Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Right Wing Attacks on Academia Continue: Iowa Law Mandates Political Affiliation

Amidst all the furor over Milo and UC Berkeley, in which non-students staged an action to shut down a speech, the GOP keeps doing its thing - using money and access to power to try and overthrow public universities. I wrote about this most recently here for Pacific Standard and on the blog.

Latest examples:
The law in question has been proposed in Iowa, requiring "political balance" among professors. It comes shortly after another bill ending tenure was proposed.
A bill in the Iowa Senate seeks to achieve greater political diversity among professors at the state's Board of Regents universities. Senate File 288 would institute a hiring freeze until the number of registered Republicans and Democrats on the university faculty fall within 10 percent of each other.
"I’m under the understanding that right now they can hire people because of diversity," said the bill's author, Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa. "They want to have people of different thinking, different processes, different expertise. So this would fall right into category with what existing hiring practices are."
Three notes:

1) Using coercive power of the states to force ideology into public universities is the standard conservative move.

2) The couching of in the frame of "diversity" is relatively new (last 5 years or so). Of course they are actually opposed to diversity in all other contexts.

3) Legislators propose all kinds of ridiculous bills for the sake of political posturing, but such proposals don't happen in a vacuum. It may not make it through Iowa. It might not make it through the courts if  it was passed. But it will in some states. ALEC and the like help draft these bills and pass them around. This is a garbage law, and unworkable. But any hint of forcing people to declare party affiliation for hiring is a totalitarian move.

Meanwhile, I'm sure the high visibility writers with all the diversity of Chait, Haidt, Kristof, and Soave are super focused to see how the next big threat to free speech is coming from Oberlin students.

UPDATE: Also NC. I smell ALEC's legislation-writing folks at work.

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