Professor Ellen Lewin

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A University of Iowa professor who studies same-sex relationships was so upset by an email from a campus Republican group promoting "Conservative Coming Out Week" that she fired off a vulgarity aimed at all Republicans, according to messages released by the school Wednesday.

"F—- you, Republicans" was professor Ellen Lewin's response Monday to the recruiting pitch from UI College Republicans. She sent the email from her school account, drawing outrage from conservative students and one Republican lawmaker.

UI President Sally Mason responded to the incident Wednesday by condemning intolerant political speech.

Lewin, 65, later wrote another email to the leaders of the College Republicans explaining that she had just finished reading about "fresh outrages committed by Republicans in government" when she received the pitch.

"I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone's delicate sensibilities," Lewin wrote.

But she said the group's email contained several statements that were "extremely offensive, nearly rising to the level of obscenity." She said she was upset that Republicans used the "coming out" language to describe the week given what she called their general disdain for gay rights. She said the email also mocked labor protesters in Wisconsin and animal rights.

The university distributed the College Republicans' message Monday to all students and employees under a policy that allows student groups to send one such blanket email per semester. The GOP group is hosting several events as part of an annual drive to recruit more members, who are often outnumbered in Iowa City, a liberal college town.

"Conservatives in Iowa City it is now time to come out of the closet!" the email read. The email listed events including a blood drive, kickball and flag football games against College Democrats, a showing of a movie about George W. Bush, and a "wear red" day.

Lewin said it was inappropriate that the email used the language of the gay rights movement. She also took offense at a planned "Animal Rights BBQ" event and another Wednesday in which students are mockingly handing out fake doctors' notes to stressed students "just like the Wisconsin public employees during the union protests."

Lewin also chastised the chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, UI junior Natalie Ginty, for calling her by her first name in an email complaining about the vulgarity.

"She referred to me as Ellen, not Professor Lewin, which is the correct way for a student to address a faculty member, or indeed, for anyone to refer to an adult with whom they are not acquainted," she wrote.

Ginty, a 21-year-old studying biochemistry, said other students complained about Lewin's language in the email but none of them used vulgarities. She called the "coming out" title a clever way to get attention that was not meant to be disrespectful to gays and lesbians.

Republican students need to know about Lewin's political beliefs, and conservative alumni might not want to give "to a school that allows professors to speak to students that way and toward a political side that way," Ginty said. She said she gave the emails to a Republican news site because she thought Lewin's initial apology was inadequate.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the university was reviewing the email exchanges. Mason, the school president, sent an email to the university community Wednesday that condemned such speech but did not specifically mention Lewin.

"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 wrote. "Intolerant and disrespectful discord is not acceptable behavior."

Lewin, a professor in the departments of anthropology and women's studies, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. According to her university biography, she has studied a range of topics related to parenthood, reproduction and sexuality, including lesbian mothers, gay fathers and lesbian and gay commitment ceremonies. She has worked at the university since 1997.

In email messages released by the university, Lewin told political science professor Timothy Hagle, the faculty adviser to the GOP group, that she was not aware of the policy allowing blanket political solicitations to be sent.

"I have been sufficiently chastened by this incident that I can assure you it will not happen again," she wrote. "I am adept at cursing silently to myself (or to my dogs), a skill that is necessary these days when one reads the newspaper. I think I was in a particularly bad mood yesterday when that message came, but I will censor myself in future."

Hagle told Lewin that her language was out of line and her complaint about Ginty's use of her first name was "rather ironic."

Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton and community college instructor, said he was shocked that a tenured professor and public employee would use a vulgarity toward students.

"I don't know that I've ever heard of a direct verbal assault like that on a student," he said.