Updated FAQ explores impact of House File 802

An Aug. 5 update to the FAQ on Iowa's new law relating to racism and sexism training provides additional guidance from university counsel and the provost's office on how Iowa State training and teaching may be affected.

Passed by the state Legislature in March and signed into law in June, House File 802 prohibits public universities, such as Iowa State, from conducting mandatory employee or student trainings that teach, advocate, act upon or promote 10 specific concepts defined in the law.

The updated FAQ includes feedback from a series of workshops for academic leaders in July that featured senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert, associate provost for faculty Dawn Bratsch-Prince and university counsel Michael Norton.

Because House File 802 references a narrow set of specific defined concepts, which are potentially germane to many courses of study, Iowa State expects most academic programs and courses to continue as they have in the past. As noted in the updated FAQ, university policy on academic freedom already requires that material presented in class be relevant to the scholarly subject matter of the course and presented by appropriate means.

In addition to germaneness, faculty who include the specific defined concepts in their courses also are asked to consider student choice. Though the law specifically permits discussion of the specially defined concepts as part of a larger course of academic instruction, it could impact academic courses if they could reasonably be interpreted as a required training. For instance, elective courses are less likely to be scrutinized than a required course.

The FAQ also reminds instructors to promote open discussion and enable students to disagree and have alternate viewpoints, consistent with the university’s required Free Expression Syllabus Statement

Training programs

House File 802 applies to all mandatory employee and student trainings, but not voluntary ones.

The FAQ advises departments and units to differentiate between official mandatory trainings and all other events, programs, sessions, lectures, speakers and discussions that are not required. Words like "urging" or "encouraging" could be thought of as mandatory. Instead, general statements like "open to all" are recommended.

As noted in the FAQ, Iowa State remains firmly committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion, its Principles of Community, freedom of expression, and academic freedom. Diversity training programs will continue, with the university implementing a compliance plan for any adjustments needed to mandatory trainings.

Members of the campus community with specific questions about the application of House File 802 may contact the provost’s office at provost@iastate.edu, or the office of university counsel at universitycounsel@iastate.edu.