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Iowa State professor forbids students from criticizing BLM, gay marriage, abortion

Professor forced to correct syllabus by administrators

An Iowa State University English professor who told her students they could not criticize Black Lives Matter, gay marriage or abortion in their papers was forced on Monday to correct her syllabus to better protect free speech rights on campus.

English Professor Chloe Clark had told her students that in their papers and projects “you cannot choose any topic that takes at its base that one side doesn’t deserve the same basic human rights as you do (ie: no arguments against gay marriage, abortion, Black Lives Matter, etc). I take this seriously.”

She included the admonishment to students in her English 250 class, described as a written, oral, visual and electronic composition course, under a subhead she titled “GIANT WARNING” in all caps, according to a copy of the syllabus obtained by Young America’s Foundation.

“[A]ny instances of othering that you participate in intentionally (racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, sorophobia, transphobia, classism, mocking of mental health issues, body shaming, etc) in class are grounds for dismissal from the classroom,” the professor wrote.

A statement Monday to The College Fix on “behalf of the university” stated the issue had been reviewed and corrected:

The syllabus statement as written was inconsistent with the university’s standards and its commitment to the First Amendment rights of students. After reviewing this issue with the faculty member, the syllabus has been corrected to ensure it is consistent with university policy. Moreover, the faculty member is being provided additional information regarding the First Amendment policies of the university.

Iowa State is firmly committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of its students, faculty, and staff. With respect to student expression in the classroom, including the completion of assignments, the university does not take disciplinary action against students based on the content or viewpoints expressed in their speech.

Clark’s LinkedIn profile states she is an assistant professor of teaching and has taught at the university since August 2019. Clark did not respond to emails Monday from The College Fix seeking comment.

YAF spokesman Spencer Brown told The College Fix his group is happy the university sided with free speech in this case.

“It is hopeful news to see a university take the side of the First Amendment and the free expression rights of its students—still, it is shameful that a faculty member ran so far afoul of basic educational practice and the Constitution that such a retraining of this kind is necessary,” Brown said. “Based on what we at YAF see and hear from our student activists, many administrators and professors could use a refresher on the First Amendment as the fall semester begins.”

The original report from YAF on Monday had sparked a debate on Twitter, with state Rep. Skyler Wheeler, a member of Iowa’s house education committee, tweeting “@IowaStateU wants more of your tax money so they can give it to professors like this.”



The Iowa State College Republicans also tweeted “It’s a shame that low quality professors use their power over students to suppress free speech!”

Earlier this year, Iowa State had settled a lawsuit filed against it by a free speech legal advocacy group that argued the public institution was suppressing free speech.

The case, filed by Speech First, was settled last spring after the university agreed to rescind its policy banning political chalking and emails.

In 2019, Iowa State University also reformed its bias response team protocols to no longer contact or meet with students who are reported to it for allegedly committing acts of bias.

MORE: New Iowa State University art course to emphasize ‘critical whiteness’

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.