Iowa State University officials over the weekend removed from numerous campus locations stickers with Nazi imagery and messaging that came less than a week after International Holocaust Remembrance Day and following a fall semester plagued by racially fueled incidents and outrage.
In a post on the university’s campus climate webpage, officials said the “hateful, racist images are abhorrent,” and reiterated Iowa State “condemns all forms of racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism and bigotry.”
The stickers were removed according to ISU policy, as in the fall when campus administrators in Ames responded to numerous acts of racism on campus — including racially motivated threats, racist posters and stickers, and anti-Semitic vandalism in the form of swastikas etched on residence hall doors.
A Students Against Racism group in October submitted a list of demands to the campus administration urging it take a zero tolerance stance against racism and anti-Semitism and pursue additional action, such as expelling students involved in the racist incidents and shutting down student groups they accuse of racism. ISU President Wendy Wintersteen and her administrative team responded to each of those demands — although not always according to the student requests.
To the demand that administrators shut down a “Students for Trump” club accused of attaching neo-Nazi slogans to their political writings, for example, the administration responded, “There is no recognized student organization with the name: Students for Trump.”
“However, the university does allow students to form organizations based on common political ideologies without regard to the candidates or policies they support, provided they follow the Student Organization Recognition policy,” according to the ISU response. “The university does not know who was responsible for the recent chalking activity.”
Wintersteen did not issue a formal statement or campus message in response to the weekend’s vandalism. Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, however, did Tuesday.
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“We condemn this offensive display of bigotry, white supremacy and anti-Semitism,” CAIR National Communications Coordinator Ayan Ajeen said in a statement. “The university’s policy allows students, organizations and the general public to use bulletin boards without approval for posting information related to their activities, but if this policy is leading to racist materials being posted, then it must be reevaluated.”
Iowa State is facing pressure from the other side, as well. A national Speech First organization recently sued Iowa State for its response to the concerned students’ demands and for its campus rules and policies — which it characterized as “unconstitutional.”
ISU and its officials, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, have created rules “designed to restrain, deter, suppress and punish speech concerning political and social issues of public concern.”
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