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Iowa Bill Sparks Faculty Ire

April 23, 2015

A bill considered by the Education Committee of the Iowa State Senate riled faculty members this week, after it was shared on the American Association of University Professors’ Academe blog. The bill -- which Rudy Fichtenbaum, professor of economics at Wright State University and AAUP president, called “the most outrageous proposal I have heard from a legislator anywhere” -- would have required that any professor at a public institution teach at least one course per semester and be rated by student evaluations such that if “a professor fails to attain a minimum threshold of performance based on the student evaluations used to assess the professor’s teaching effectiveness, in accordance with the criteria and rating system adopted by the board, the institution shall terminate the professor’s employment regardless of tenure status or contract.”

Additionally, the bill said, “The names of the five professors who rank lowest on their institution’s evaluation for the semester, but who scored above the minimum threshold of performance, shall be published on the institution’s Internet site and the student body shall be offered an opportunity to vote on the question of whether any of the five professors will be retained as employees of the institution.” The professor with the fewest votes would have been subject to termination, regardless of tenure status.

After receiving a substantial number of emails from outraged faculty members, Inside Higher Ed determined that the bill had died in committee -- six weeks ago.

Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat who is chair of the Iowa State Senate Education Committee and a professor of economics at Iowa State University, said via email that the bill “demonstrates little understanding of higher education and even less caring.” Fortunately, he added, “cooler heads have prevailed.” 

Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican who was the bill’s sponsor, did not immediately return a request for comment.

 

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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