Thursday, July 11, 2019

South Dakota's Monolithically Conservative Government Wants To Enforce Intellectual Diversity In Our Colleges. You're Kidding, Right?

     Last Monday a South Dakota law titled "An Act To Promote Free Speech And Intellectual
Check Out All Those Orthodox Liberals
Makes You Want To Shudder, Doesn't It?
Diversity At Certain Institutions Of Higher Education" took effect. 
I'm not exactly sure what this law is intended to remedy, but in signing it, Governor Kristi Noem said "Our university campuses should be places where students leave their comfort zones and learn about competing ideas and perspectives,"  the implication being that the status quo falls short of meeting that standard, a situation that must now be remedied by the passage of this law.
     First off, regarding the status quo, I'm dubious about the need for this law.  Having hired a fair number of South Dakota public university graduates over the past decades, I've found them to be competent, level-headed, moderate in their political and ideological views--and reflective of a sound educational structure that trained them well and turned them into excellent models of engaged and productive citizenry.  If readers have had markedly different impressions of their SD public university hires, I'd love to hear from them--and doubt very seriously that I will.  Our colleges are doing their jobs and doing them well.  
     As much was effectively conceded by David Randall, director of research for the National Association of Scholars.  NAS is an organization that seeks to counter "liberal bias" in academia.  During deliberations over the bill, he told lawmakers that South Dakota was "not as far down the road" as other states, but that it was only a matter of time before orthodoxy of liberal ideology would reduce intellectual diversity.  Horrified by the prospect, senators passed the bill 26-7, representatives went for it 51-12.  Orthodox liberal ideology didn't stand a chance.
     More compellingly, neither did common sense.  This gratuitous and probably unenforceable statute can't be implemented because intellectual diversity can't be quantified and can't be defined.  For one thing, diversity of opinion exists within individuals, so how do you classify, say, an applicant with strongly held liberal beliefs about personal behavior and equally strong beliefs about fiscally conservative public policy?  Considering that the universities "must create hiring practices to ensure the composition of the faculty and administration reflects a broad range of ideological viewpoints," how does said socially liberal/fiscally conservative individual fit into an ideologically balanced faculty?  For another, who determines bias?  South Dakota's Republican-dominated government?  Please.  
    This law is a political statement by a legislature committed to controlling every aspect of public life with the heavy hand of government.  I remember when Republicans were repulsed by that notion.  


  1. No person’s life, liberty or property are safe when the SD legislature, aka the GOP Caucus is in session. That’s a big 10-4.

  2. Preserving intellectual diversity... Just as long as there aren't any Orthodox Liberals included!

  3. Unless there is political change in South Dakota or a major shift in priorities the people of South Dakota should have a statement carved above the front entrance to the Capitol. "Here in the people's house we strive to be at the forefront of seeking solutions to problems that do not exist."

    Out of state recruiters at their universities and tech schools could easily take advantage of this policy. Attendance will suffer even more and will be much more difficult recruiting high quality faculty.