Opinion | SF-292 and the new anti-democratic bent of the Republican Party

Republican Legislators are using free speech concerns in an effort to silence college professors.


Tate Hildyard

A pair of local republicans stand against a tv monitor playing the Fox News Election Coverage at the Joni Ernst Republican watch party at the Des Moins Marriott Downtown on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020 . Republicans from across the state have gathered to watch the results of the 2020 General Election.

Shahab Khan, Opinions Columnist

Iowa Sen. Jim Carlin wants to single out and identify college professors because of their political leanings.

Or at least, that is what I can contrive from Senate File 292.  It would order Iowa’s public universities to poll faculty about their political beliefs.

Despite Carlin planning to keep the bill in subcommittee until 2022, SF 292 and bills like it will not protect the rights of conservative students. Instead, it will enable state governments to target academics based on political affiliation when it hasn’t been proven to affect student academics.

Republicans have argued that the government has an obligation to protect students from college professors who are biased against conservatives and prevent professors from indoctrinating students in “socialism.”

While studies found that a majority of conservative students self-censor themselves in fear of retaliation from their liberal peers and professors, there is nothing to show that political ideology plays a role in how a student is academically assessed.

Not surprisingly, most of the evidence tells us that academic readiness is the most important indicator of success in college. Political ideology on the other hand, plays a negligent role in how college students are evaluated.

Secondly, the argument that students are being politically indoctrinated by their professors is a farcical argument concocted by right-wing charlatans more interested in waging culture wars instead of creating environments where the expression of free ideas can take place.

There is no empirical indication that shows that students are getting their political views from professors. In fact, studies contextualize that college students get their political views from other college students.

For these reasons, it is safe to say that Republicans are greatly overstating the role of political ideology in classroom performance.

However, what cannot be overstated is that SF 292 brings into view just how anti-democratic the GOP has become in the post-Donald Trump era.

State Republican parties have been doing in the past few years. As GOP officials in many states across the country have waged a campaign of censorship against those who have spoken out against their ideals.

This current rendition of the Republican Party has been consumed by McCarthyism.

Like the demagogic Cold-War senator, Republicans have shamelessly begun to accuse democratic politicians, journalists, and college professors of turning the American populace into socialists who hate America.

If history is any guide, the next step that Republicans will take is to gain uncontested control of cultural and government institutions with no regards to the civil rights of their opponents.

In summary, the party that claims to champion liberty, limited government, and individualism has now become the party of totalitarianism, invasive government, and radicalism.

Universities across the country need to realize that there is a problem in which conservatism is discussed on college campuses.

Students that identify as conservative feel that they cannot express themselves or otherwise they would be ostracized by their peers.

That being said, the argument that college professors are responsible for silencing conservative voices is completely devoid of fact as previous incidents involving professors targeting conservative viewpoints have been isolated. They do not represent the wider practices at the regent universities.

Instead of furthering intellectual discourse and protecting conservative voices, SF 292 is a mark of government overreach that would accelerate democratic erosion in the United States.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.