116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES - After heated debate that stretched beyond the bill at hand to issues of tenure, incidents of censorship, political polarization on college campuses, and former President Donald Trump's policies and practices - a free speech bill banning certain types of diversity training across Iowa's public universities and K-12 schools passed the full Senate on Monday.
The bill bakes into Iowa Code free-speech proposals by and for the state Board of Regents, while also enshrining into law language from a White House executive order in the fall banning publicly funded institutions from using diversity training involving race or sex 'stereotyping” or 'scapegoating.”
Some Democratic lawmakers during debate Monday said the Senate bill is unclear - including what is meant by a line banning training that implies, 'the state of Iowa is fundamentally racist or sexist.”
Republican lawmakers argued the measure is necessary given recent events on Iowa's public universities - including the UI College of Dentistry's handling of a conservative student who opposed its condemnation of the White House diversity training ban and an Iowa State University professor's syllabus banning conservative-leaning viewpoints.
'Nothing is really meaningfully being done to discourage that kind of behavior,” said Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City. 'What that tells us is the free speech rights of our students on our campuses in Iowa are indeed being squelched. Are indeed being discouraged.
'Students have legitimate concerns about being able to speak freely. And we need to stand up for them.”
The bill passed the Senate 33-14-3 - with 29 Republicans and four Democrats in favor; 14 Democrats opposed, and three Republicans absent.
Responding to criticism of the bill Monday, the measure's sponsor, Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, said, 'It was brought up that this might have a chilling effect on debate.”
'Frankly, I would challenge you that it's going to do the exact opposite,” she said. 'Because the chilling effect has already occurred.”
Citing a report that found 'four in 10 American academics indicated in a survey that they would not hire a known Trump supporter for a job,” Sinclair said, 'I would suggest to you that we're already getting chilled in our conversations.
'The chilling effect is occurring. And it's occurring at a very alarming rate and in very alarming situations.”
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