Problems with prof political bill
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A couple of weeks ago, Iowa state senator Mark Chelgren introduced a bill that would mandate Iowa’s state universities to ensure the proportion of professors registered with each of the major parties fall within 10 percent of each other in order to achieve what Chelgren describes as “partisan bias.”
Chelgren, a Republican, is certainly addressing the perceived liberal bias among college professors. I question whether Chelgren would be so interested in political diversity among college professors if universities had a reputation for a conservative bias. Regarding the bill, I disagree with Chelgren’s proposal.
The bill allows professors and potential professors to change their party affiliation and not be counted in the tally. This would make enforcement of the bill practically impossible; professors or potential professors would just change their party affiliation to “No Party” and avoid the bill completely. The passing of this bill would be purely ceremonial. I believe Chelgren knows this; and I, among others, believe Chelgren proposed this bill merely to fire up his base and increase his name recognition.
However, even if this bill was enforceable, I would oppose it for the following reasons.
One: Iowa’s universities are supposed to hire the best faculty available to provide the highest quality education to students. Making hiring decisions based on political affiliations will lower the quality of faculty at Iowa’s school and impact the quality of our schools. The recent gutting of collective bargaining rights has already made it more difficult for Iowa’s universities to attract and keep quality faculty; Chelgren’s bill would further amplify the problem.
Two: studies have shown that liberal-leaning professors outnumber their conservative coworkers in most or all fields of study. This means that not only are Democratic professors likely teaching political science courses; they are likely teaching classes on non-political subjects such as mathematics, physics and computer science. Politics has nothing to do with many fields taught on our campuses. It makes no sense to not hire a well-qualified engineering professor because they are a Democrat.
Three: Iowa’s universities should make a great effort to encourage and celebrate diversity. I do not think it is a good idea to hire professors who may harbor homophobic, xenophobic or religiously bigoted views for the sake of political diversity.
For example, the rights of our LGBTQ+ friends and allies are not a political debate; they are a matter of human rights. This is not an issue we should be encouraging “political diversity” on. We would not want to hire a professor who says, “I don’t really care for black people,” so why treat “I don’t really care for gay people” or “I don’t like Muslims” differently? Tax policy and healthcare are political issues; tolerance is not.
Understand that I know many Republicans hold progressive views on many social issues, especially among the younger generations. My Republican friends and colleagues generally do not hold backwards views on such issues; but it is likely that Senator Chelgren intends to encourage the hiring of such people as a part of his crusade for “political diversity.”
Four: some fields have established facts that the political arena can disagree with, we must resist “political diversity” in fields of established fact. For example, should we hire faculty who deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change or evolution for the sake of “political diversity?” I think it is a bad idea.
It is the job of our universities to teach established facts, not to teach both sides of the argument as equals for the sake of political diversity. Accepting climate science and denying climate science are not equally merited arguments; one is true and the other is not.
As I stated before, Chelgren’s bill is likely intended as more of a publicity stunt than a serious attempt to change how Iowa’s universities hire faculty. This is something we should be thankful for.