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Higher Education Watch
GOP War on Campus PC Goes Off the Rails in Iowa

In the wake of two years of highly-publicized left-wing activism at campuses across the country, Republicans and conservatives have started to voice growing concern about the extraordinary political imbalance among the professoriate in the social sciences and humanities. But in their effort to address the problem (or just score political points) some GOP legislators are beclowning themselves by proposing utterly unworkable solutions that infringe on academic freedom and in any case would make things far, far worse. The Des Moines Register reports:

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.”

We at TAI have persistently highlighted academia’s continuous march to the left and the way this decline in diversity can be harmful to both the quality of scholarship (ideas that conform with the pre-existing views of the vast majority of professors are less likely to be scrutinized) and the public’s perception of the legitimacy of scholarship and expertise in general (if it is perceived that professors are all left-wing radicals, then half of the population will increasingly write them off, even when they are making legitimate arguments).

But this is a problem that, for the most part, needs to be addressed internally—by academia and by civil society, not by government. While there may be some role for state legislatures in defunding university programs that are legitimately just sites for political activism cloaked in academic postmodernist jargon, hiring and firing decisions cannot be micromanaged by state legislators. Forcing a political science department to hire a quota of registered Republicans, for example, would never actually work, because candidates could change their voter registrations. And it would be responding to a problem—academia is excessively politicized—by making it even more so.

The Left has a lot to answer for for the state of American higher education. And while it might be good politics for the GOP to simply launch ostentatious, freewheeling attacks on the entire institution, this won’t help improve our universities. If anything, it will discredit conservative efforts for intelligent and incremental reform in academia and leave progressives even more firmly in control.

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  • Makaden

    I cannot agree more with the assertions and proposed remedies of this article. Time to demonstrate that the right does, actually, have thinkers.

    • QET

      The right has thinkers. And scribblers. What it does not have is doers. Thinkers and scribblers on the right have been pointing out the obvious for 40+ years while the left has just used that so-called “civil discourse” to screen its colonization efforts. For instance: the left wormed its way into a particular office inside the federal government Dept. of Education and issued the Dear Colleague letter. For instance: the left has dropped US history from the core requirements of history majors at GWU. For instance: the left at Stanford dropped its western civ requirement long ago. These are deeds, actions. These are what count. At the moment, the right has about as many divisions within the academy as the Pope has at the Vatican. So it is only from the outside that the left’s depredations can be prevented. “Incremental” change sounds very nice. That is what the right allowed the left to do over the last 4 – 5 decades. But the left has no intention of returning the favor.

      This particular legislation is certainly idiotic. There are better ways to cure the disease. But what is certain is that things will have to actually be done to cure it, not just thought of and written about. I’ll take actions, even poorly thought-out ones, over more thinking and scribbling.

      • Makaden

        Agreed. Which is why I suggested a demonstration (implying deeds).

  • Beauceron

    So…we have set asides and quotas for student applications to college where checking the box for “Black” or “Latino” means you can get in with lower test scores and grades than whites or Asians. We have special scholarships for race and other identity groups. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on special groups, programs, courses and majors for racial or ethnic or gender or sexual orientation groups. We have an entire layer of administrators on college campus that ensures the rules of the Leftist diversity template are enforced to the point of ridiculousness (yoga classes are cultural appropriation!, white people can’t eat Chinese food!). There are efforts to hire academics based on race and identity.

    But you’ve boldly drawn the line at proposed legislation that would insist on political balance? All the racial, gender, ethnic, religious (excluding, of course, Christians), sexual preference preferences are fine, but, for god sakes, let’s not drag politics into it.

    I think, at root, the university system cannot be fixed. The cancer has spread too far and too deep. It needs radical surgery. I am not entirely sure this is the correct procedure, but the notion that there will be ” incremental reform” is laughable. Catch phrases like “incremental reform” are simply an easy means of pretending to do something while everyone knows nothing will change.

    • Makaden

      I’m pretty sure your revolutionary approach was what Chomsky was arguing for the left in the mid 1960’s. The left went with the reformist route, and now look where they are. We are all Chomskys now.

  • Kevin

    If universities don’t reform themselves they will not like the way their paymasters do so.

  • Disappeared4x

    Perhaps Iowa’s Board of Regents asked the Iowa Legislature for support in fulfilling their mission?

    “The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, has broad statutory authority, as outlined in Iowa Code, to exercise all the powers necessary and convenient for the effective administration of its office and the institutions under its control. The governance provided includes but is not limited to the following: establishes the missions, adopts strategic plans, makes educational policy, appoints presidents and other institutional officials, reviews and approves budgets for submission to the Governor and General Assembly, establishes and oversees annual operating budgets and personnel policies, pursues public policy and budget priorities, reviews and approves academic programs, and adjudicates disputes. The Board governs and coordinates the operations of the Regent institutions under all applicable Iowa Code and Iowa Administrative Rules provisions.

    The intent of this policy manual is to augment the Iowa Code and Administrative Rules to provide additional detail and direction not specifically provided by Iowa Code and Administrative Rules.”

    As for TAI’s post on one article? Hyperbole alert! “…utterly unworkable solutions that infringe on academic freedom and in any case would make things far, far worse. …” and, “…to simply launch ostentatious, freewheeling attacks on the entire institution …”

  • FriendlyGoat

    “If anything, it will discredit conservative efforts for intelligent and incremental reform in academia and leave progressives even more firmly in control.”

    Yes, TAI recognizes that conservatives might discredit themselves with such Goof-O-Rama talk as this, but—–oddly—-conservatives themselves increasingly do not sense any such risk. Some group of people elected the particular senator who introduced this in Iowa, after all. He is obviously unconcerned that his voters might believe he is “beclowning” himself. We’ll just have to wait and see whether entire legislative majorities and the governor likewise think this bill reflects well on them or not.

  • Andrew Allison

    “if it is perceived that professors are all left-wing radicals, then half of the population will increasingly write them off, even when they are making legitimate arguments” underestimates the intelligence of the general population (does anybody other than left-wing radicals still pay attention to left-wing radicals?).

  • Fat_Man

    ” this is a problem that, for the most part, needs to be addressed internally—by academia and by civil society”

    That is just plain silly. The left has taken the colleges over, and they will not give up control voluntarily. Waiting for the academy to repair it self is like waiting for pigs to sprout wings and fly away.

    • Jim__L

      As much as I like civil society, what kind of influence does it have over the university? What influence do churches, voluntary organizations (like Scouts), and individual families have over the university? All three of these types of institutions the university is busy working to dominate or destroy — and a lot of damage has been done already.

      If we have the opportunity to fight back through the university regents or the legislature, we should take that opportunity.

  • Suzy Dixon

    I don’t see a problem with it. I’m an Iowa native. I’ve had a lot of family go through ISU and U of I. They all say it’s just insane how many professors are open socialists and marxists (and not just in the typical liberal arts programs either). Universities need more diversity of opinion now.

    • CapitalHawk

      I’m an Iowa native too. 100% agree.

    • Jim__L

      True enough, but they have a point that it would be very, very easy to game the system as they’ve presented it.

  • CapitalHawk

    So, if I understand TAI correctly, they think that while the Left has politicized everything in this country, the Right should let the Leftists in academia heal thyself? Please.

  • Fat_Man

    I further believe that the states as the creators and proprietors of the state university systems have not just the authority, but the duty, to fix the colleges and return them to the status of useful institutions for the education of youth and disseminators of knowledge.

    The colleges were given a great deal of independence by the legislators to manage their own affairs. The left captured these institutions and perverted them into indoctrination camps. The legislature is not required to tolerate this. The real question is how to fix it.

    I am completely in favor of meat ax solutions. But, trying to manipulate the political compostion of the faculty is ridiculous. The proposal would not work with enough celerity to accomplish its design in a short span of years.

    What the legislature should do is to wage economic warfare on the colleges. First, lower tuitions to something most people can afford. I think that $24,000, the price of a nice new sedan, for a four program is high enough. Many state schools have circumvented this type of freeze by admitting enormous numbers of out of state students to the detriment of in state students. That tactic should be banned.

    Second, salary caps should be imposed. The President of the University should not be paid more than the Governor of the State. Faculty members should not be paid more than the union scale for high school teachers in the states biggest city.

    Third, the number of non academic administrators should be reduced. When so many have been fired that they stop drafting mission statements, fire a third of the remaining parasites.

    Fourth, shut down two thirds of the programs in the humanities, starting with every thing named “studies”, and half of the programs in the “social sciences”, staring with cultural anthropology, and sociology.

    Feel free to come up with more useful steps toward reforming the colleges.

    • seattleoutcast

      Wonderful ideas. There is a problem that WRM has addressed, and it is that there are so many federal regulations now that universities have to follow that they have become top heavy. How do we overcome that? I don’t know. The states could refuse federal money, but that will never happen. The state legislatures could reduce the number of administrators anyway and give the remaining staff a heavier work load…that actually is not a bad idea.

      • Jim__L

        Sure, just keep cutting administrators until they stop trying to involve themselves in so many things.

        • Fat_Man

          Just the number of Administrators who spend their days organizing meetings about organizing meetings would fill a medium sized city.

  • Frank Natoli

    Dear TAI: please provide a link to any article at any time on your website that categorically pronounced quotas for the purpose of correcting disproportionate anything was “wrong”. Oh, and not only must the article use the word “wrong”, it must characterize the quota writers as “beclowning” themselves. Thank you.

  • Boritz

    ” utterly unworkable solutions that infringe on academic freedom and in any case would make things far worse.”

    Take out the word “academic” and you have the solution that Democrats implemented for healthcare knowing this to be true. It’s a strategy.

  • Joey Junger

    When this author speaks of “intelligent, incremental reform” what they really mean is “I really just want things to stay the way they are, and preserve the status quo because it’s working for me.” These people don’t mind talking about reform or change, but when Trump tries to build a wall and nix TPP almost immediately after taking office, you can tell who’s with the beltway/deep state/sinecures and who is really tired of this crap.

    “The American Interest” is somewhat like “National Review.” It’s Potemkin opposition, designed to encourage people to let off steam harmlessly in endless debate, rather than anything approaching actual action. The left has had academia as their playground for too long. Recess is over.

  • CosmotKat

    “But this is a problem that, for the most part, needs to be addressed internally—by academia and by civil society, not by government.”

    Interesting. So academia wants to work out their hiring diversity problem themselves while they recommend government solutions for everyone else. Is that not the definition of beclowning themselves?

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