A bill in the Iowa Senate seeks to achieve greater political diversity among professors at the state’s Board of Regents universities. Senate File 288 would institute a hiring freeze until the number of registered Republicans and Democrats on the university faculty fall within 10 percent of each other. “I’m under the understanding that right now they can hire people because of diversity,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa. “They want to have people of different thinking, different processes, different expertise. So this would fall right into category with what existing hiring practices are.” Asked whether the regents need greater diversity of thought, spokesman Josh Lehman said the board “expects the universities to hire the most qualified faculty to teach our students.” Chelgren would not say whether he believes Iowa’s universities have become too liberal. Rather, he said, he’s concerned about “extreme views on either side.”
But Rep. Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City whose district includes the University of Iowa, said she doesn’t believe such a quota would pass Constitutional muster.
“We do have a Constitution and it’s there for a reason, and it’s to try to protect equity and to make sure that we don’t judge people on the basis of their race or religion, their creed, their political beliefs,” she said. “We never ask that question when someone’s hired: Are you a Republican, Democrat, or independent, or Green Party or socialist or any of that. And I think that would be clearly discriminatory.”
The bill would allow professors to register as “no-party,” and they would not be counted. Chelgren said professors who want to be hired could simply change their party affiliation to be considered for the position.