Enacting Intellectual Diversity

David Randall

Mr. President, honorable members of the Board, I’m delighted to be here in South Dakota. Thank you for inviting me to testify. My name is David Randall, the Director of Research at the National Association of Scholars.

I am testifying on behalf of the National Association of Scholars, a network of three thousand professors and citizens united by our commitment to academic freedom and intellectual diversity. We are delighted that the Board of Regents is implementing HB 1087, which gives these principles practical support. The Board solicited public comment on how to execute HB 1087, and in particular on how to measure intellectual diversity. The NAS offers four practical suggestions for your consideration.

First, we strongly recommend that the Board establish an Office of Public Policy Events—OPPE—on every university campus, using the language of “The Campus Intellectual Diversity Act,” a model bill drafted by Stanley Kurtz, and which I have attached as an appendix to my written testimony. The OPPE would organize and video-record intellectually diverse debates, seek out speakers who articulate widely-held perspectives on public policy issues that are poorly represented on campus, and create a publicly accessible calendar of all sponsored events.

The OPPE would also gather and publish all intellectual diversity metrics. It would make keyword counts from transcripts of its sponsored events as a way to measure intellectual diversity, as well as keyword counts of the sponsored events and syllabi of each university department. The OPPE would publish this data annually, and publicly evaluate how well each office and department has performed on these intellectual diversity metrics.

Second, in addition to setting up an OPPE, we also recommend that the Board incorporate Intellectual Diversity Rubrics into the course approval process, approval of courses to satisfy general education requirements, student course evaluations, common reading programs, annual reviews, and evaluation of departments’ strategic goals and student learning outcomes. These rubrics will help to ensure that the university provides students an intellectually diverse learning experience in all areas of the curriculum and co-curriculum.

Third, the NAS echoes several suggestions made by South Dakota legislators. We recommend that the Board of Regents replace the public universities’ Social Science General Education Requirement with requirements to take three credits of United States history, three credits of United States government, and pass a civics test drawn from the same body of questions posed to applicants for naturalization.

We also endorse the suggestion that the Board give fiscal priority to minors such as ‘American Constitutional Heritage,’ ‘Conservative Political Thought,’ ‘The Great Books,’ or ‘The Heritage of Ancient Greece and Rome’, which would enhance campus intellectual diversity.

Fourth, we recommend that South Dakota public universities should limit the scope and the powers of their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Bureaucracies, as a key way to promote intellectual diversity. These bureaucracies are overwhelmingly staffed by members of the political left, who reduce campus intellectual diversity by selecting speakers and events that are almost exclusively on the left.

We recommend that the Board ensure that no members of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion bureaucracy be appointed to the OPPE. We recommend that the Board define narrowly the mission and powers of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion bureaucracy, that it define quantifiable targets for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We also recommend that the Board appoint a commission to remove all institutional commitments to diversity, inclusion, and equity throughout the public universities, since these restrict intellectual diversity. Commitments that should be eliminated include general education requirements, requirements that job applicants describe their commitments to politicized concepts such as diversity, social justice, and sustainability, and “all-comers” policies that restrict the rights of religious student groups.

In general, universities should minimize the number of regulations, offices, and individuals that can act as chokepoints to reduce intellectual diversity.

South Dakota is the first state to champion intellectual diversity. We encourage the Board to adopt these measures so that South Dakota will become a model for the other 49 states.

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