University of Iowa

Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Type: Public
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Speech Code Rating

University of Iowa has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more

This school has adopted the chicago statement for free speech. This school has adopted the chicago statement for free speech. This school has adopted the chicago statement for free speech.

Campus Climate

Overall Ranking

out of 154 colleges surveyed Read more
  • Policies & Regulations Affecting Students: Code of Student Life

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: October 12, 2021

    Undue Harassment Intentional behavior which is directed: toward a specific person, and without legitimate purpose Which a reasonable person would find intimidates, alarms, or attempts to control another person’s behavior And results in a significant disruption of the person’s: On-campus employment Educational... Read More
  • Policies & Regulations Affecting Students: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct- “Sexual misconduct”

    Speech Code Rating: Yellow
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: October 12, 2021

    “Sexual harassment II” is persistent, repetitive, or egregious conduct directed at a specific individual or group of individuals that a reasonable person would interpret, in the full context in which the conduct occurs, as harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment of a sexual nature has the effect of lim... Read More
  • Policies & Regulations Affecting Students: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: October 12, 2021

    “Sexual harassment I” means conduct on the basis of sex that satisfies one or more of the following: … Unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the university’s education progr... Read More
  • Policies & Regulations Affecting Students: University Policy on Anti-Harassment

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: October 12, 2021

    Harassment of any member of the University community is prohibited. a. Definition of harassment. “Harassment” means intentional conduct, including speech, directed toward an identifiable person or persons that threatens serious harm and is directed or likely directed to provoke imminent unlawful actions... Read More
  • Policies & Regulations Affecting Students: Student Bill of Rights

    Speech Code Rating: Green
    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: October 12, 2021

    [E]numeration of the rights or registration at the University shall in no manner be construed to nullify or limit any other constitutional or legal rights or freedoms possessed by students as citizens or residents of the United States or the State of Iowa … Read More

FIRE surveyed roughly 37,000 students at 154 colleges and universities about the climate for free speech at their institutions. In 2021, FIRE released rankings of those schools, based on a number of factors, including openness, tolerance, self-expression, administrative support for free speech, and campus policies, scoring overall speech climate on a scale from 0-100. See the full report on FIRE’s 2021 College Free Speech Rankings for more information.


Rankings / out of 154 colleges surveyed

Overall Ranking 62
Ideological Diversity 66

Overall / out of a top score of 100

Overall Score 59.84
Openness 9.69
Tolerance (Liberals) 10.06
Tolerance (Conservatives) 7.78
Administrative Support 6.03
Comfort 15.95
Disruptive Conduct 10.32
Speech Code YELLOW
  • FIRE calls on Iowa Law to nix inclusion pledge for faculty evaluations

    November 3, 2021

    In the wake of widespread protests over racial injustice and police brutality in May 2020, many universities released sympathetic statements and pledged support to minority students on their respective campuses. The University of Iowa College of Law responded by forming an Anti-Racism Action Committee and tasked it with creating a plan of action to improve… Read more

  • University of Iowa posts revised, but still imperfect, guidance on what faculty can say about COVID-19 vaccinations, masks

    August 18, 2021

    After days of vigorous and well-deserved criticism, the University of Iowa has finally amended its guidance to faculty concerning speech on the topics of COVID-19 vaccinations and mask usage. The revised guidance, while improved, still raises concerns over free speech and academic freedom. UI’s Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost posted the original… Read more

  • University of Iowa issues — then quickly rescinds — guidance to faculty restricting speech related to COVID-19 vaccinations and masks

    August 12, 2021

    On Tuesday, the University of Iowa issued guidance to its faculty restricting speech on the topics of COVID-19 vaccinations and mask usage. Perhaps recognizing that the guidance was unconstitutional, UI removed it from the provost’s website today to make revisions. FIRE calls on UI to ensure the revised guidance fully respects faculty members’ First Amendment… Read more

  • FIRE statement on the University of Iowa’s guidance on faculty speech about masks, vaccinations

    August 12, 2021

    This week, the University of Iowa issued guidance for faculty members on mask usage and vaccination-related issues. The guidance included a segment that directly impacts academic freedom: Q: May I make statements in the classroom regarding mask usage or vaccinations? A: You may only make statements regarding mask usage or vaccinations in the context of… Read more

  • University of Iowa officials denied immunity in religious freedom case

    July 21, 2021

    In a much-anticipated decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled Friday that University of Iowa administrators targeted a Christian student group with discriminatory treatment and that qualified immunity, a doctrine designed to protect government officials from liability, does not protect administrators from being held personally liable for actions that clearly violate… Read more

  • Iowa College of Dentistry controversy highlights impact of unnecessary investigations into student speech

    February 10, 2021

    The email controversy playing out at the University of Iowa’s College of Dentistry underscores the toll that investigations — too often hastily opened by universities in response to a mere whiff of controversy — take on undergraduate and graduate students. The cost of weathering any kind of investigation is particularly steep for students enrolled in… Read more

  • Federal judge rules University of Iowa administrators may have to pay damages out of their own pockets for constitutional violations

    October 4, 2019

    In a decision last week, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa sent a clear message to University of Iowa administrators — uphold students’ rights to freedom of association or face personal liability. During the summer of 2018, UIowa informed InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, a registered student organization, that its requirement that leaders… Read more

  • Iowa Board of Regents, University of Iowa faculty commit to free speech and academic freedom

    May 9, 2019

    There is good news for free speech at Iowa’s public universities. Last month, the Board of Regents, State of Iowa adopted a policy statement that promotes free speech and freedom of association at member institutions, including the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa. In so doing, the Board joined… Read more

  • Federal judge rules First Amendment means University of Iowa can’t play favorites with student orgs

    February 8, 2019

    A federal court ruled on Wednesday that the University of Iowa violated the First Amendment when it revoked the status of a registered student organization that would not consider for a leadership position a student that the group believed opposed its principles. The University of Iowa has not demanded the same from student organizations that… Read more

  • DOJ filing in Iowa student group case cites ‘alarming trend’ of campus First Amendment violations

    January 3, 2019

    A statement of interest filed late last month by the U.S. Department of Justice in the case of the University of Iowa Christian student group deregistered by the school for being “unwelcoming” to gay students cites an “alarming trend” of First Amendment rights violations on college campuses. Business Leaders in Christ, a Christian student group… Read more

  • REPORT: Artists clash with campus censors

    July 10, 2018

    Art purged for being “one-sided,” among other excuses Censors, often not understanding the message, ban art rather than grapple with its meaning PHILADELPHIA, July 10, 2018 — Art censorship is nothing new. Spanish conquistadors smashed ceramics of ancient Peruvian cultures that portrayed gay and lesbian sex. The Roman Catholic Church of the 15th century was… Read more

  • Iowa meat companies urge University of Iowa to censor ‘Meatless Monday’ program

    March 6, 2018

    Where’s the beef — over beef on college campuses? Right now, it’s at the University of Iowa, where the state’s major meat producers recently demanded the school end a student-run “Meatless Monday” program at campus dining halls. As a public university bound by the First Amendment, UI must resist this hamfisted call to censor its… Read more

  • University of Iowa threatens religious liberty by expelling Christian group

    December 18, 2017

    In a lawsuit filed last Monday in a federal court in Iowa, the Christian student organization Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) says that it has been dismissed from the University of Iowa’s (UI’s) campus for allegedly violating an anti-discrimination policy. BLinC alleges that the university violated the First Amendment and the Iowa Human Rights Act…. Read more

  • University of Iowa to Rework Bias Response After Criticism

    August 22, 2016

    In recent months, FIRE and others have brought increased attention to so-called bias incident response teams—typically formal or centralized systems that allow students, faculty, and staff to report offensive speech or conduct to administrators and/or law enforcement, usually via an online form—that have been popping up at colleges and universities nationwide. FIRE has been concerned… Read more

  • Free Speech on Campus: The 10 Worst Offenders of 2014

    May 5, 2015

    College is the place where students should be encouraged to, as Yale promises, “think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.” Unfortunately, schools all across the country not only fall short on promises of free expression and academic freedom but openly suppress constitutionally protected speech on campus by using tools such as speech… Read more

  • U. of Iowa VP Dismissive of University’s Place on ‘10 Worst’ List

    March 13, 2015

    Earlier this month, FIRE released our annual list of the top 10 threats to free speech on campus. Sometimes when universities are thrust into the spotlight (pun intended), they choose to take a closer look at their policies and institutional approaches toward campus expression and make changes to better protect students’ and professors’ rights. Other… Read more

  • FIRE Announces 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech in 2014

    March 2, 2015

    PHILADELPHIA, March 2, 2015—More than half of America’s top colleges maintain speech codes that blatantly violate First Amendment standards. But every year the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) takes a closer look at the previous year’s incidents of college censorship to determine the nation’s 10 worst abusers of student and faculty free speech… Read more

  • Impact Trumps Intent, and Other Discouraging Statements on Free Speech at U. of Iowa

    February 9, 2015

    The more that comes to light about the University of Iowa’s (UI’s) handling of a recent controversy in which it censored and denounced an anti-racist statue in the shape of a Ku Klux Klan cloak, the less reason I have to be confident that the university has any grasp on its obligation to uphold the… Read more

  • University of Iowa Asks Students How Best to Show Its Disregard for First Amendment

    January 30, 2015

    We haven’t revisited the deplorable censorship case of art professor Serhat Tanyolacar at the University of Iowa (UI) for some time now. It has not slipped FIRE’s mind, however, that UI has yet to demonstrate any awareness of the First Amendment principles it trampled on by censoring and publicly denouncing Tanyolacar’s work. FIRE and the… Read more

  • Greg Reviews ‘The Upside of Your Dark Side’ in ‘The Huffington Post’

    January 28, 2015

    As FIRE President Greg Lukianoff writes in The Huffington Post today, last year was full of thought-provoking popular non-fiction, with one book standing out to him: The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self—Not Just Your “Good” Self—Drives Success and Fulfillment by psychologists Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener. The book focuses on… Read more

  • Brandeis President Acknowledges But Fails to Uphold First Amendment Principles

    January 6, 2015

    Brandeis University President Fred Lawrence has just entered the “University President First Amendment Piety Contest,” and his submission is impressive. First, the background: Last week, Sohrab Ahmari reported in The Wall Street Journal that Brandeis student Daniel Mael had faced a disciplinary hearing based on heated discussions he had with another student on the Israeli-Palestinian… Read more

  • Victorian Era’s Justifications for Censorship Make a Comeback

    December 31, 2014

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has often lamented that too many students on today’s college campuses have adopted “the thinking of old Victorian censors.” Yesterday, Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown highlighted four neo-Victorian trends from the past year, and they are sure to resonate with free speech and due process advocates. Brown begins with a discussion of… Read more

  • Strike Two for University of Iowa President Sally Mason

    December 19, 2014

    Two weeks ago, the University of Iowa (UI) forced artist-in-residence Serhat Tanyolacar to take down his statue of a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood made up of newspaper articles chronicling acts of racial violence. Although the artist intended the piece as anti-racist social commentary, some students found it threatening and called for its removal…. Read more

  • FIRE, NCAC Call on University of Iowa to Defend Rights of Censored Faculty Artist

    December 17, 2014

    DES MOINES, Iowa, December 17, 2014—In a letter sent last Friday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) joined in criticizing the University of Iowa’s (UI’s) chilling censorship of faculty artist Serhat Tanyolacar. UI forced Tanyolacar to remove his artwork from an outdoor campus area after some… Read more

  • U. of Iowa Censors, Apologizes for Art About Racism

    December 9, 2014

    University of Iowa (UI) students, faculty, and administrators are speaking out in support of the censorship of a statue created and displayed on campus by visiting professor Serhat Tanyolacar that they say constitutes “hate speech.” Tanyolacar’s piece comprised a seven foot tall sculpture of a Ku Klux Klan member whose robes are crafted from newspaper… Read more

  • New Trial Ordered for U. of Iowa Law Prof Alleging Political Discrimination

    July 17, 2014

    The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled Tuesday (PDF) that there will be a new trial in the case of Teresa Wagner, who alleges that the University of Iowa College of Law denied her a legal writing instructor position because of her conservative political beliefs and activism.

  • University of Iowa President Under Fire for Expressing Candid Opinion

    March 5, 2014

    University of Iowa President Sally Mason is currently at the center of a controversy because she dared to say something that goes against the prevailing campus orthodoxy.

  • Eighth Circuit to Hear Oral Arguments in Teresa Wagner’s Political Bias Case

    February 14, 2014

    Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit was set to hear oral arguments in a long-running case involving Teresa Wagner, a candidate for legal writing instructor at the University of Iowa College of Law who alleges that she was denied the employment opportunity due to her political beliefs. In a case that… Read more

  • Jurors: Law School Discriminated Against Teresa Wagner Due to Her Political Beliefs

    November 27, 2012

    Last week, The Des Moines Register reported that jurors in the Teresa Wagner case believe that the University of Iowa College of Law "illegally denied a promotion to a conservative Republican because of her politics." The story has been picked up by various legal blogs. At FIRE, we have covered the Wagner case before.  The… Read more

  • ‘New York Times’ Covers Teresa Wagner Case

    January 10, 2012

    Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court correspondent for The New York Times, reports on Teresa Wagner’s recent victory at the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which I analyzed in a recent blog entry here on The Torch. An outspoken conservative, Wagner is suing the University of Iowa School of Law, alleging that… Read more

  • Eighth Circuit: Administrators May Be Personally Liable for Political Discrimination in Faculty Hiring

    December 30, 2011

    On Wednesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a decision in Wagner v. Jones, No. 10-2588, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 25879 (8th Cir. Dec. 28, 2011). The opinion is an interesting read, even for non-lawyers. The suit at issue was brought by Teresa Wagner, currently the Associate Director of the… Read more

  • (Lack of) Free Speech on Iowa’s Public Campuses

    May 11, 2011

    Deborah D. Thornton of the Iowa City Press-Citizen (Iowa City, Iowa) sheds light (reprinted in The Modern Whig Party) on the rigid speech restrictions imposed on students at Iowa’s three Regent schools: the University of Iowa (UI), Iowa State University (ISU), and the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). Thornton exposes many of the red-light and yellow-light policies in… Read more

  • Iowa Professor’s Email Telling College Republicans ‘F@#$ YOU’ Reveals Importance of Free Exchange on Campus

    April 22, 2011

    The recent, highly publicized email exchange between Ellen Lewin, anthropology and women’s studies professor at the University of Iowa (UI), and the UI College Republicans presents an exciting scenario to the First Amendment enthusiast. This email exchange reveals both the innate desire to communicate anger using inflamed rhetoric, and the opposing reflex of those offended… Read more

  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Iowa

    August 2, 2007

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for August 2007: the University of Iowa. Ah, how the mighty have fallen—as we mentioned just a few days ago, the University of Iowa once received FIRE’s most favorable “green light” rating. But now it has come to our attention that in addition to its official sexual… Read more

  • From Green to Red: A Cautionary Tale

    July 31, 2007

    I’m sad to report that one of our very few “green light” institutions (colleges and universities receive a “green light” rating on FIRE’s Spotlight if they maintain no written policies that infringe on constitutionally protected expression) was downgraded to a “red light” yesterday when I updated its policies for the 2006-2007 academic year. The University… Read more