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Iowa Republican wants party affiliation to be considered in college faculty hiring

Detail view of the Iowa Hawkeyes school logo on a band drum during a game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. (Getty Images/Joe Robbins)

An Iowa Republican wants to ensure his state's colleges and universities are perfectly diverse — when it comes to the political affiliations of faculty members.

According to the Des Moines Register, a bill introduced in the Iowa state Senate by Sen. Mark Chelgren (R) would purportedly create more political diversity among faculty by initiating a hiring freeze until the number of registered Republicans and Democrats on staff are within 10 percent of one another.

The bill would allow for Iowa's state board of regents to inquire about — and consider — a potential faculty member's political affiliation during the hiring process.

"I'm under the understanding that right now they can hire people because of diversity," Chelgren told the Register. "They want to have people of different thinking, different processes, different expertise. So this would fall right into category with what existing hiring practices are."

Professors would be able to register as "no-party" in order to be considered for employment without necessarily choosing a political party affiliation, the Register reported.

According to the Iowa secretary of state's office, voters can participate in a caucus or primary election only of the party with which they are registered. However, voters are able to change their party affiliation.

The secretary of state's office explains:

The only time that party affiliation is important in terms of voting is in the case of a political party caucus or a primary election. In those cases, voters must be registered with the political party whose caucus or primary they wish to participate in. Voters have the right to change their affiliation and then participate in the caucus or primary election on the day those events are being held. (Ex. Someone who is registered as a Republican may participate in the Democratic primary election by changing his or her political affiliation to Democratic on the day the primary election is held and vice versa.)

"We have an awful lot of taxpayer dollars that go to support these fine universities," Chelgren said. "[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, and therefore they can expect their answers to be given in as honest a way possible. But they should have the ability to ask questions of professors of different political ideologies."

But opponents of the bill have argued that it could be discriminatory or unconstitutional.

"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," Rep. Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, told the 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. And I think that would be clearly discriminatory."

The Iowa Starting Line, a left-leaning political blog, referred to Chelgren's legislation as a "Soviet-style purge of liberal-leaning college staff in Iowa."

Pat Rynard wrote for the Starting Line:

And party affiliation on your voter card rarely translates to activism or outspokenness in the classroom. What good would it do to ban a highly qualified physics professor applicant simply because they’re registered as a Democrat?

[...]

The most disturbing aspect of Chelgren’s legislation, however, is that it is outright fascist. 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.

"Maybe Chelgren should actually open up and read that little U.S. Constitution pamphlet that he loves to wave around on the Senate floor during debate," Rynard wrote. "Because these days he’s sounding a lot more like a Soviet dictator than an actual American."

One last thing…
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