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University of Iowa conservative student leader: ‘They didn’t even bother to find out who I was’

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Jasmyn Jordan, a University of Iowa third-year honors program student double majoring in political science and international relations with an emphasis in regional politics and relationships, stands Monday for a portrait at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City. Jordan is chair of the UI chapter of Young Americans for Freedom and chair of the group’s national organization. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Jasmyn Jordan, a University of Iowa third-year honors program student double majoring in political science and international relations with an emphasis in regional politics and relationships, stands Monday for a portrait at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City. Jordan is chair of the UI chapter of Young Americans for Freedom and chair of the group’s national organization. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — As a University of Iowa freshman at 18 with a propensity for overachieving, Jasmyn Jordan in fall 2021 couldn’t wait to involve herself in extracurriculars — shopping for student organizations and clubs that fit her interests and identities.

“I went to the organization fair and got all the different pamphlets,” Jordan, now 20, told The Gazette. “I tried a bunch of different clubs.”

Having founded her Normal, Ill., high school’s Black Student Union, that seemed an obvious group to join. Another piquing her interest with its high-profile campus speakers was the Young Americans for Freedom, which shared her conservative ideas.

“One day I got an email that said Vice President Mike Pence was coming to campus,” Jordan said of a message from YAF. “And I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s super exciting.’ I’m pretty sure I was one of the first people in line. I got to sit in the front row. And it was really cool because I knew this was a historic thing. Not everyone gets to be in the same room as the vice president.”

Although Jordan couldn’t fit YAF meetings into her schedule that fall, she planned accordingly for the spring — not just attending meetings but helping organize and promote its events.

“It was just a really phenomenal opportunity to be in the same room as people who shared my beliefs,” Jordan said, citing her Christian upbringing in a home-school environment. “That was something that had hardly ever happened in my life.”

Still involved in the Black Student Union — serving as its first-year representative — Jordan found herself doing more with YAF, which she also served as secretary. And in April 2022, the conservative group announced plans to host Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for former President Donald Trump.

Jordan — always eager to get involved and “super excited” about the visit — helped with promotion, chalking on campus near the Iowa Memorial Union.

At the same time, she said, someone posted on a UI Black student group chat — which included hundreds of students and alumni — a photo of the Conway promotions, inciting debate about what it’s like to be Black on campus.

“There was talk about how they didn’t feel comfortable being Black and living here in Iowa, and they felt bringing Kellyanne Conway or any conservative speaker harmed their ability to live,” said Jordan, who told The Gazette she disagreed as a Black woman herself. “You’re just bringing a speaker who is sharing her point of view.”

But the more people commented, the more passionate the responses became — increasingly diverting debate from the topic at hand.

“People were getting kind of riled up,” Jordan said. “And then, out of nowhere, someone was like, ‘I think we have a YAF member in this group chat’.”

Combing through the group’s Instagram followers and officers, someone took a screenshot of Jordan’s profile and outed her to the 800-some group chat for serving two student orgs that some saw in conflict — which she hadn’t initially perceived herself.

“For over four hours, they were just completely fighting about me,” Jordan said. “Calling me a white supremacist, a Nazi, a bigot, a token, all that kind of stuff, which was really weird to me. Because, first off, I hadn’t even gotten the chance to state my position, state what I believe.”


University of Iowa student Jasmyn Jordan is chair of the UI chapter of Young Americans for Freedom and, starting in January, national chair, leading the organization’s board of governors. She is pictured Monday at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
University of Iowa student Jasmyn Jordan is chair of the UI chapter of Young Americans for Freedom and, starting in January, national chair, leading the organization’s board of governors. She is pictured Monday at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

What Jordan believed was that a person could be both Black and supportive of issues that mattered to that minority population while also aligning with the ideals of conservatives — a different minority population on the UI campus.

“I’m not a hateful person, yet they didn’t even bother to find out who I was, and why I believe what I believe,” she said.

Before long, Jordan said, Black Student Union executives called an emergency meeting. Given its proximity to finals week and Jordan’s concerns her voice wouldn’t be heard, she didn’t attend.

“A few days later, they contacted me and said that if I wanted to continue serving on their executive board, that I’d have to have a discussion with them on why Black people can have different viewpoints,” Jordan said. “I just thought that was crazy. Because, you know, it shouldn’t even have to be a discussion that people can have different viewpoints. I feel like that’s common innate knowledge.”

After talking it over with her family, Jordan left the Black Student Union and stayed involved in YAF. “They accepted me from the beginning, no matter what race I was,” she said. “I feel like that’s how all student groups should operate.”

‘Culture shock’

Since becoming more involved with YAF — stepping in as chair of the UI chapter in December 2022 and then as national chair in January, leading the board of governors — Jordan has faced harassment and threats. One person has been stalking her for years, she said, behavior that’s grown more severe.

“There was a really crazy incident with this a few weeks ago. … He had put this sign on my door. It said, ‘A transgender person peed here and no one was heard.’ So I don’t know if he actually peed on my door or not. But just kind of the idea of that was crazy,”

Days later, her address was posted on the social media platform YikYak — a “doxing” experience she’s had before — stressing and frustrating her parents.

“But they definitely won’t stop me from doing what I’m doing,” Jordan said.

Her family, in large part, is behind Jordan’s political and social ideology — although she told The Gazette she wasn’t hyper- political growing up in Central Illinois. As a middle child — with a younger sister of 14 and older sister in her 30s — Jordan was home-schooled until middle school.

To account for the potential isolation of home schooling, Jordan participated in a lot of “home-school groups” — like one for physical education, and also attended church and played with neighborhood kids. Her home-school schedule included assignments across subjects like math, English, social studies, science and Bible study — and she plowed ahead at her own pace.

But Jordan’s curiosity final compelled her to ask to go to public school.

“I just really wanted to see what it was like,” she said. “We’d watch all these different movies, and I was just really curious. I wanted to make more friends and really reach out to more people.”

On her first day, her first impression “was kind of weird.”

“Figuring out how to connect with people,” she said. “Because, yeah I was with people all the time when I was home-schooled, but being with people for longer amounts of time, understanding what music they listened to, what sort of things they talked about, was definitely a little bit of a culture shock.”

She also was bullied and ostracized by some.

“Luckily I had some really good teachers,” Jordan said.

Her interest in extracurriculars started almost immediately — joining student council, yearbook club and “a bunch of other organizations” in middle school. That carried into high school, where she again was on student council and got involved in philanthropy.

She also became a junior zookeeper at Miller Park Zoo — advancing from rain forest cleaning and tortoise-diet-making to training younger workers. Jordan was among the crop of high school seniors hit hard by COVID-19, doing much of her school work online and missing the traditional graduation experience.

She chose the University of Iowa for its proximity to home and for its medical and law school — both of which interested her at the time. She also liked that, unlike some institutions, it didn’t have a super strict mask mandate or vaccine requirement.

“Personally, I chose not to wear a mask,” she said. “I really liked that we got the freedom to choose what we wanted to do, how we felt safe, that sort of thing.”


Transgender-rights protesters link arms April 19, 2023, as they block traffic on Madison Street during a protest as conservative commentator Matt Walsh speaks at an event hosted by the Young America's Foundation -- whose UI chapter is called Young Americans for Freedom -- outside the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. (Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via AP)
Transgender-rights protesters link arms April 19, 2023, as they block traffic on Madison Street during a protest as conservative commentator Matt Walsh speaks at an event hosted by the Young America’s Foundation — whose UI chapter is called Young Americans for Freedom — outside the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. (Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via AP)

‘Mutual respect’

On track to graduate in May 2025, Jordan said her academic pursuits have changed — in part because of her experiences with YAF, bringing to campus the likes of Matt Walsh, a high-profile conservative activist; Chloe Cole, who shared her experience of the transgender movement after detransitioning; Vince Everett Ellison, who spoke against abortion and diversity, equity and inclusion programs; and Paula Scanlan, who in March spoke of her experience as a former teammate of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas.

YAF also engages in “activism initiatives” — putting out 2,977 flags in Hubbard Park as a Sept. 11 memorial and recently starting a “Stand up for Israel” memorial.


Young Americans for Freedom chair Jasmyn Jordan and University of Iowa senior Justin Petkus set up flags Sept. 11, 2023, at Hubbard Park in Iowa City to honor victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)
Young Americans for Freedom chair Jasmyn Jordan and University of Iowa senior Justin Petkus set up flags Sept. 11, 2023, at Hubbard Park in Iowa City to honor victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

When she started college, Jordan was a double major in psychology and criminology — with aspirations of becoming a forensic child psychologist. Now she has different — and more politically centered — career aspirations.

“I’d like to either work for a politician or a government office or become a political consultant,” she said.

When asked whether she would change her experience at the UI — given it was fraught and controversial at times — Jordan said not entirely.

“I definitely wrestled with that thought, because it can be frustrating when people are tearing down our posters, washing away chalk, calling us names,” she said. “But I honestly appreciate all those things and all the challenges, because it’s definitely taught me to become stronger in my beliefs. It’s taught me pretty much everything I am now.”

Recalling a petition some student orgs circulated to disband YAF, among other things, Jordan acknowledged she would like to see more UI enforcement of its policies.

“They can definitely better listen to conservative students’ needs,” she said. “Maybe sending out like a schoolwide email stating all the policies when it comes to messing with student organizations’ promotions and stuff like that. And just really fostering a much more respectful environment, because that’s just all I want to see, you know? Mutual respect.”

Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com





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