House panel passes campus ‘intellectual diversity’ measure

Thursday, February 7, 2019

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota bill seeking to promote “intellectual diversity” on college campuses advanced Wednesday despite pushback from the Board of Regents, university presidents and student representatives.

The House Education Committee voted 9-6 to send the measure to the chamber’s floor. Republican Rep. Sue Peterson urged support for her bill, saying it would “preserve our First Amendment rights on college campuses.”

“It’s time to begin recreating the foundation upon which our freedoms are based,” Peterson said. “That foundation is a firm knowledge of the history of these great United States of America and the government given to us by our founders and by almighty God.”

But Paul Beran, chief executive officer and executive director of the Board of Regents, said it would create unfunded testing and reporting mandates for the state’s six public universities. He said the measure obscures the regents’ current “clear” free speech policy.

University of South Dakota Student Government Association Vice President Madison Green said students “overwhelmingly believe” there’s no free speech issue on campus and that the legislation is misguided.

“Ultimately, we view this bill as unnecessary and repetitive,” Green said.

South Dakota College Republicans President Trevor Gunlicks said the measure is vital to current and future generations of students. South Dakota has a problem with intellectual diversity on college campuses, said Gunlicks, a South Dakota State University student.

“I have had first and secondhand accounts and witnessed and heard many stories of members of my organization over the past year-and-a-half being condemned for their beliefs,” he said.