GOP student group's tweets don't violate university policy, Iowa State says
Iowa State University again declined to discipline the College Republicans in a response to an open letter that demanded the termination of the student organization's recognition status.
More than 700 Iowa State students, employees, alumni and parents signed the open letter, which was sent Thursday to university administrators. It urged the university to take equity-based measures in response to the College Republicans' call for people to "arm up" on Nov. 7 after Joe Biden was declared winner of the presidential election.
Without referencing the College Republicans directly, Iowa State administrators said "we live in a very divisive time" and acknowledged some rhetoric as "personally hurtful and frightening to individuals on our campus."
"We appreciate and share your concern about the impact this has on members of our community," the response signed by leaders in Student Affairs said.
The administrators reaffirmed their position that sanctioning the College Republicans would violate the students' First Amendment rights and said such a demand "asks that the university proactively violate the law, and we will not do so."
Iowa State spokesperson Angie Hunt said the university has no additional comment on the group's social media presence.
People who signed the open letter asked for an "amendment to the Student Code of Conduct specifically addressing" how Iowa State responds to student speech that promotes hate or threatens others' safety. They also asked the provost "to increase the University-wide U.S. diversity requirement and review the approved courses to ensure the course content is centered on diversity issues."
In response, Iowa State administrators said the university "cannot establish its own thresholds for threatening or hateful speech" and that its Principles of Community, which include freedom from discrimination and richness of diversity, "are neither laws nor policy, and are not enforceable."
The Faculty Senate is currently reviewing the university's diversity course requirement, the administrators said. Updates on this work will be discussed at the Dec. 8 Faculty Senate meeting.
The letter signers said the College Republicans' "arm up" tweet was particularly concerning in the context of the account's other posts, "which include tweets and retweets using derogatory language toward undocumented immigrants, racist calls to deport naturalized immigrants of color, calling members of the LGBTQ community mentally ill, and more," the letter said.
One tweet told a group who called white nationalist Nick Fuentes “a bold young voice” that they are “fighting for what’s right." Another said the student group was "looking forward to" watching an interview with the founder of the Proud Boys.
Ryan Hurley, the organization's president, has twiceappeared on a self-described groypers' livestream to discuss the College Republicans. Groypers are "a loose network of alt right figures who are vocal supporters of white supremacist and 'America First' podcaster Nick Fuentes," according to the Anti-Defamation League. A tweet from the College Republicans says the ADL "hates America" and advanced an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about Leo Frank, a Jewish man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and lynched.
To the signatories of Thursday's letter, Iowa State administrators' "handling of this situation is a perfect example of how inequitable systems are sustained."
"... perhaps out of fear of litigation, the Iowa State University administration has essentially told the people who feel unsafe on campus as a result of the College Republicans’ tweets that they do not matter," the letter said.