Iowa State prof. forced to change syllabus banning students from criticizing abortion, BLM

Fall leaves show their colors in front of Beardshear Hall on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames.
Fall leaves show their colors in front of Beardshear Hall on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames. | Wikimedia Commons / SD Dirk

An English professor at Iowa State University has been forced to change her syllabus after she prohibited students from expressing certain viewpoints on hot-button issues like abortion, gay marriage and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Corrections have been made to professor Chloe Clark's English 250 course syllabus after the university deemed her document to not be reflective of the institution's First Amendments standards. 

Concern about the syllabus was raised by Young America’s Foundation, a national conservative youth organization. 

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In the class, students work on “analyzing, composing, and reflecting on written, oral, visual, and electronic (WOVE) discourse within academic, civic, and cultural contexts.” 

As the course description explained, “The University requires a minimum grade of C in ENGL 250 to meet the Communication Proficiency graduation requirement.”

After explaining the course objectives, Clark’s syllabus featured a “giant warning” listed in bold text. 

“Any instances of othering that you participate in intentionally (racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, sorophobia, transphobia, classism, mocking of mental health issues, body shaming, etc) in class are grounds for dismissal from the classroom,” she wrote.

Clark’s boldface warning also applied to “any papers/projects.” 

“You cannot choose any topic that takes at its base that one side doesn’t deserve the same basic human rights as you do,” she stressed. 

Clark made it clear that she would allow “no arguments against gay marriage, abortion, Black Lives Matter, etc.” 

“I take this very seriously,” she added.

In response to the concerns surrounding Clark’s syllabus, Iowa State University sent a statement to The Christian Post Tuesday declaring that “the syllabus statement as written was inconsistent with the university’s standards and its commitment to the First Amendment rights of students.”

“After reviewing this issue with the faculty member, the syllabus has been corrected to ensure it is consistent with university policy,” the statement read. “Moreover, the faculty member is being provided additional information regarding the First Amendment policies of the university.”

“Iowa State is firmly committed to protecting the First Amendment rights of its students, faculty, and staff," the university added. "With respect to student expression in the classroom, including the completion of assignments, the university does not take disciplinary action against students based on the content or viewpoints expressed in their speech.”

In an interview with CP, Spencer Brown, a YAF spokesperson, described Clark’s requirements as unconstitutional.  

“When it’s a situation like this at Iowa State University, which is a public university, a government school, that runs afoul of the First Amendment of the Constitution,” Brown said. 

While Brown described Iowa State’s course of action as “hopeful news,” he remarked that “it’s still shameful that there is a professor at a public university who thinks this is okay, that didn’t think there would be a problem with this.”

“Obviously, this points to the fact that there is just not a great understanding or appreciation for free expression on campuses or among educators,” he added. “And so, ensuring that professors that do this kind of thing are held accountable, I think, will go a long way toward making them think twice before they try to just blatantly suppress the rights of conservative students.”

YAF first became aware of Clark’s syllabus after an anonymous student submitted a tip to the YAF Campus Bias Tip Line

According to Brown, YAF gets anywhere between three to five tips per week on average.

The tips are “all along the same line where it’s a lot of these situations where professors just act as though they get to decide what is considered acceptable speech in the class and what isn’t,” he said.

The banning of certain points of view on college campuses is “more common than a lot of people realize."

“This one is very clear that if you say anything that runs against what the professor’s personal beliefs are, you’re going to be dismissed from the class,” he stated. 

As opposed to the explicit anti-conservative bias found in Clark’s syllabus, Brown said many college professors have “this implicit bias where a professor will just not call on conservative students in class or will, you know, potentially not give them the same opportunities as liberal students.”

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