A message on freedoms and responsibilities from Greenlee School Director Michael Dahlstrom


November 16, 2020

Our country gives us freedoms and responsibilities.

We have the freedom to express our beliefs, and our very democracy depends on individuals being free to voice their often conflicting viewpoints. We also have a responsibility to build a society that seeks common ground and values shared respect. In other words, we are given the freedom to speak and the responsibility to do so in ways that invite debate and not division. This is not always an easy task.

As a public institution, Iowa State University has an obligation to honor and abide by the protections of the First Amendment. It cannot deprive students or individuals of their Constitutional rights, even where their speech may be offensive or personally hurtful. Nor can it penalize them for the content of their speech. Doing so would violate their First Amendment rights in much the same way as forbidding petition, peaceful protests, censoring the press or restricting religion.

At the same time, Iowa State University affirms the aspirations contained in the Principles of Community that embody a culture where all are welcomed and respected. Such a culture is built from respect, cooperation, richness of diversity and freedom from discrimination. These are ideals we should all strive to meet. Notwithstanding the aspirations of the Principles of Community, ISU is obligated to protect and allow First Amendment rights to free speech.

At the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, we take this occasion to reiterate how our freedoms work together to better enable us to uphold our responsibilities. We are fully committed to maintaining an intellectually diverse, nondiscriminatory and multicultural environment that is formed through the expression of our freedoms protected by the First Amendment. Through our programming we continue to help our students learn how to pair their freedom to vigorously disagree with their responsibility to embody our Principles of Community.

Michael Dahlstrom
LAS Dean’s Professor and Director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication