Free speech training: A 20-minute investment

The state Board of Regents expects all students and employees at the three regent universities -- Iowa State and the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa -- to complete virtual training about free speech and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Everyone should complete the training by May 13, the end of spring semester.

The training module, created for Iowa's public universities by Boston-based Six Red Marbles, is among 10 recommendations the regents unanimously endorsed in February 2021. Universities are required to provide training annually. November's free speech survey was another recommendation on the list. Students, staff and faculty will participate in a survey every two years.

"The first step in creating a campus environment where different viewpoints are welcome is to understand the basic principles of First Amendment rights to free expression," wrote regents Michael Richards and Greta Rouse in a Feb. 2 letter to the three campus communities. Richards leads the board and Rouse chairs the board's one-year-old free speech committee.

Every person's participation, they wrote, "is important to our continued commitment to providing an educational, living and working environment that protects the First Amendment rights of all members of the campus community."

The training emphasizes the importance both of how to use speech and expression in classroom and out-of-class activities and to respect the protected speech and activity of others.

In a separate letter, Iowa State's senior leaders noted free speech and other First Amendment protections "are important components of Iowa State's welcoming campus and how we live out our Principles of Community."

The online training can be completed in about 20 minutes. Supervisors of staff members without regular access to computers should work with their employees to arrange access to a computer during their work hours. The survey also can be completed on a mobile device.

Iowa Staters who have technical problems accessing the survey should contact the IT Solution Center, 294-4000. More information about university policies related to free speech is on Iowa State's Free Speech website.