When is a bill on “intellectual diversity” not really about diversity? When Republicans promote it.
House Bill 1087 purports to “promote intellectual diversity at certain institutions of higher learning.” The South Dakota Board of Regents already has policies supporting intellectual diversity and academic freedom, not to mention the First Amendment. Yet just as extremist right-wing Representative Kaleb Weis feels the need to attack public school teachers with unnecessary legislation, HB 1087’s right-wing Republican House sponsors—Sue Peterson, Speaker Haugaard, and Majority Leader Qualm—feel the need for another bill that misbrands public universities as anti-free-speech ogres.
Speaking of free speech, let us not forget that Speaker Haugaard just lost a lawsuit (that will cost taxpayers money) because he booted a woman from the House floor for exercising her First Amendment rights.
For all their prattlings about free speech, the sponsors really don’t plow any ground not already covered by Regental policy on free speech. Like last year’s alt-right wedge bill, HB 1087 just creates more paperwork for universities to document their respect for the First Amendment (a respect better established and practiced than Speaker Haugaard’s, but does he have to write a report? No!).
Section 10 exceeds last year’s silly alt-right shield bill by requiring the Regents to offer equal employment opportunity “without discrimination based on intellectual diversity.” Since HB 1087 lightly defines “intellectual diversity” as encouraging “a variety of ideological and political perspectives,” Section 10 appears to require our public universities to offer jobs to avowed Stalinists, Nazis, climate science deniers, adherents to orgone and phlogiston theories, and other people who bring intellectual diversity by being flat wrong.
But then HB 1087 forgets where it started and tacks on a civics requirement. Section 11 requires every Regental undergrad to take three credits of U.S. history and three credits of U.S. government to graduate.
Pause there—even tech-focused School of Mines requires its future engineers and geologists to take six credits in social sciences to “understand the organization, potential, and diversity of the human community….” U.S. History (HIST 151 or 152) and American Government (POLS 100) are among a dozen courses offered toward this general education goal. Cultural anthropology, geography, international relations, psychology, courtship and marriage—within this single requirement, Mines offers more intellectual diversity that the intellectual diversity bill, which prescribes that every student take the same two courses.
Section 12 goes similarly civics bonkers, requiring that every Regental undergrad take a civics test to graduate. Like Governor Noem, HB 1087’s sponsors would borrow the USCIS Civics Test. Like Governor Noem, HB 1087’s sponsors provide no funding for the test and refuse to let the Regents charge to recoup the expense of administering the test. One-upping (or fifteen-upping?) Governor Noem, HB 1087 Section 12 would require college students to answer 85% of the questions correctly. (Don’t worry, students: Section 12 lets you take the test as often as you want, and in pieces, so you could memorize five answers at a time and come in and answer a new five each week.)
So HB 1087 wants intellectual diversity, but it’s going to make everyone take the same classes and the same test. Sections 11 and 12 promote the opposite of intellectual diversity. South Dakota Constitution Article 3 Section 21 says “No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” HB 1087 is thus unconstitutional.
Some Republicans can’t even write bills right, let alone grasp true intellectual diversity and the First Amendment. Let’s keep the Legislature out of our classrooms: kill House Bill 1087 and let the Regents handle providing diverse learning experiences for our undergraduates.