully reduce the risk to the faculty from COVID-19,” Perkins said. “Not only does this scare them, it also makes them frustrated that they weren’t involved in the decision-making process in the first place.”
The board did not respond to the comments and the public comment session ended ahead of schedule at 4 p.m.
The Veterinary Diagnostic Lab caseload has doubled in the past five years, creating a functional space shortage with implications for the vet. Lab’s ability to serve Iowa’s animal and agricultural industries.
Construction of the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab is underway and is expected to be completed in August 2023. In 2018, the General Assembly awarded $63.5 million for the total cost of $75 million for 72,500 gross square feet (GSF) of new veterinary diagnostics.
There is also a proposed addition to the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. The university is requesting $60.8 million in state funding for the total cost of the $64.3 million project to cover an additional 69,600 gross square feet (GSF). The addition is to bring all Veterinary Diagnostic Lab programs under one roof.
These programs constitute critical lab functions, including lab testing, examination room, and support functions, accounting for 85 percent of all cases processed by the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.
Iowa State has also applied for funding from the Board of Regents for the renovation of LeBaron Hall, which houses part of the College of Human Science. The university proposed to demolish the 49,000 gross square feet, which has not been significantly renovated since 1958.
Iowa State’s College of Human Sciences project will be completed in two parts. The demolition process will be funded by private donations of $21.5 million and $14 million in university funds. The council approved $18.9 million in state funds for the renovation and the addition of 20,000 gross square feet. The total project is approximately $54.4 million. The council approved supporting funding for all Iowa state projects.
The regents will meet on Thursday from 9.15 am to 12 noon for the second part of their meeting.