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Judy Hunter appointed to state ACLU board

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa (ACLU) now has a direct connection to Grinnell College. Judy Hunter, Director of the Writing Lab, was recently elected to serve on the ACLU’s statewide board.

“They ask most of the donors to run for the board, and I said I would,” Hunter said. “I never thought I would get elected.”

Judy Hunter, director of the Writing Lab, was recently appointed to the statewide board of the ACLU of Iowa. Photograph by Marfa Prokhorova.

The ACLU is a non-profit organization that promotes and defends the values of the Bill of Rights by public advocacy, outreach, lobbying and lawsuits. The organization’s main priority is protecting free speech.

“The ACLU seeks to protect civil liberties of everybody,” Hunter said. “They are very consistent with their message. The government shouldn’t restrict free speech, freedom of the press, all those Bill of Rights topics.”

Hunter has been active with the ACLU for a long time. With recent events such as the Patriot Act, she feels that it is more and more important to protect everybody’s rights to free speech.

“I joined the ACLU in the ’80s. What really brought them to my attention was a case in a Jewish suburb in Chicago. A Nazi party wanted to protest there, and the ACLU supported them,” Hunter said. “I’ve always admired the ACLU [because] they try to protect free speech rights of everyone, even people they don’t agree with, such as the Nazi Party.”

The ACLU deals with all sorts of cases, including the issue of gay marriage in Iowa. Recently, they fought for a woman who was denied family medical leave because her spouse was of the same sex. The ACLU brought this couple’s case to the attention of the Iowa Attorney General for a review of state policy, and the woman was then granted the leave.

Hunter is not new to the idea of boards and politics, having been a member of the League of Women voters since 1976. Hunter also served on the school board for the Grinnell-Newburg School District from 1994 until 2002, and is passionate about education, as evidenced by her work in the college’s Writing Lab.

“I am kind of an education freak,” Hunter said.

Hunter is also one of the founding members of the Grinnell-Newburg Education Excellence Foundation, which helps to fund the Grinnell-Newburg Public School system. “The foundation is just an attempt to make up some of the public funding that has been lost,” she said.

While many members of the ACLU board focus all their attention on activism while ignoring budgets or hiring, Hunter is willing to work with such details. Hunter’s vast knowledge about the inner workings of public boards will undoubtedly benefit the ACLU.

“Boards are all the same, whether they be local or state,” Hunter said. “They need to be aware of what they can and cannot do.”

All ACLU board members have to be on two committees. Hunter is on the Development Committee, which is concerned with raising finances, and the Legal Committee, which decides in which cases the ACLU will participate.

“We have to chose our cases carefully since we don’t have a lot of money,” she said.

Being on the board requires dedication—Hunter attends full day-long board meetings every two months. However, she enjoys this commitment.

“Everybody on the board is fighting for something, whether it be the woman who is very active with the rights of Muslims in Iowa City, or the young man from Mexico who is very involved in immigration issues,” Hunter said.

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