The Governor is supposed to serve in part as a “cheerleader-in-chief” for her state and its august institutions. But yesterday she issued a baldly political press release declaring that South Dakota’s public universities stink and “challenged” the Board of Regents to wrest our floundering schools from the muck of diversity, equity, and poisonous liberal ideologies.
Evidently trying to drown out Governor Ron DeSantis’s official announcement of his bid to be the “anti-woke” President (and you don’t have to shout very hard to drown out such an embarrassingly botched Twitter rollout), Noem projected her Trumpist truthlessness onto our noble public university professors:
Across the nation, higher education is in a state of crisis. For the last several decades, many states have allowed liberal ideologies to poison their universities and colleges. Once a hotbed of ideological diversity, debate, and the pursuit of truth and discovery, many institutions have become one-sided, close-minded, and focused on feelings rather than facts. Professors have discarded reason and logic in favor of subjectivity and relativism. Higher education leaders have rejected universal truth and knowledge and replaced it with “individual truth” [Gov. Kristi Noem, press release, 2023.05.25].
Kristi Noem might have heard me making an argument like that against some education professors at SDSU back in those good old days, but “discarded reason and logic in favor of subjectivity and relativism” reads like a condition for winning Donald Trump’s endorsement. It’s Kristi Noem and her party who have been abandoning objective journalism, science, and shared truth and morality in favor of “alternative facts” and a literally deadly nihilist relativism.
Noem says the Regents have to “revitalize” our public universities, cut costs, raise graduation rates, ban drag shows, stop using students’ and staff’s preferred pronouns, make everyone take U.S. history and government, and stop taking money from China. To help that revitalization, Noem says she has set up a hotline—605-773-5916—that students, parents, taxpayers, and faculty can call to blow the whistle on “concerns about institutions of higher education”. (Now don’t get crazy and flood that hotline with calls from PrankDial.com, or Noem will have you arrested and force you to plead guilty to disorderly conduct.)
Noem ends her release with a reminder that she just appointed two new Regents on May 2 and an ominous note that “She will be making additional BOR appointments in the near future.” Hmm… the Regents’ webpage says the only Regent whose term is up this year is Jim Thares—is Noem warning the Regents that if they don’t heel to her call to Hillsdalify South Dakota’s public universities the way DeSantis is Hillsdalifying his New College in Florida, she’ll invoke SDCL 3-17-1 and remove the Regents for gross incompetency?
But for now, potential scholars, you’ve heard it straight from the Governor of South Dakota: if we generously read her words as an honest institutional assessment rather than a baldly political pitch for radical right-wing indoctrination, South Dakota’s universities are inferior and require a lengthy and complicated reform process before they can be worth your time and tuition dollars. Thanks a lot, Kristi, for that great marketing assist.
Update 12:35 CDT: For the record, let’s spotlight the language Noem used to deride South Dakota’s public universities specifically:
Less than half our students are even graduating, compared to 63% nationally. Students are also graduating with more debt and lower prospects at obtaining gainful employment. 43% of students who completed a college degree were underemployed after graduation. Countless students have been set up for failure – and charged tens of thousands of dollars for their trouble.
As a country, we should be ashamed of this. As a state, South Dakota can show the nation what quality higher education is supposed to look like.
I am charging the Board of Regents with the responsibility of revitalizing the institutions under its control and leading the nation by example. We must work together to ensure that we are providing an education that truly prepares our kids for the world they are entering… [Noem, 2023.05.25].
Noem said nothing about South Dakota’s public universities leaving graduates in debt, underemployed, and “set up for failure” just last month, when she claimed South Dakota’s universities provide “top-tier education” that “help[s] you succeed in future careers!”
Did South Dakota’s public universities really collapse from “top-tier education” to setting countless students up for failure in one spring month? Or do Kristi Noem’s beliefs simply flip and flop with the changing needs of each day’s political attention cycle?