Recent abuses by professors in the state of Iowa have lawmakers at the Capitol considering eliminating tenure at the regent universities. A bill doing just that advanced through an Iowa House subcommittee on Tuesday.
Republican State Rep. Dustin Hite, who chairs the Education Committee, said two important questions need to be answered. One, how many faculty in Iowa are tenured at the three regent universities. And, two, what constitutes “for cause” when it comes to dismissing a tenured professor.
“Does that include violating students’ constitutional rights,” he asked. “I think it ought to. If a person can get out of a murder charge because police violated their constitutional rights, then they ought not to keep their job in the state of Iowa.”
Democrat State Rep. Mary Mascher said she is concerned that Iowa universities would lose their “best and brightest.”
“Why would anybody want to come here,” she said, noting Iowa would be the only state in the nation with such a law.
Mascher pointed to the work of researchers throughout the COVID pandemic and said Iowa has “some of the best in the nation.”
Republican State Rep. John Wills said Iowa has to look at what it is allowing to happen on universities. Professors, he said, are mandating students do things a certain way or believe certain things and if they do not they’ll be kicked out of class.
“I believe that they’re doing that because they feel protected by tenure,” he said.
Republican Rep. Skyler Wheeler, who chaired the subcommittee, brought up the Iowa State professor who warned students they would be dismissed if they disagreed with her about homosexual marriage, abortion or Black Lives Matter.
Representatives of the Regents said incidents happen and they “absolutely” do not want them to happen and it is wrong. They assured lawmakers that in every instance where it has happened, the institution has taken action to make sure it won’t happen again.
“Respectfully sir, at Iowa State University, did that professor get fired for her comments about conservative students and certain values,” Wheeler asked.
He was told she wasn’t fired but there were actions taken.
“You understand how that affects how people look at our institutions and how it affects students that don’t agree with that professor,” Wheeler said. “Those students, No. 1, feel like they’re going to be silenced all of the time. No. 2, what remedy do they have if the university simply says, ‘you know, sorry, please don’t do it again.’
“In the real world, if you mess up, you mess up that bad, you get fired, you get canned and it’s going to be hard to get another job.”
Wheeler ended the meeting saying he and Wills would pass the bill through subcommittee and continue the conversation.