‘Greta is a young woman that students admire, reiterating the apolitical, fact-based science of climate change…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) University of Iowa officials warned faculty members not to promote a recent appearance by teen climate activist Greta Thunberg because to do so would breach university “political activity” guidelines.
The controversy began when professor Michelle Scherer suggested posting a link to Thunberg’s event on an official university department Facebook page.
The director of communications for the university’s Civil and Environmental Engineering college shut down the idea, adding all official social media accounts must remain free of political bias.
“We cannot use our channels to publicize or promote policy change,” Kosovski wrote in an email obtained by the Gazette. “We are always free to publicize our research, even if it has policy impacts, but Greta’s visit does not fit under the umbrella of university research.”
University officials confirmed to Kosovi that publicizing Thunberg’s visit would cross the line.
“I have consulted with UI Government Relations, and they have emphasized that this event does not fall within the scope of something we can promote,” Kosovski added in a follow-up email.
Faculty members were outraged that the university would prevent them from promoting a public event. Scherer said professors should be given “wiggle room” and that the university should want to make an exception for Thunberg.
“This is an educational opportunity, and as an educator I feel the university could have engaged more,” Scherer said. “Does the University of Iowa [administration] believe in climate change? If they do, it’s time to start acting more aggressively.”
Blake Rupe, the sustainability program manager of the University of Iowa’s Office of Sustainability, agreed: “Greta is a young woman that students admire, reiterating the apolitical, fact-based science of climate change and the danger of inaction on an issue that is causing catastrophic damage to the future of life on Earth,” Rupe said.
He added that her visit to the university presented “a fantastic opportunity for university leadership to promote the work being done, as well as the effort and passion that faculty, staff, and students have about sustainability on this campus.”