Press "Enter" to skip to content

Republicans Abandon “Diversity”, Demand Closure of Diversity Offices and Hiring of Conservative Professors

The Board of Regents spent the day hearing from Republican legislators’ out-of-state conservative allies who jetted here to whine they don’t receive the same civil rights protections for their chosen opinions as actual oppressed minorities in the United States receive against active racism, sexism, and other forms of genuine, unjust discrimination.

Let us be clear from the top: Suppression of intellectual diversity on South Dakota campuses is a figment of the imagination of Republican Fox News watchers and their out-of-state conservative allies. It didn’t exist when legislators passed and the Governor signed House Bill 1087; it doesn’t exist now.

Regental President and conservative Republican Kevin Schieffer said so. Actual South Dakota students said so. As was the case last winter during Legislative debate over their out-of-state-influenced and fake intellectual-diversity bill, not one person speaking to the Board of Regents today provided any evidence of actual institutional suppression of political views:

But Board of Regents President Kevin Schieffer said he didn’t think South Dakota’s university system had a problem. Schieffer, who called himself a “conservative Republican” during the hearing, served as chief of staff to Republican Sen. Larry Pressler.

“I do think there is an issue out there,” Schieffer said. “But I do worry about blowing this out of proportion.”

“I just haven’t seen it in South Dakota,” he added.

…While some students testified that conservatives self-censor their beliefs because of fears of retaliation, other students testified that there was already intellectual diversity. Allyson Monson, the South Dakota State University Student Association president, said the student union contained signs from groups promoting meetings and events from across the political spectrum [Jonathan Ellis, “Regents Grapple with How to Implement Intellectual Diversity Law,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2019.06.26].

But the complete absence of one bogeyman doesn’t stop certain South Dakota Republicans from attacking another bogeyman: campus diversity offices. Even as they claim to be fighting for diversity, seven Republican legislators submitted a letter threatening to shut down our public universities’ diversity offices unless they stop promoting cultural diversity and instead promulgate the seven Republicans legislators’ preferred, narrow, assimilationist (and yes, whisper it with me, white-privileged) worldview:

As such, the legislature will be closely monitoring the reform of these offices and programs and scrutinizing their expenditures.

Reforms should provide requirements that 1.) add conservative and intellectually diverse leadership to Diversity Offices and programs, 2.) shift from politically driven activity to education about cultural diversity and the benefits to all citizens of the orderly assimilation of people of other nations seeking better life in America, 3.) our heritage of welcoming people of other cultures who come here legally and follow the law and 4.) the enrichment provided by diverse peoples coming together in our nation and becoming one (E Pluribus Unum.)

It is our hope that the Diversity Offices and related programming will make the proper shift. However, if the current trend continues and Diversity Offices are not reformed to include recommendations in this and the other letters mentioned below, the legislature may be forced to explore options such as Tennessee has adopted that remove funding for these offices all together [Rep. Sue Peterson, Rep. Steven Haugaard, Rep. Lee Qualm, Sen. Jim Stalzer, Sen. Brock Greenfield, Sen. Kris Langer, and Sen. Ryan Maher, letter to Board of Regents, 2019.06.12; published as Attachment 12 to Regental Agenda Item 2, 2019.06.26].

It should be clear: the South Dakota Republicans and their myriad out-of-state conservative allies pushing “intellectual diversity” aren’t really seeking diversity. They certainly aren’t seeking equal rights and protections for all students, faculty, and citizens. They are seeking state support for their failing worldview in an effort to punish liberals, silence facts they find objectionable, and make everyone think like them.

Not all Republicans are that dumb or deceitful or determined co-opt the mantle of “oppressed” from the minorities they oppress. Rep. Scyller Borglum (R-32/Rapid City) read her colleagues’ threat to close diversity offices and said that would be unwise:

While I understand the need and commitment to maintain an efficient bottom line, this decision would be short term savings with long-term consequences. The cultural and diversity offices on campus expose South Dakota students to a variety of people and opportunities outside of our great state. Not only that, but employers who can offer our students tremendous opportunities require that graduates have exposure to an understanding of different cultures. If we eliminate these offices across the campuses we will lose potential employers as we have seen with SD Mines losing Shell and Dow chemical. A broader concern would be the potential loss of accreditation for our universities as was seen with USD and SDSU. We want our students to enjoy a long-term investment in their degrees and diplomas. Let’s look for other ways to positively affect the bottom line [Rep. Scyller Borglum, e-mail to Board of Regents, 2019.06.18; Attachment 14 to Regental Agenda 2, 2019.06.26].

Senator VJ Smith (R-7/Brookings) seemed taken aback by his Republican colleagues’ demand that the Regents exclusively hire conservatives to fill new teaching positions in history and civics (no, really, Peterson and friends say that—read page 3, Improvement Item #4 in their June 12 letter) and add a minor in Conservative Political Thought (Improvement Item #2). He said in testimony today that he had voted for HB 1087 on the assurance that the Legislature had worked with the Regents on the bill and that he didn’t intend his vote to authorize poking into books, syllabi, and classrooms.

Senator Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton) read her Republican colleagues’ ideological intimidation tactics and let them have multiple barrels:

This is a precarious situation.  I don’t envy you your positions in walking this tightrope of quantifying reportable actions to be taken by our campuses to ensure “intellectual diversity.”

I came here to say what thousands of students, the college administrators, the BOR office, and maybe even a few of you cannot say in public:  Some can’t say it because they’re not here. Some can’t say it because their jobs or degrees depend on telling their superiors what they want to hear. The campuses can’t say it because their budgets depend on pleasing the legislators who are fueling this campaign and these institutions.  You can’t even say it because if you anger the Governor too much she’ll find someone more to her liking to replace you on this board. So I came here to say it for every one of you who cannot. And to say it more bluntly.  It’s your job to be diplomatic. It’s my job to be clear and to the point.

So here goes:  I find Pages 96-102 of the Appendix—the list of demands by GOP House and Senate leadership to be disrespectful, repugnant, embarrassing, presumptuous, shameful, close-minded, and a violent interference upon our educational institutions. It cannot stand in the record without being challenged.  The legislators that signed that had every right to give you their opinions.  They have absolutely no right to act as if they could unilaterally expand the language of the law to the suggestions they have there.  Nowhere in the law does it define  “conservative thought” as intellectual diversity.  I find their hubris in deigning to speak for the entire legislature discouraging and infuriating. They do NOT speak for the entire legislature. Many of us on both sides of the aisle would find their demands, substituting their judgment for that of the institutions, as appalling as I do.

That being said…Intellectual diversity goes both ways.  Is it code for conservative or liberal?  Be careful what you wish for.  For instance, the economics departments of our schools are highly conservative and lack diversity. Based on data collected from every school, in the last month, not one offers economic courses in political economy or that extend beyond mainstream theory. Perhaps these guidelines would force us to hire more social economists who put economic value on factors that mainstream economists do not. Perhaps there would even be a union organizer among them!

The love/hate relationship that conservatives have with government mandates never ceases to amaze me.  Mandates are vilified if they try to assure that employees are treated fairly.  But they are enthusiastically embraced if they can be used to enforce social mores.

Now the legislature has put on your plate yet another government mandate: collection and reporting of data that will only be fodder for more arguments.

Victimhood has become very popular these days.  It seems like everyone is selling victimhood to get my support for whatever they are selling.  The very idea that conservative thought needs to become a protected class in the academic world I find twisted and ironic, especially in this state where conservatives control every lever of state government.

Today we all have the luxury of being able to roll our eyes at “political correctness.” Instead of doing that, I wish we could appreciate the advances we have made against  discrimination. Please don’t let SD fall away from those protections in order to salve the hurt feelings of those who are learning, ever so slowly, that intolerance of any kind is not tolerable in America today.

Today I’m praying for brave souls all throughout this system to stand strong against these political winds. I’m praying that SD survives this assault on our academic freedom. Don’t stop protecting those who have historically been discriminated against and still are today.  Don’t allow South Dakota to be used as a guinea pig or national model for dismantling academic freedom. Don’t legitimize hate, proselytizing, state religion, or state political party on our campuses any more than they already are.  Please don’t back down from the truly honorable mission of providing an excellent academic environment and a truly free place for ALL students to attain their very best [emphasis mine; Sen. Susan Wismer, remarks to Board of Regents, as prepared and submitted to Dakota Free Press,  2019.06.26].

Pay close attention to Senator Wismer’s last paragraph (which, according to the ACLU’s Libby Skarin, was met with the first applause of the Regents’ hearing). The Republicans are lying to cover up their bald-faced Big-Brother intentions. But even if there an honest Republican with honest concerns that conservatives are an oppressed minority on our college campus, Senator Wismer’s final paragraph captures the philosophical flaw in the argument for “intellectual diversity.”

There is no wrong race, ethnicity, sex, or gender identity. There is thus no harm in protecting racial, ethnic, sexual, or gender-identity diversity: an institution that adopts “diversity” along those lines as a core value does not end up protecting a harmful race or sex. In fact, since some people (racists, bigots, Nazis, Steve Haugaard) wrongly view certain racial, ethnic, sexual, or gender-identity characteristics as a reason to harm certain people, we have a moral obligation to protect diversity along those lines.

There are some wrong intellectual positions—white supremacy, fascism, the Laffer Curve. There is thus potential harm in protecting “intellectual diversity”: if an institution adopts “intellectual diversity” as a core value, it faces the risk of obliging itself to support falsehood and to accept participants who reject and undermine its other core values, like democratic pluralism, inclusive dialogue, and honest intellectual inquiry. We have no moral obligation to give equal respect to ideas that are wrong.

Even if they meant it, Republicans could not win their argument for protection for their intellectual diversity. People who believe Donald Trump is God’s instrument of divine justice are not an oppressed class entitled to special hiring protections at our public universities or minors or seminars or dorm programming telling others to applaud and assimilate those conservative predilections. They’re just people with bad ideas, harmful ideas, who will have to deal with the fact that they will lose reasonable, fact-based arguments with smart people.

But the radical Republicans speaking today lost the diversity argument for themselves by showing they don’t really want diversity. In an already conservative state (at least as expressed in elections and the Legislature), those brittle Republicans are demanding that public universities shut down their diversity offices and only hire conservative professors. They want one People, one Party, one pure way of thinking—their way of thinking.

And in Sue Peterson’s and Steve Haugaard’s case (and that of their out-of-state conservative allies), “thinking” needs to go in the same mock quotes as “diversity.”

31 Comments

  1. David Newquist 2019-06-26

    Early during my tenure at NSU, the American Association of University Professors had Northern and South Dakota State under censure for actions against professors that violated their rights to free speech and due process. Eventually the sanctions were lifted from the campuses and placed on the Regents, which quickly led to a settlement and a lifting of the sanctions. The effect of the sanctions is to let prospective professors and students know that the sanctioned institutions do not meet the standards of intellectual freedom and integrity that an accredited university is expected to meet. Many of the points covered in this account indicate that people who are trying to influence the system are steering it toward a massive censure.

    During my time as a professor, we were aware of the political leanings of our colleagues, but any attempts at political indoctrination were rare and usually squelched before it became an issue. Those who complain that campuses intimidate conservative viewpoints are usually complaining about the application of freedom of thought and speech, equality, and just treatment that are the essential tools of the intellectual profession. When such complaints were made, the professional organizations asked the complainants to present their evidence of discrimination, and it usually was an instance of being peevish because the complainants had been chided for being factually wrong or stupid.

    If South Dakota wishes to get out of the higher education business, it can just pursue those courses of action Ms. Wisner warns against. There are plenty of professors and college graduates willing to help in that regard. We need no political hackery in higher education.

  2. Senator Stace Nelson (R-Fulton) 2019-06-26

    A “conservative Republican” who worked for Pressler? Pressler was NEVER conservative. No “conservative Republican” would allow our college costs explode and the war on freedom of (conservative) speech and political correct idiocy we have seen.

  3. grudznick 2019-06-26

    This could make some of you libbies choke on your gravy taters in the morning, but I agree with Mr. Nelson whole-heartedly on the issue of Messrs. Pressler and Schieffer not being real conservatives. The big galoot got this one right, even though he votes with Ms. Wismer the majority of the time.

  4. Edwin Arndt 2019-06-26

    We have no moral obligation to give equal respect to ideas
    that are wrong.
    Well Cory, what’s right and what’s wrong is generally
    not universally agreed upon. That’s why there are disputes.
    E.G., I just don’t understand why a seemingly intelligent
    person like you doesn’t agree with me all the time.
    Just an observation.

  5. Porter Lansing 2019-06-26

    Sen. Nelson and grudznick of course agree. Because they want one People, one Party, one pure way of thinking—their way of thinking. Their political party controls every part of SD government, yet they portray themselves as the unrecognized “victim”. The victims in South Dakota aren’t those who’ve been discriminated against because of race, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender-identity. The true-blue, ain’t no doubt about it victims, in the attempt to create diversity for all, are Nelson and grudznick. Poor babies.

  6. grudznick 2019-06-26

    That sounds wonderful, Mr. Lansing, except that Mr. Nelson and I do not think the same. Except I bet you a waffle with 3 scoops of butter that he will agree he and I do not think the same. Send my waffle to Tally’s Silver Spoon on Friday morning, please.

  7. Porter Lansing 2019-06-26

    You think very much the same. You’re Republicans in a state where Democrats control nothing. Recognizing and accepting the rights of minorities takes away none of your power. Professors are hired without regard to political leanings. You don’t get to change that. Learn to share, children.

  8. Roger Cornelius 2019-06-26

    Who is the higher power in South Dakota politics that gets to decide who is and who isn’t a conservative republican?
    What is this debate really about?
    Is it about silencing those liberal professors, or is it about giving the fascist republicans a bigger soap box?

  9. Donald Pay 2019-06-26

    Although this is off track from Cory’s post, the issue of Sen. Pressler’s political ideology interests me. Pressler got into his first race as a challenge to establishment Republicans, whom he beat to win the nomination. At that point he was less an ideologue and more a younger generation, good government non-ideologue trying to rebuild a Republican Party that was brain dead and likely to lose because Nixon’s illegality had tarnished the Republican brand. Pressler came out as a mild opponent of the Oahe Project, gaining the favor of United Family Farmers, a non-partisan group of conservatives and liberals. Was Pressler conservative? Yes, on some issues. Was he liberal? Yes, on some issues. He seemed to vote for his district and what he thought were the best policies.

    As the Republican Party became more conservative in the 1980s, Pressler began to fall in line. He was never an extremist, but he became less flexible on issues. When Pressler started to lust after a committee chairmanship in the Senate, he veered hard right, and his voting record changed signficantly, becoming quite conservative. That’s when he started labeling people as “liberals,” while labeling himself a “commonsense conservative.”

    So, was Pressler a conservative

  10. Debbo 2019-06-27

    Killer post Cory!

    “since some people (racists, bigots, Nazis, Steve Haugaard) wrongly view certain racial, ethnic, sexual, or gender-identity characteristics as a reason to harm certain people, we have a moral obligation to protect diversity along those lines.”

    As Porter was saying too, the people who hold all the power, the SDGOP, just look silly when they play the victim card.

    Sen. Wismer is my newest hero.

    At its core this is completely unAmerican and brings shame on the USA. Of course, the GOP, in enabling Wilted Weenie’s conspiring with Pootie to rig elections and cozying up to murderers like MBS in Saudi Arabia and Kim Jong Un in North Korea has already deeply diminished the USA.

  11. Donald Pay 2019-06-27

    David Newquist points to a dark time in South Dakota. Political hacks, special interests and the heads of the institutions of higher education began an attack on professors for researching legitimate questions about the economic and environmental impacts of the Oahe Irrigation Project, a big federal boondoggle project. It was an attack by the South Dakota “establishment” against science and economic research, against facts that contradicted establishment thinking and especially against publishing or speaking about those facts. The attack was waged by establishment Republicans and establishment Democrats against professors at state institutes of higher education. Because it came from the state’s political establishment it was especially dangerous.

    That 1970s attack on freedom in South Dakota was not limited to stripping academic freedom from professors. There was an attack on journalists who didn’t toe the establishment line. There was an attack on free and fair elections.

    The present attack on academic freedom seems similar in many ways, but at least the Democrats are not participating in it this time, and are actively opposing it.

  12. Mary Perpich 2019-06-27

    Susan Wismer you are my hero and I am sure University employees feel the same. And David Newquist I remember when SDSU was censured. I was in the Faculty Senate during this time. And that censure cost us faculty and staff who would not take a job because if it. We cannot go back to those days.

  13. TAG 2019-06-27

    Anti-intellectualism places a person or a party or a ruling body squarely on the wrong side of history. There are plenty of examples that you all know, but I won’t mention. Being afraid of the truth is just as shameful as being afraid of a fair fight. Truth trumps propaganda, and makes people harder to control.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-06-27

    “chided for being factually wrong or stupid”—conservatives can’t stand that, can they, David?

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-06-27

    Senator Nelson indulges in the word game of trying to define his colleagues out of the debate.

    “Conservative” Republicans also would not be imposing ideological hiring quotas and thought control on the universities.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-06-27

    Edwin, you aren’t suggesting that you accept relativism, are you? You certainly aren’t responding to my distinction of real cultural diversity from the fake ideological diversity the Republicans are using as cover for their conservative thought police plan.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-06-27

    Porter makes an excellent point that asking about political beliefs in the hiring process will get the universities in trouble. Rep. Peterson seemed to acknowledge that she’s on thin ice in terms of federal non-discrimination hiring law… and then went ahead and stepped through that ice:

    Asked by the board whether the legislators are suggesting hiring committees ask candidates about their politics, Peterson said, “I think you have to be careful in terms of those types of questions that you ask that they’re properly asked.”

    She added, “I think you can tell (political leaning) by the works that are submitted by candidates” [Sarah Mearhoff, “As SD Universities Grapple with New Intellectual Diversity Law, Legislators Suggest Tracking Faculty Political Beliefs,” Jamestown Sun, 2019.06.26].

    Rep. Peterson is advocating blatant violation of employment law to benefit her ideological agenda.

  18. Porter Lansing 2019-06-27

    As per Jon Hansen’s statement. Someone on the contrary blog noted that Hansen compared his attempt at getting USD funding for a Catholic group denied to a non-religious group that got funding accepted. That’s not an equal comparison is it? Mr. Hansen; are there any religious groups at USD that get school funding? {When I was there I’d have hoped for a well funded Baha’i group so I could join and sail to Fiji with Loggins & Messina, in the summer.} :0)

  19. Debbo 2019-06-27

    There’s a reason that tyrants and tyrant-wanna-bes always attack intellectuals ( any thinking people) first. As others have said, and the Liar-in-Chief daily demonstrates, truth is the enemy. The SDGOP is making that crystal clear with their “diversity” BS.

    Mao knew it, Stalin knew it, Pol Pot knew it, Kim Jong Un knows it, Erdogan knows it, Pootie knows it, Wilted Weenie knows it, Chinless Wonder McTurtle and all the GOP leadership, including red states like SD, knows it.

    An ignorant and fearful populace is a manageable populace. It is the responsibility of every patriotic American to to be as unmanageable as we possibly can.

  20. Porter Lansing 2019-06-27

    Hear, hear Debbo. Attacking the truth is the MAGA MANTRA … aka “Fake News”.

  21. Edwin Arndt 2019-06-27

    Cory, I just googled relativism. Just deciding on a definition
    would take way too long and take way too much space.Cultural
    relativism was described thusly: what is morally right in one culture
    can be morally wrong in another culture. Therefore, with cultural diversity,
    it would be fairly easy to have opposing ideas of what is morally right.
    All kinds of fodder for debate there. According to history, different cultures
    don’t always mesh so well.

    I don’t claim to have the right to force everyone to think and pray
    like I do. But I do have the right to try to convince them.

  22. Porter Lansing 2019-06-27

    Edwin, you just get smarter every day. I can’t believe there was once I didn’t agree with you. :)

  23. Edwin Arndt 2019-06-27

    The reason Porter, is that I
    work very hard at it.

  24. mike from iowa 2019-06-27

    But I do have the right to try to convince them.

    I’m guessing it is more along the lines of some right to try and change them.

  25. Donald Pay 2019-06-27

    Jon Hansen appears steeped in fake victimhood wrapped in a not very convincing attempt at crisis acting. Really, USD decided not to violate the Constitution to give your religious group taxpayer funds! The horror!!! Now they call for an Inquisition. People like Jon Hansen are not giving a good representation of religion.

    Here’s the deal. Is USD supposed to put a fat check into the offering plate so that you can have your personal madrasa? Wouldn’t they have to do that for every religion and to everyone’s personal faith? That could get mighty expensive. Should Muslim students get stipend, too, or do we poor taxpayers just get to subsidize Catholics, who, let’s admit, worship in ornate tax-exempt buildings? I thought conservatives were supposed to be, you know, conservative with taxpayer funds. The Catholic Church has a lot of money. Here’s an idea: if we are going to subsidize religion, let’s start taxing the wealth stored by religious institutions. But that might be as unconstitutional as giving your little church group at taxpayer subsidy. Here’s another idea: how about Catholic and other religions provide their own funds to serve students of their faith. I see that here in Madison, Wisconsin. Catholic and Lutheran outreach to students has been going on at the University of Wisconsin for over a century and a half. And I’ve seen evangelical groups doing the same. Is your religion so lazy that it can’t fund itself?

  26. marvin kammerer 2019-06-28

    donald, i can say as a catholic i agree with you that churches should pay property taxes, it would help to bring us back to reality.

  27. David Newquist 2019-06-28

    I have sat on dozens of search committees for hiring professors and I cannot recall one case for which candidates’ political affiliations came up. We spent the time studying and discussing the record of accomplishment in their discipline as reflected in their credential files and their records of performance in their recommendations to see how they would fit the position to be filled. That’s why I have trouble seeing how an office or officer of diversity fits into this process. The rules of equal opportunity employment seemed too suffice. The regents are remiss in not explaining to critics how the review process in hiring actually works.

    Legislators have written to the Regents in the above referenced letter this statement:
    “Research confirms that numerous disciplines are comprised of professors with
    a narrow ideological viewpoint or commitment to a political agenda. To ensure a healthy balance, action is needed to counter the one-sided views presented by
    a field populated with a skewed professorate.”

    That is a gross misstatement of what research has found. When formulating a conclusion about what research has found, the first task is review it and summarize the results of that review. The research into a potential liberal bias in academe has found that it is a very complicated subject that cannot be described without multiple qualifications. One thing the research has pointed out is that the political orientation of professors in many disciplines has no relevance or effect on how they present their subject matter. And in those cases where political perspective has relevance, research shows that the professors because of adherence to the rules of scholarship do not present the material from “a narrow ideological viewpoint or commitment to a political agenda.”

    The charge that some fields are “populated with a skewed professorate” is not something research has found.

    The letter in which those accusations are made is a case in point of why people who do not engage in scholarly inquiry or demonstrate gross incompetence or fraud when they do are not qualified to influence the way higher education is run.

    For an example of a qualified examination of liberal bias in education, one might start with: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/02/27/research-confirms-professors-lean-left-questions-assumptions-about-what-means

  28. mike from iowa 2019-06-28

    If liberal arts horrify wingnuts so much, why aren’t there any conservative arts schools and curriculums?

    I’m guessing liberal arts is another dog whistle for right wingers wanting taxpayer dollars for religious schools.

  29. leslie 2019-07-05

    Wow, wow, wow !!! :(

    SD REGENTS have an opportunity to show they are not as one-dimensional and corrupt as they have shown themselves in the Rounds/Daugaard administrations. And sigh, Susan Wismer gave us the opportunity to be our 1st female governor. What an opportunity.

    Imagine kristi’s “oppinion” here. This is a gigantic issue for our fledgling state. Trumpists are truly rolling in slop and glee in this state.

  30. Bill Poppen 2019-09-01

    It has always been my contention that what is needed on a college campus and in college classrooms is intellectual legitimacy, not “intellectual diversity.” It is my understanding that a professor from Hillsdale College is prominent in promoting the conservative movement toward intellectual diversity in public colleges. How ironic! If there is one college in the United States that does NOT promote diversity of economic thought it is Hillsdale.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.