Professor eMail controversy strikes higher ed once again

Conservative groups aren't happy about the way faculty members are using university-issued eMail accounts.

University of Iowa professor Ellen Lewin kept her eMail to the campus’s College Republicans short and not so sweet: “F*** YOU REPUBLICANS.” A week later, the message has prompted more questions about how–or if–faculty should use campus eMail addresses in political debates.

Lewin, a women’s studies professor at the Iowa City campus, sent her eMail to the university’s Republican student organization after the group announced its “Conservative Coming Out Week,” a four-day event that reminded right-leaning students that they were “not alone” in the university’s “liberal town.”

“Conservatives in Iowa City: it is time to come out of the closet!” said the eMail sent from the College Republicans to Iowa students.

Lewin said the College Republicans’ use of language traditionally used by marginalized groups was offensive, as first reported in The Iowa Republican.

University President Sally Mason responded with a swift rebuke of Lewin’s use of her Iowa eMail account.

“Student organizations are sometimes formed along political lines and act on their political beliefs. Even if we personally disagree with those viewpoints, we must be respectful of those viewpoints in every way,” Mason said in a statement. “Intolerant and disrespectful discord is not acceptable behavior.”

Thomas Moore, a university spokesman, said Iowa wouldn’t disclose plans for disciplinary action against Lewin.

“Disciplinary matters are confidential personnel issues,” Moore said in an eMail to eCampus News. “We will not speculate about any actions the university may or may not take.”

Lewin’s eMail exchange with Iowa conservatives “reaffirm[s] the necessity of a ‘Conservative Coming Out Week’ in Iowa City,” Will Gries, a spokesman for the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, wrote in an April 23 blog post.