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Iowa capitol building

The Iowa capitol building in Des Moines. (Photo: John Pemble/flickr/cc)

Iowa Bill Would Force Universities to Hire Right-Wing Professors

The proposed law 'could bring about a Soviet-style purge of liberal-leaning college staff in Iowa'

Nika Knight Beauchamp

As Republican-dominated state governments push frightening right-wing legislation nationwide, a GOP senator in Iowa joined the fray on Monday with a bill that would force universities to exclusively hire Republican professors and temporarily bar Democrats until "partisan balanced" is reached.

The bill, Senate File 288, "could bring about a Soviet-style purge of liberal-leaning college staff in Iowa," warned Pat Rynard in the local politics blog Iowa Starting Line. 

"The obvious impact and purpose of this bill would be to ban Democrats from getting hired anymore at Iowa colleges," Rynard continued. "If you took a survey right now, it's highly likely that Iowa professors are registered as Democrats at a much higher rate than Republican. So any new hires would be strictly limited to Republican or [n]o [p]arty voters."

Iowa state senator Mark Chelgren, who introduced the legislation, defended it to the Des Moines Register by arguing that students "should be able to go to their professors, ask opinions, and they should know publicly whether that professor is a Republican or Democrat or no-party affiliation."

Rynard, however, wondered: "What good would it do to ban a highly qualified physics professor applicant simply because they're registered as a Democrat?"

"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," said Mary Mascher, a Democratic state representative whose district includes the University of Iowa, to the Des Moines Register.

"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," Mascher added. "And I think that would be clearly discriminatory."

"The most disturbing aspect of Chelgren's legislation [...] is that it is outright fascist," Rynard noted. "Republicans haven't even spent two full months in power at the Iowa Statehouse and they're already trying to impose a one-party rule in the state in perpetuity. You're a registered Democrat? You're banned from getting a job."

A similar amendment in North Carolina, which would have required "ideological balance in faculty hiring," was blocked earlier this month.

And the Iowa bill comes only a few weeks after the Republican-dominated legislature proposed ending tenure at state institutions and destroying collective bargaining rights in two previous bills, Inside Higher Ed notes.

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