Iowa loves the Hawkeyes. Their games are played across the state on TV and radio for tailgates, at small-town bars and restaurants and in the cabs of combines.
The trouble is much of our state seems to hate the University of Iowa.1
The University of Iowa, along side its sibling institutions in Ames and Cedar Falls, is a huge economic engine for the state. Each year, these public schools are and being responsible for billions — $11.8 billion in the most recent study — plus employment for 1 in 14 Iowans. In the midst of a pandemic the University of Iowa’s healthcare system has been a backstop for the state.
It’s easy to cheer Luka Garza’s dominance, or aw-shucks another football loss to Northwestern, but that it’s-great-to-be-a-Hawkeye energy doesn’t prevent the plenty of animosity towards the parent institution.
I guess it’s hard to root for a university epidemiologist critical of the state’s COVID response. Or a tenured performance artist who dresses up as a robot to hassle elected officials. Or a law professor who’s so pissed about Republican extremism she gets elected to the state legislature.2
And so, year after year, politicians gather in Des Moines to pass laws, or at least to file messaging bills, just out of spite towards Iowa City and Johnson County, the liberal bastion that benefits the most directly from the institution. Banning a ban on housing discrimination. Forcing a lower minimum wage. Even banning bans on goddamn plastic bags.
But direct assaults on the University of Iowa have been mostly limited to big GOP donors having install university presidents in questionable proceedings.
Until this year.
Now the Republican-led legislature advanced a slew of bills meant simply to punish the University of Iowa and its sibling institutions.
That this is all nose-despite-your-face bad policy is obvious — not a single lobbyist has registered in support and plenty have registered opposed. But good policy isn’t the point. The point, in a state that was once so proud of its commitment to public education, is simple: to hollow out the University of Iowa and own the Iowa City libs.
It’s great to be a Hawkeye. It just sucks to be the University of Iowa.
1 | John Deeth often writes about the local issue of “Love The Hawkeyes Hate The Students,” which I think is a different, though perhaps related, issue than what I’m writing about here.
2 | The closest the actual Hawkeyes seem to have come is kneeling during the national anthem, which was enough for the Trump-loving, long-time equipment hauler to, um, suddenly part ways with the team.