ELECTION 2020

Iowa State reports no indication 'students were involved in criminal activity' at U.S. Capitol

'If conduct violates the law or university policy, we will take appropriate action'

Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C. Iowa State Un
Supporters of President Donald Trump climb the west wall of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C. Iowa State University’s College Republicans tweeted at the time that its members were “fighting on the front lines in DC” as “brave patriots,” but ISU officials told The Gazette they have no knowledge any of its students broke the law during the breach of the Capitol. (Associated Press)

Although Iowa State University’s College Republicans tweeted last week that its members were “fighting on the front lines in DC” as “brave patriots” during the day of the U.S. Capitol insurrection, campus officials this week told The Gazette they have no knowledge those students broke the law.

“At this time, there is no indication that any students were involved in criminal activity related to the U.S. Capitol breach,” ISU spokeswoman Angie Hunt said. “We continue to monitor the situation. If conduct violates the law or university policy, we will take appropriate action.”

The “College Republicans at Iowa State” Twitter handle on Jan. 6 posted, “We are in DC and Des Moines fighting for America.”

Before insurrectionists breached the Capitol — forcing lawmakers to flee and shelter from mob violence that left five people dead — the ISU College Republicans account tweeted, “people fighting on the front lines in DC (many are members of our club) are brave patriots.”

Since The Gazette reported on the posts last week, that Twitter account has changed its handle to “Punished College Republicans at Iowa State” and restricted viewers.

A separate “Unpunished College Republicans at Iowa State” account the morning of Jan. 6 tweeted, “It’s our democratic process and we’ll disrupt it if we want to,” and then later that evening wrote, “If you abolish the police then who are you gonna call when we stage a coup on the Capitol?”

Student leaders of the ISU group haven’t responded to The Gazette’s outreach via Twitter, email and phone.

The organization

Its organization page on the ISU website indicates it “serves as a gateway for conservatives and right-leaning students to connect” and “upholds and defends the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States of America.”

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The ISU College Republicans organization page reports the group has 32 ISU members and 30 non-ISU members — giving campus-affiliated participants a 52 percent edge.

Iowa State’s Student Organization policy requires groups — for recognition as a “student organization” — to be “composed primarily of ISU students (minimum 80 percent student membership).”

For recognition as a “campus organization” — open to members with or without ISU ties, like alumni or Ames residents — at least half the group’s voting members must be in the ISU community.

Recognized organizations can tap campus resources like meeting space, technology, financial accounts and trademarks — along with “eligibility, but not the right” to use ISU vehicles, programming services, facilities and Student Government fee allocations.

Campus organizations, though, get third-priority consideration for things like event and office space. Those groups get only limited support from ISU for things like legal advice and risk management related to events. And their use of ISU trademarks is limited, according to the policy.

Iowa State’s College Republicans, via its constitution, reports being open to “any and all individuals who are registered students at Iowa State.”

“All members shall act in a manor becoming of a member of the Republican Party and an Iowa State student,” according to the constitution. “They shall act with honesty, integrity and kindness toward others … and never discriminate against others based on” race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other protected class.

Twitter accounts

Both Twitter accounts purporting connection with the Iowa State College Republicans have long posted messages — some derogatory and racist — targeting, among other groups, minorities, women and members of the LGTBQ community.

Iowa State’s student conduct code prohibits “participating in group behavior that involves damage to property/vandalism or defacement, or threatened damage to property/vandalism or defacement.”

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Although Iowa State has an anti-harassment policy barring “all forms of unlawful discrimination and harassment based on protected status,” the Board of Regents also has a broad free speech policy recently enacted after the Iowa Legislature in 2019 adopted a new law related to free expression at its public colleges and universities.

The regents code states, among other things, “It is not the proper role of the regent universities to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which may include ideas and opinions the individual finds unwelcome, disagreeable, or even offensive.”

Iowa State and the University of Iowa in recent years have faced — and lost — lawsuits alleging First Amendment violations.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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