Dear IowaWatch Friends and Supporters,
We all know what freedom of speech and expression mean, right? Well, maybe not.
You may know that a person cannot yell fire in a theater or publicly advocate overthrowing the government through force or violence. But questions about free expression no longer are so clear cut. What if an art professor’s sculpture of a Klansman fails to convey his message to some students, and their protests prompt the university to remove artwork from its site on campus? Who is the victim in that case?
That controversy happened at the University of Iowa two years ago, and similar ones have erupted elsewhere in Iowa and on campuses nationwide.
Just before Halloween last fall at Yale, students exercised free speech when they publicly demanded the ouster of a professor who had distributed an email raising questions about a university advisory urging students to avoid costumes offensive to certain student groups or minorities. The uproar prompted the professor to quit. Again, who was the victim – the students who felt the professor’s email would violate their rights, or the professor, who felt Yale’s atmosphere was no longer “conducive to civil dialogue and open inquiry”?
Even in the Republican presidential primary, the boundaries between free speech and oppression at campaign rallies for Donald Trump have blurred, which shows the question erupts outside the sheltered world of a college campus.
So The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch is launching an investigation: “MAKING BOUNDARIES: The Impact of Defining Boundaries for Speech and Expression on College Campuses.” But we need your donations to make it happen. For this project, we will deploy student journalists to six Iowa campuses to investigate. Your tax-deductible contributions will help pay stipends to these students and to students who work on future projects. The deadline is April 8. The project will be published in May and distributed to news outlets across the state. IowaWatch and co-sponsor KGAN-TV/CBS2 will organize a public forum scheduled for May 2, in Iowa City.
This student driven project gets to the heart of IowaWatch’s dual public-service mission – to educate our future journalists by giving them real life experience in producing and publishing high-quality investigative projects to help advance the public discourse on major policy questions confronting citizens. In essence, they learn by doing, and you learn by reading what they produce.
Having been a journalist for 45 years, I can vouch for the importance of imbuing students with the investigative mentality and the spirit of public service when their young minds are still willing and able to learn from highly accomplished professionals like those who run IowaWatch.
These stipends, we believe, play a critical educational role that is much more important than their monetary value. They demonstrate that public service journalism has value, which is a lesson that is just as important as the technical skills they learn on such massive projects.
To become a part of this educational and public service project, send a check to:
Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism
P.O. Box 2178
Iowa City, Iowa 52244-2178
Or send a donation through PayPal:
Stephen J. Berry
Associate Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa, School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Co-founder, The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-IowaWatch.org