Regent alerts Iowa State to permit free speech in ‘politically charged’ climate science classes


Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Grace Smith | July 28, 2022

At an Iowa State Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday, regent Nancy Boettger warned attending administrators to protect free speech for the new climate science major at ISU, a major that Boettger said includes a politically charged topic. 

Proposed by the Iowa State’s Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, this new major will require around 35 credits and will offer classes related to climate issues including natural science, sustainability planning, food, and more. 

“My main concern is that we go the extra mile to protect freedom of speech for opinions that differ in this politically charged topic,” Boettger said during the meeting.

During the meeting, regent Nancy Boettger said she used to receive books and other climate change-related materials when she was serving as a Republican state senator from Harlan for 20 years — from 1995-2015. Boettger plans to share those materials with ISU, which she said — although she hasn’t studied them a lot — are non-politically charged documented research.

ISU Associate Provost for Academic Programs Ann Marie VanDerZanden said the idea that climate change is viewed as political is something ISU faculty and staff have talked about. 

“We understand the political nature that some people do view climate change through,” VanDerZanden said in response. “…We’ll be really bringing forward the most current research as it relates to climate, climate change, climate science, and the intricacies of all the different systems that are involved in this.”

ISU requires freedom of speech and expression to be stated in class syllabi.

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