Col­leges grap­ple with new in­tel­lec­tual di­ver­sity law

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY CHRISTO­PHER VONDRACEK

South Dakota ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials are wrestling with how to im­ple­ment a new law re­quir­ing col­lege cam­puses to sup­port con­ser­va­tive and lib­eral thought days be­fore it takes ef­fect.

Kevin V. Schi­ef­fer, pres­i­dent of the state’s Board of Re­gents, balked at a law­maker’s ideas to pre­serve con­ser­va­tive view­points at univer­si­ties, such as clos­ing di­ver­sity of­fices and ask­ing fac­ulty about their ide­olo­gies in hir­ing in­ter­views.

“You’re the ones who set the law, and we’re sup­posed to fol­low it, and we’re try­ing to do it,” Mr. Schi­ef­fer said dur­ing a hear­ing, ad­dress­ing the bill’s spon­sor — state Rep. Sue Peter­son, Sioux Falls Repub­li­can.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Repub­li­can, in March signed the na­tion’s first “in­tel­lec­tual di­ver­sity” bill for col­leges and univer­si­ties.

Un­der the law, be­gin­ning in Au­gust, the Board of Re­gents must sub­mit to the gover­nor and state law­mak­ers a re­port de­tail­ing how each col­lege is pro­mot­ing in­tel­lec­tual di­ver­sity and de­scrib­ing “any events or oc­cur­rences that im­peded in­tel­lec­tual di­ver­sity and the free ex­change of ideas.”

Con­ser­va­tive me­dia out­lets such as The of ideas on cam­puses.

“If that’s your def­i­ni­tion of a prob­lem in South Dakota, I don’t think there’s a prob­lem in South Dakota,” said Mr. Schi­ef­fer, the re­gents’ pres­i­dent, who de­scribed him­self as a “con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can” who be­lieves col­lege fac­ulty lean to the left.

A Gallup poll last year found 61% of U.S. col­lege stu­dents say cam­pus cli­mate de­ters free speech, up from 54% two years ear­lier. How­ever, the same poll found that Democrats — not Repub­li­cans — were more likely to think cli­mate de­ters free speech.

In March, Pres­i­dent Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der ty­ing fed­eral fund­ing to a col­lege’s up­hold­ing of free speech, sig­nal­ing the im­por­tance the is­sue has be­come to his po­lit­i­cal base. How those prac­tices will be im­ple­mented re­mains un­clear.

Dale Droge, a bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Dakota State Univer­sity and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the state’s pub­lic col­lege fac­ulty, ex­pressed con­cern about a pro­fes­sor be­ing pun­ished for re­fus­ing to teach about the anti-vac­ci­na­tion move­ment in a health class.

“Th­ese types of witch hunts through syl­labi and text and met­rics, I don’t see th­ese things as be­ing war­ranted and have the po­ten­tial to be greatly abused,” Mr. Droge said.

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