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Iowa Bill Would Force 'Partisan Balance' in Hiring

February 21, 2017
 
 

It’s only been a month since an Iowa lawmaker proposed ending tenure at the state’s public institutions, and two weeks since state legislators published a bill that would gut collective bargaining for faculty members. Now another legislator wants to enforce what he calls “partisan balance” among Iowa’s faculty members. Iowa Republican Senator Mark Chelgren’s bill would require that no professor or instructor be hired if his or her most recent party affiliation would “cause the percentage of the faculty belonging to one political party to exceed by 10 percent” the percentage of the faculty belonging to the other dominant party. Politically undeclared professors would not be included in the tally.

Chelgren wants the state’s commissioner of elections to provide voter registration data to colleges and universities once a year to help enforce his plan. It’s no secret that the bill would likely adversely affect Democrats, since academics tend to swing to the political left. Others have criticized what they call academe's lack of "intellectual" or "ideological" diversity, but Chelgren's proposal takes such concerns to another level. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday, including about what he'd do if swaths of professors took advantage of the ‘no party’ loophole. There’s already been some negative reaction to the bill, with the liberal political blog Iowa Starting Line calling it an “ideological litmus test.”

The North Carolina Senate on Monday night tabled a similar amendment regarding the University of North Carolina System, The Charlotte Observer reported. It would have required tenure-track and tenured faculty members to “reflect the ideological balance of the citizens of the state,” so that no campus “shall have a faculty ideological balance of greater or less than 2 percent of the ideological balance” of North Carolinians.

 
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