Via Instapundit comes this piece on an effort to help foster and promote intellectual diversity in South Dakota higher education:
HB1222, passed by a vote of 42-26, asks the Board of Regents to report annually on what the stateâ€™s six universities are doing to promote â€œintellectual diversity,â€ defined as â€œa learning environment that exposes students to a variety of political, ideological and other perspectives.â€
â€œThe 2007 higher education budget request is half a billion dollars,â€ Rep. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, the chief sponsor of the bill, said. â€œIt is simply good governance that legislators ask questions and seek answers. Students and taxpayers deserve no less.â€
I’ll admit some level of skepticism about how the Legislature intends to measure intellectual diversity, and how much interference is appropriate in this case. Indeed, despite the fact that the bill has already passed the House, there are some worries about how it would be implemented:
Other opponents took issue with a list of suggestions included in the bill on which reports can be based, such as encouraging a variety of speakers at campuses and creating an ombudsman.
Rep. Tom Hills, R-Spearfish, a retired Black Hills State University professor and dean, said the bill would â€œmicromanageâ€ tasks that should be left up to administrators.
But Rep. Thomas Brunner, R-Nisland, disagreed. He said the criteria are merely suggestions and that an annual report is not a hardship.
However, reading the full text of the bill helps show why this law is narrowly constructed enough to not be burdensome. The bill is quite simple, and lays out exactly what the report should contain. This does seem like a reasonable measure to help foster a climate of intellectual diversity.
The fact is that higher education often has a view of diversity that is literally only skin deep. Diversity is more than the color of one’s skin or one’s geographical position. Universities are often some of the least intellectually diverse institutions in society, where each and every issue from anthropology to zoology seems to be based on the secular Trinity of race, gender, and class. The partisan identification of college professors is overwhelmingly Democratic – and far to the left.
I know many people in academia, and while they aren’t consciously biased against conservatives, they have a worldview which systematically ignores and suppresses ideas that don’t fit within the narrow confines of normal academic discourse. They’ve essentially defined “academics” in accordance with a particular worldview, which is why the academy is often so far removed from the rest of society. Conservatives are kept as a minority, and conservative ideas are rarely if ever given much of a fair hearing. This kind of educational monoculture stands in opposition to the values of free inquiry and intellectual diversity.
As they say, sunshine is the best disinfectant, and ensuring that taxpayer-funded higher education upholds the values of intellectual diversity and pluralism is a goal that’s worth supporting. This bill should pass the Senate and Governor Rounds should sign it into law.