Change in U.S. pro­fessors’ political affil­i­a­tions. Grace DeSandro | Collegian

A pro­posed law in Iowa would require uni­ver­sities to hire a similar ratio of con­ser­v­ative and liberal pro­fessors, but Hillsdale College faculty and stu­dents said such a policy would not be con­ducive to a liberal arts education. 

The leg­is­lation, SF-288, would prevent Iowa’s three state-run uni­ver­sities — the Uni­versity of Iowa, Iowa State Uni­versity, and the Uni­versity of Northern Iowa — from hiring new pro­fessors if the new faculty member would “cause the per­centage of the faculty belonging to one political party to exceed by ten percent the per­centage of the faculty belonging to the other political party.”

The state senator who pro­posed the anti-par­ti­sanship leg­is­lation, Repub­lican Mark Chelgren, said in Feb­ruary he hopes it would prevent uni­ver­sities from becoming spaces without free speech.

In 1990, 42 percent of America’s college pro­fessors iden­tified as “liberal or far left,” more than double the 19 percent who iden­tified as “con­ser­v­ative or far right,” according to a study pub­lished in the Wash­ington Post. Since 1990, liberal dom­i­nance on cam­puses has grown steadily, with liberal pro­fessors making up 60 percent of faculty members in 2014, while con­ser­v­ative pro­fessor presence had fallen to 12 percent.

The com­bi­nation of liberal dom­i­nance on America’s cam­puses and violent protests like those at Mid­dlebury College, where a pro­fessor sus­tained minor injuries while escorting a guest lec­turer, and the Uni­versity of Cal­i­fornia, Berkeley, where demon­strators against Milo Yiannopoulos speaking on campus caused $100,000 in property damages, were enough to lead law­makers in Iowa to con­sider leg­is­lation to curb par­ti­sanship in higher edu­cation institutions.

As the rest of America’s schools con­tinue to slide left, however, Hillsdale College’s faculty has remained largely con­ser­v­ative, and this is most likely due to the college’s hiring process. While Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Pol­itics John Grant calls the hiring test pro­posed in Iowa “prob­lematic,” Hillsdale has one of its own.

“I think it’s a very bad idea to ask people, ‘Are you a Repub­lican; are you a Democrat?” Grant said. “It kind of goes against the whole point of liberal edu­cation where you have to be inter­ested in the pursuit of truth above all – not pri­marily com­mitted to a par­tisan position.”

While Hillsdale does not require faculty can­di­dates to reveal their political leanings, it does require them to comment on the college’s mission statement, a doc­ument which binds the college to “our Western philo­sophical and the­o­logical inher­i­tance,” of which the doc­ument claims the American Founding is the “clearest expression.”

Senior Amelia Stieren said she sup­ports the college’s requirement.

“I think it only makes sense that Hillsdale would want its faculty to support the mission statement,” Stieren said. “But no law should require uni­ver­sities to turn away qual­ified can­di­dates just because of their political leanings.”

Senior William Persson, a member of Hillsdale College Democrats, agreed, saying that so long as stu­dents are required to sign the Honor Code and comment on the mission statement, it makes sense that faculty should have a similar process.

“While I think it might be ben­e­ficial to have more polit­i­cally diverse faculty in some depart­ments, a good liberal arts edu­cation doesn’t depend on the pol­itics of the pro­fessor,” Persson said. “It’s an issue that every college faces, but it cer­tainly shouldn’t be sorted out by a law.”