Police at Iowa’s regent universities have banned more than 400 people from parts or all of the three campuses in the past five years, with the majority of the bans coming at the University of Iowa.
The restrictions are used mostly in response to threatening, lewd or criminal behavior, and often involve people not affiliated with the university, police officials at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa said.
“It’s not a decision to be made lightly, and we certainly respect the rights of individuals and weigh that against the safety of the community,” ISU Police Director Jerry Stewart said. “These are reserved for crimes and egregious conduct.”
The restrictions, usually called trespass notices or no-trespass orders, range from short periods like one month or one semester to one or two years or a ban “until further notice,” with the potential for arrest if the ban is violated.
The duration and geographic reach of a restriction is tailored to each situation, police officials said. A person may be restricted from the entire campus or just from a specific building, like a residence hall or a recreation facility.
The criminal trespass warnings issued by UI Police are in most cases issued for six months, Chuck Green, UI director of public safety, said.
“It’s not one of those things that you want to abuse,” he said.
Even when someone is issued a criminal trespass warning, they could contact UI officials if they need to be back on campus for something specific like a hospital visit or an athletic event, though permission for that depends on the circumstances of the ban, Green said.
“If we feel this person is a legitimate threat, then it will be different,” he said.
Since 2007, ISU Police have issued trespass notices to 27 people, with 18 of those banning them from the entire campus. Of that total, 24 people had no affiliation with the university and were mostly juveniles charged with theft from university property, often on numerous occasions.
At UNI, 28 people have received no-trespass orders from university police since 2007, with all but four of those banning them from the entire campus.
At the UI, 361 people have been issued new or renewed criminal trespass warnings since 2007.
Green, director of UI public safety, said he didn’t have an explanation for why the UI numbers were so much higher than ISU and UNI.
In providing information about the campus bans to The Gazette, ISU officials listed the reason for each restriction, the only one of the three schools to have that information available this week. Some of the reasons include property damage, disruptive behavior, threats, harassment, indecent exposure, possession of a firearm and aggressive and inappropriate behavior.
The University of Michigan this month changed its policy from a lifetime campus ban to a one-year ban. The university barred more than 2,000 people in the past decade, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, including protesters and a former assistant state attorney general who harassed a student, and the American Civil Liberties Union had threatened to sue the school over the lifetime ban.
Iowa’s three regent universities haven’t had complaints about their trespass policies, though they don’t issue lifetime bans, officials said. They also check in with university counsel and their respective county attorneys regarding the trespass orders, and the bans are not used to limit free speech on the campuses, officials said.
The schools all have appeal processes for people who are banned, though appeals are infrequent, officials said.
In addition to the bans issued by campus police, other entities at the universities also can hand down similar restrictions, including the departments of residence and the dean of students offices. Those are used only for students when there is a violation of the student code of conduct, for example, and tend to be shorter in duration and limit access to specific buildings, officials said.
“The most common reason would be sexual misconduct,” Jon Buse, UNI dean of students, said. “It could also though, be a more limited ban on a part of campus when the student behavior is not as egregious as that.”
Students who are issued campus bans tend to comply with the restrictions, Buse said, because they typically want to remain living on campus or continue to enroll as a student.“We’re sensitive to fairness, too, if they are returning to campus and need to have access to conduct business in a specific office,” he said.