A Republican Senator from West Iowa has proposed a bill requiring the Board of Regents to interview all university employees to determine each person’s political affiliation. This contributes to a large number of proposals designed to lead to greater state scrutiny of public higher education in Iowa at this session.

Senate Record 292, presented to Senator Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, Tuesday, would require regents to question University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and University of Northern Iowa officials about their political affiliations and the General Assembly Report by December. 30, 2021.

According to the draft law, the results of the survey among political parties would be separated according to occupational classification, but would not disclose the names of individual employees.

State law prohibits employers from appointing, promoting, demoting, or dismissing anyone from a position “based on political or religious beliefs or affiliations, or on the basis of race or national origin, or the sex or age of the person.”

The bill does not include an explanation of the legislature’s goal of collecting the data on political affiliation – although all three sites have recently taken the heat off Republican lawmakers to quell conservative speech at their respective sites.

As universities sought improved government funding and restoration of the summer budget cuts, administrators at all three sites apologized to lawmakers last week for “tremendous” free speech violations – and some lawmakers called for greater accountability.

Drop tenure

Legislators have also proposed bills on this term to, among other things, remove the term in office, require more information about who is funding research at the respective sites, and improve oversight of admission practices for medical and dental colleges.

A House Education Committee voted 12-9 Wednesday afternoon to further develop Senate Act 41, the measure that would make Iowa the first state in the state to overturn office – an academic appointment designed to encourage independent investigation, research, and instruction.

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The tenure track faculty can reach a term of office after a six-year probationary period with peer, expert and external examinations – and it can be terminated for good cause or for financial reasons after the term of office has been reached.

However, legislators, who are pushing to remove the option, say the campus should have more freedom to fire “bad” professors.

Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, told his colleagues on the education committee Wednesday that the term of office is no longer intended to encourage free and diverse thinking.

“As we have clearly seen at our regent universities, there is no longer any diversity of thoughts,” he said.

Although Wheeler did not cite a specific source, he cited a study of the “Top 40 Colleges” from a few years ago that identified an average of 12 college professors per Republican as Democrats.

“That number is astonishingly higher when you look at the history sections that found 30 Democrats for every Republican,” Wheeler said. “That doesn’t look like a variety of thoughts to me.”

Universities are against it

The presidents of all three public universities in Iowa have stated that a vesting period will lead to an exodus of elite professors and make it impossible to compete for top scientists. They argued the state must pay the faculty exponentially more to keep them here, and Rep. Mary Mascher of D-Iowa City said she plans to vehemently oppose the bill.

“I really think Iowa is a quality place and we stand alone,” she said. “But I don’t think this gives a good impression of our state and our education system.

“It will suffer greatly if we give up or resign from office.”

When Wheeler made his final anti-tenure argument, he said that many instructors have taken jobs on campus without finding a way to tenure. And too much job security is dangerous.

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“Why do we give professors a lifetime deadline for taxpayer pennies?” Asked Wheeler. “It simply removes a mechanism that protects bad professors.

“Would you use the surgeon who had a term or the surgeon who had no term? Would you fly on the airplane with the pilot who had a tenure or the pilot who had no tenure? “

Notes: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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