Letter: Partisan balance bill puts quality education at risk

A bill was recently introduced in the Iowa Senate that has the distinct possibility of obliterating the quality of higher education offered within the state. Senate File 288 introduced by state Sen. Mark Chelgren reads as follows:

“Require partisan balance of the faculty employed at each of the institutions of higher learning governed by the board. A person shall not be hired as a professor or instructor member of the facility at such an institution if the person’s political party affiliation on the date of hire would cause the percentage of the faculty belonging to one political party to exceed by ten percent the percentage of the faculty belonging to the other political party, on the date established by the board for determining the political party composition of the faculty. A person who declares a no party affiliation need not be considered in determining the political party composition of the faculty. Annually, on a date to be established by the board, the state commissioner of elections shall cooperate with the board and furnish, free of charge, voter registration records to the institutions of higher learning governed by the board to meet the requirements of this subsection. For purposes of this subsection, “partisan balance” refers to balance within faculty members who declare a political affiliation with one of the two political parties whose candidates for president of the United States or for governor, as the case may be, received the largest and next to largest number of votes at the least general election.”

This bill is not a joke, as it was recorded on legis.iowa.gov and confirmed by a personal friend who works in the Senate. For those who cannot see the implications of such a bill, here is a list of the dangerous implications it implies.

First, it forces a political label onto every accredited arbiter of knowledge, forcing the truth through the polarizing lenses of politics.

Second, it directly gives a spot to the political actions of the individual within an evaluation of their professional performance. This forces the administration to label any educational employee a politically favorable or unfavorable status for continued employment regardless of their actual skill to help maintain a university’s flexibility for potential future hires.

Third, hiring new faculty members would be drastically restricted, as there is a distinct possibility that the top couple of possible picks would have a political affiliation that would increase the political difference to more than 10 percent.

The bill does not have a grandfather clause that would allow the institutions to maintain their current faculty, so a possible purge would be instated to remove “x” amount of instructors so that the mandated equilibrium could be reached. These two factors would drastically hamper the state’s intuitions from aggressively seeking and hiring the best possible candidates, drastically harming the state’s intellectual resources.

There is an escape outlet that would allow individuals to declare no party affiliation. What this does, however, is forbid them from joining a political party to aid in interacting with this nation’s political system. What has been said up until now are just the practical issues that this bill raises.

I would like to ask the readers to sit and mull the ethical concerns that such a system raises.