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Disgruntled Republican lawmakers - who last month pummeled the University of Iowa College of Dentistry with questions about its treatment of a conservative student - leveled more questions and criticism Tuesday at UI officials.
'I believe you have a systemic problem that needs to be addressed,” Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, told UI Dental College Dean David Johnsen, Provost Kevin Kregel and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Executive Officer Liz Tovar at a government oversight committee hearing.
'Since your last appearance before this committee, I've received numerous pieces of correspondence, some from students, who want to share their own horror story about the cancel culture they're experiencing at your school and what they see as the faculty and staff's participation in it,” Holt said. 'I've also received letters from dentists disgusted that politics have been interjected into the school.”
Republican lawmakers took specific aim at the dean's response to a Jan. 29 walkout at the UI College of Dentistry - in which dozens of protesters rallied for more inclusion after a conservative student raised questions over mass email about the college's condemnation of a White House diversity order.
Holt said he received reports that 'faculty encouraged, enabled, and participated in the walkout during school hours,” forcing patient cancellations or waiting room delays.
Dental Dean Johnsen confirmed the college rescheduled 34 patient appointments that day, although he didn't say whether that was more than usual or the reason behind each. Although he noted that employees and students can take time off to participate in protests or rallies, he apologized to lawmakers.
'Certainly, in retrospect, I should have paid closer attention to what was going on,” he said. 'And I apologize.”
To a question from Rep. Phil Thompson, R-Jefferson, about whether Johnsen was concerned with the 'patient abandonment” that day, the dean said he wouldn't refer to it as such.
Johnsen highlighted steps his college has taken since dental student Michael Brase turned to Republican lawmakers in the fall after being called to a disciplinary hearing for his decision to reply over mass email to a college email condemning the executive order from the then-Trump administration.
Among other steps, Johnsen said his college is dismantling and rebuilding the Collegiate Academic and Professional Performance Committee to which Brase was called for 'unprofessional behavior.”
But lawmakers demanded more - with Holt raising concerns about the content of specific diversity trainings and materials being distributed across campus.
Pointing to a 'perspectives” seminar for dental students, which Johnsen said has been canceled, Holt highlighted documents he called 'absolutely remarkable.”
'Examples of U.S. citizenship privilege,” he said, quoting the title of a document that listed statements like 'I have access to plenty of moves and TV shows in my language” and 'I do not know what it is like to have war in my homeland.”
'I might have titled it, ‘Examples of U.S. citizenship advantages or opportunities,'” Holt said, adding, 'I guess you can take anything that's good and turn it around and make it bad, and to me that is what this document does. That is why there are so many Iowans that pay tax money to these schools that are absolutely shocked by the kind of things that have been taught to our students.”
Holt also slammed an 'anti-racist resource guide” distributed within the UI Carver College of Medicine that included a graphic showing the difference between white supremacy seen as socially acceptable and not socially acceptable.
In the unacceptable category are things like hate crimes and racial slurs. In the category of socially acceptable white supremacy are things like 'Make America great again,” the confederate flag, denial of white privilege and celebrating Columbus Day.
Tovar thanked Holt for bringing that document to her attention and said the Board of Regents and its campuses are taking broad action to address concerns over free speech suppression.
But Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, also pointed out that trainings she's been involved in around social privilege on campuses have proved fruitful.
'I can tell you that when you take students through something like this, the value add is significant,” James said. ' ... I've had students break down in tears who are able to share about their lives in new ways, different kinds of understanding and depth of connection has happened and been facilitated.”
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