University Schools Students on the Importance of Free Speech — and Reporting People Who Use It

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

When you were in school, were you offered a program on free speech? Or was it simply understood that in America, speech is free?

At the University of Iowa this month, students will be served an extravaganza in First Amendment education.


The exploration — lasting from February 16th through April 7th — was announced in January by the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Open to students, faculty and staff, part of the training is required:

The Board of Regents and Iowa’s public universities are committed to supporting the principles of free expression guaranteed by the First Amendment for all members of our campus community. The first step in creating a campus environment where different viewpoints are welcome is to understand the basic principles of First Amendment rights to free expression.

The Board and the universities created a 15-20-minute training module to assist members of the campus community in better understanding rights to free expression. All faculty, staff and students are expected to complete this training prior to the end of the Spring 2022 semester.

Participation, the “Free Speech and Challenging Conversations” webpage makes clear, is “important to [U of I’s] continued commitment to providing an educational, living and working environment that protects the First Amendment rights of all members of the campus community.”

Beyond the mandate, panel discussions and workshops will “assist UI community members” in the following:

  • Identifying and navigating situations involving free speech ­­
  • Applying various institutional values/policies/definitions across campus
  • Negotiating potentially contradictory values/policies.
  • Acknowledging and caring for those directly targeted or impacted by harmful speech

One component of the training will see attendees “practice specific skills and scenarios related to free speech.” Such exercise will be aided by “experts from Inclusive Education and Strategic Initiatives, the OTLT Center for Teaching, the Division of Student Life, and the Iowa Program for Public Life.”

Additionally covered: “the policies and expectations related to free speech,” along with “how to identify if a situation needs to be reported based on a policy or values violation, and how to locate resources for consultation or report possible violations.”

Per a link provided, University of Iowa confirms that “freedom of expression is indispensable to a university’s ability to transmit knowledge and is fundamental to the ability of members of a university community to discover, explore, interpret, and question knowledge.”

However, the school also directs to an article titled “Balancing Free Speech And Inclusion: Four Simple Strategies for Campus Leaders.”

“All students on campus,” it asserts, deserve “not only to speak but to be heard, and to be taken seriously.”

“Putting forth a positive view of how campuses can balance free speech and inclusion,” apparently, “will pay numerous dividends.”


If free speech is to be “balanced” in relation to “inclusion,” mustn’t that mean it will be impeded?

The University of Iowa’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion arm offers instruction for “reporting problems.”

Those complications regard, not impingements on free speech, but the opposite:

We want to know if discrimination, hate speech, or a crime is occurring on our campus. If you see something, please say something. If you have experienced incidents of bias or discrimination, please reach out for support. The university community can report prejudice or discrimination incidents securely online to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) or the Campus Inclusion Team.

Of course, actual crimes should simply be reported to the police. As for “bias” involving language, that once was known as “free speech.”

America has changed, and it isn’t done. Not long ago, one might’ve been shocked to see the term “report” used when discussing First Amendment issues unless it concerned a violation of freedom.

These days, many evidently believe they possess the right to not be offended.

Some claim we’re being infantilized; but who’s to say they aren’t off base?


Be free, kids…but not too much.



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