UI student files formal complaint about professor who emailed vulgarity

IOWA CITY — University of Iowa student Natalie Ginty on Tuesday filed a formal complaint about a professor whose emailed vulgarity to a campus Republicans group last week drew national attention.

Ginty, 21, a UI junior in biochemistry, filed her complaint with the UI Provost and the UI Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Tuesday. In the complaint, she states the email April 18 from Professor Ellen Lewin, which stated “F— you, Republicans,” and Lewin’s follow-up “halfhearted apology,” violate general standards of decency, respect for civility in public discourse and the university’s anti-harassment policy.

Ginty’s complaint says “there is little doubt that the university would not tolerate a similar string of emails by a member of the faculty targeted at a number of other student groups.”

“I think it’s become such a public spectacle that it needs to be a public apology and the public needs to know,” Ginty said Tuesday. “This is my means of going about that.”

Ginty’s formal complaint and request for a UI investigation into the incident is supported by the Republican Party of Iowa, which on Tuesday sent its own letter to interim Provost P. Barry Butler and UI President Sally Mason, calling for a full investigation of the matter.

“At its base, this is not a partisan issue but a question of appropriate contact between a faculty member and a student organization,” Matt Strawn, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, wrote. “I am confident that a thorough investigation will help send a signal to all stakeholders who are paying close attention that the university stands with students of all stripes against unnecessary and unprovoked harassment from faculty members.”

UI Spokesman Tom Moore on Tuesday said officials in the UI Provost Office will respond to the complaint as they deem appropriate. It’s unknown if that will include an investigation, and any disciplinary action would be confidential personnel information, Moore said.

“I’m sure the Provost’s Office will consult with other members of university leadership, but they will respond,” Moore said.

Lewin, a professor of anthropology and women’s studies, did not return email and phone messages Tuesday.

Her email with the vulgarity was in response to a campus-wide message last week from a campus Republican group promoting “Conservative Coming Out Week,” which included events such as an “animal rights BBQ.”

Lewin said in a second email to student leaders of the Republican group that she had just finished reading about “fresh outrages committed by Republicans in government” when she responded to the group’s email pitch. She said she was offended by the group’s wording and use of “coming out” to describe the week given what she called their general disdain for gay rights.

Ginty said Tuesday she’s heard mixed comments in emails from people since the incident made headlines. Some support Lewin’s statements, while others tell Ginty to keep up the good work, Ginty said.“A lot of people just feel the university shouldn’t be represented this way,” said Ginty, chairwoman of the statewide Iowa Federation of College Republicans.

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