Journalism Professors Demand Iowa State University Disband the College Republicans Over Offensive Tweet
Iowa State University has reaffirmed the free speech rights of conservative students initially under fire for tweeting an edgy comment—thus provoking the ire of several ISU journalism professors who demanded the students be punished.
A few days after the 2020 election, the Twitter account of ISU’s College Republicans made this statement: “Everyone, you must arm up, expect these people to try to destroy your life, the elites want revenge on us.”
The tweet may have been hyperbolic, but it did not endorse violence. It did not call for violence or encourage armed resistance. At most, it was a trollish right-wing talking point alongside a call to purchase guns.
Nevertheless, ISU interpreted the tweet as a “suggestion of armed activity,” in possible violation of university policy. An ISU spokesperson told The College Fix that the matter would be investigated.
This drew the attention of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which defends the free speech rights of students and faculty members. In a letter to ISU, FIRE correctly explained that the tweet was protected by the First Amendment, and the public university could not punish conservative students for their sentiment. “Although the university may legally punish ‘true threats‘—serious expressions of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence against a particular individual or group of individuals—it may not punish expression that fails to rise to this narrow category of unprotected speech,” wrote FIRE.
To its credit, the university swiftly reached the same conclusion, and informed FIRE within an hour of receiving the letter that the students would not be punished.
“The protections afforded by the First Amendment and similar provisions in the Iowa Constitution are core values of the university and are foundational to the university’s mission to create, share, and apply knowledge to make Iowa and the world a better place,” ISU respo
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