Senator’s bill forces political balance in universities

Babbling Brooks Column
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Boy, you just cannot turn on the local or national news anymore without hearing about the unpopular uprising surrounding not only our own state government, but the federal government as well.

     If you’ve attended any of the local legislative forums in Jones County, hosted by Farm Bureau and Jones County Economic Development, then you get a first-hand account of those who are frustrated with our state government in the bills that are passed.

     At Friday’s forum, several employees from the Anamosa State Penitentiary were present to ask the Republicans at the table why they supported the collective bargaining bill (now a law) that separated prison guards from “public safety” personnel. The law treats prison guards differently, or chooses not to classify them as “public safety employees.”

     These people have a right to be upset. Without their leadership in their jobs, there would be no one trained properly to protect the public from the inmates. These guards maintain order inside the walls of the Anamosa prison, keeping the bad people in. Now, this clearly falls under public safety, no?

     What a shame!

     During that same forum, Rep. Andy McKean commented that while the local media only picks up on the controversial bills, there are many bills and that go between the House and Senate that no one seems to report on. Whether good or bad, these bills may or may not make it through this week’s first funnel.

     One of those bills that circulated social media (I even shared my thoughts on it as well.) is Senate File (SF) 288. This bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mark Chelgren of Ottumwa.

     The introduction of the bill states, “An act relating to consideration of political affiliation and balance in the employment of faculty at institutions of higher education governed by the State Board of Regents.”

     This bill would essentially “direct the State Board of Regents to require partisan balance of the faculty employed at each regent’s university.”

     The balance is to seek even numbers of faculty members who declare a political affiliation with one of the two main political parties “whose candidate for President of the United States or for Governor, as the case may be, received the largest and next largest number of votes in the last general election.”

     The bill would prohibit a university “from hiring a person as a professor or instructor if the percentage of the faculty belonging to one political party would exceed by 10 percent the percentage of faculty belonging to the other political party…”

     If someone on staff does not declare a political affiliation, that person is not considered in determining the political composition of that university.

     I have a one-word response: Wow!

     (Ok, there’s more.)

     Sen. Chelgren claims that this request is not out of order because universities already strive for diversity in the people they hire to teach the students.

     “They want to have people of different thinking, different processes, different expertise,” he said.

     I beg to differ.

     Hiring someone based on his/her political affiliation is discrimination. Companies who hire should not be, based on the Constitution, hiring on basis or against one’s sex, ethnicity, creed, religion, or political beliefs.

     What if the most qualified person for the job at any Iowa university falls under the majority political affiliation? Do not hire that person because you need a balanced staff?

     I attended a private Catholic college. (I am not Catholic; it was just the best college I saw for the program I was interested in. Plus, I didn’t want to live hours away from “home.”) Of all of the professors I had and the classes I was enrolled in, there was no way to know whether those professors were Democrats or Republicans, or whether they were even Catholic for that matter.

     And if this bill takes out those who are not affiliated with a political party, I’m sure you’ll see more professors changing their party line just to refrain from declaring a party. In fact, that is exactly what Sen. Chelgren encourages people to do if they truly want to be considered for the job; change your affiliation. So, how does this solve Chelgren’s issue with uneven political parties teaching on Iowa’s college campuses?

     All in all, Chelgren’s proposed bill is just plain silly. I surely hope this is one bill that dies during funnel week.


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