A Response to Chelgren’s ‘Senate File 288’

The following is the text of an email I recently sent to Senator Mike Chelgren in response to his proposed bill that would regulate the hiring of univerisity faculty in Iowa based on party affiliation. I encourage you to read my email, respond with your [respectful, dialogue-oriented] thoughts, do some research, and maybe even write one of your own. His government email is mark.chelgren@legis.iowa.gov.

Also here is a link to the official text of the proposed bill: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=87&ba=SF288

“Senator Chelgren,

It has recently come to my attention that you have proposed a piece of legislation, Senate File 288, that would require universities in Iowa to balance their professors’ partisanship based on voter registration. As a student at the University of Iowa who values the inherent qualities of democracy which the United States is supposed to display, I believe that regulating the employment of professors based on party affiliation would not only have an adverse affect on the quality of instruction provided by Iowa’s state universities, but would also directly contradict the United States’ long-term embrace of freedom from discrimination or persecution based on personally held political beliefs.

By requiring universities to reject qualified applicants for positions in order to balance party affiliation, you are negatively impacting the quality of education available to Iowa students. It is a well-established correlation that university professors are majority liberal-leaning*, and regardless of what this says about the validity of progressive ideals, this means that the majority of applicants to university jobs will be registered democrats. Let’s say for arguments sake that 60% of applicants are democrats, and the remaining 40% are republican (in reality, it would probably be even more skewed). A university receives 10 applications for a job opening, and a review board narrows the applications down to the single most qualified applicant. What are the chances that this applicant will all be Republican? Statistically, less than half. But the university is maxed out on its Democrat quota, and so, because of your law, the top qualified applicant will be discounted from consideration simply based on party identification. Now the education available to the students of that university has been diminished. Well done.

(*I’ll even cite that for you: The Higher Education Research Institute says ratio may be as high as 5:1)

The Des Moines Register, in an article on Senate File 288, has you quoted as saying: “I’m under the understanding that right now they can hire people because of diversity. 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.” I think you’ve misunderstood. By “hire by diversity” they mean racial diversity regulations also imposed by the government, and for defendable reasons outlined in the Constitution (you’ve read it, I’m assuming). Also by “hire by diversity,” as you began to hint at yourself, universities mean they hire by the diversity of the applicants’ educational and instructional backgrounds. They hire people who have done research in a wide range of fields, and who can speak with expertise about vastly varying subjects. That is the foundation of providing a good education to America’s youth, and it has nothing to do with regulating their exposure to opposing ideologies. In fact, this will only help us to become more well-rounded people who can interact with other people of varying personalities and opinions. This is part of a university instructor’s job description, is it not?

My last point for you today, Senator Chelgren, is to tell you that your bill is pointless. Before it has even been enacted, it is unnecessary. Why? Because professors don’t build their curriculum based on their party affiliations. They teach their subjects as they are presented in the world today. I am an international relations student within the Poltical Science department. It could easily be argued that my professors have the strongest and most well-informed party affiliations of any, seeing as they are experts in political science. But the pure truth of the matter is that I couldn’t even begin to guess where most of their party affiliations lie on the spectrum of liberalism and conservatism. And this is because — spoiler alert — they don’t talk about it! My professors, as the professionals that they are, know that my education has absolutely nothing to do with their political beliefs. They respect their students enough to understand that we all come from extremely diverse backgrounds, with varying views of the world around us, and that we aren’t so ignorant or pliable that one professor with an opinion would derail the foundation of our personal ideologies. It would be a little offensive to assume that, wouldn’t it? And so instead of - as you assume they must - pushing their ideologies on students, they present the facts available to the field of study and attempt to help us interpret those facts. And as I can attest to from experience, where interpretation of facts invites ambiguity, professors invariably encourage substantive debate from any and all points of view.

So, as I’m sure you understand by now, I would strongly encourage you to withdraw your ridiculous proposal to restrict hiring of university faculty by party affiliation, as it would not achieve the effect you apparently believe it would, and would only diminish the universities of the wonderful state of Iowa and the education its students are receiving.