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Iowa bill proposes surveying the political beliefs of university staff

Posted at 6:15 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 19:54:53-05

A newly proposed bill in the Iowa legislature is targeting politics at state universities. But does it go too far? One university professor calls the bill "disappointing."

Republican State Sen. Jim Carlin claims he has heard too many stories from students who thought their grades suffered due to their political views. That is why he is proposing a bill that would direct the State Board of Regents to conduct a survey at Iowa public universities.

"The liberal bent is definitely there on college campuses, if somebody were to speculate on the political proportionality of composition, they think it's north of 90 percent," Carlin said.

Carlin cited a recent example of an Iowa State student.

"Recently at Iowa State we had a story that a dental student who literally was subjected to disciplinary action for voicing his agreement with a policy of the Trump administration," Carlin said.

University of Nebraska Omaha Professor Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado insists his job is to challenge his students.

"If I haven't offended you by the end of the semester, I haven't done my job," Benjamin-Alvarado said. "It's upon us as scholars and classroom instructors to present all perspectives."

Benjamin-Alvarado said if students disagree with what is being presented, it is up to them to back it up.

"An institution like a university, where we have particular standards, we don't want to sit and erode and let every Tom, Dick and Harry in the door, otherwise you are going to devolve into letting Jerry Springer come on campus," Benjamin-Alvarado said.

He is quick to point out that higher education has a greater purpose. Students are there to do the work, advance their knowledge and provide that to the classroom.

"If the broader trend in the United States points liberal, that isn't the fault of the institutions, that's merely is a reflection of what American society is about," Benjamin-Alvarado said.

Sen. Carlin said he doesn't expect to have a subcommittee on the bill this year but plans on revisiting it in 2022. Carlin said that people are talking about the bill and hopes to have more conversations about this topic.

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