Even conservatives are free to give it a try

There are some ideas so flawed and uninformed that they reach the threshold of ridiculously funny. I have found an example.

Some Iowa politician is concerned that the major Iowa universities are too liberal and he suggests that information should be collected when making hires to offer a more “balanced” perspective. The proposed bill is described by NBC News.

First, a full disclosure. I grew up and was educated in Iowa. I received a Ph.D. from one of the schools mentioned.

As part of my adult work as a college professor (Yes, I suppose I am a liberal.) I spent 17 years as ad administrator. I have been responsible for and participated in many hiring processes. The idea that any committee responsible for recommending to a department and college the individual that should be hired based on any consideration of political philosophy is beyond possibility.

We attempt to hire based on the job skills we are seeking. These attributes include research skills, existing academic accomplishments, teaching skills, potential as a grant author and such expectations.

WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO ASK. (a very small sample)

  • Are you married?
  • Would your husband try to move here?
  • Do you have children?
  • Do you attend church?
  • Do you smoke or drink?

The list goes on and on and whether an issue is on the list or not the directive is quite clear. You are looking for someone with THE BEST ACADEMIC qualifications – teaching, research, service.

Have I ever had to ask a faculty member whether he/she had asked a forbidden questions? Yes, there are some folks who have difficulty following the rule, but the focus on productivity is really the goal.  There are certainly disagreements over candidates and which individual would be most productive. I can honestly say in 39 years as a faculty member that a hiring process ever included even a comment related to whether a candidate was a Republican or Democrat.

Higher ed is a competitive meritocracy. We compete based on performance to get hired and to receive merit pay adjustments and promotion. Yes, we can become tenured and that might be assumed by some to allow one to just slide along. Again, a lack of understanding so often exists. Tenure assures only your present salary for acceptable performance. If you cannot generate good student ratings, publish, attract students, generate grant applications, you cannot compete. The salary of a 30-year-old professor who has already spent 8 years putting in time in an attempt to be hired is not that great. What would you like to be making when you are 50? The allocation is fixed and you compete to get your share year by year.

So, you compete to get into graduate school. You compete to be one of those who gets hired. You compete year by year for salary. There are no guarantees and many fail along the way. There are not a lot of jobs and the system is not always fair. Still, the opportunity is OPEN TO ALL willing to compete.

So, what about this system is biased? Beats me. The system over generates individuals capable of a reasonable level of success at every stage. Many students who might succeed do not get into grad school. Many capable graduate school graduates do not get jobs and certainly not university-level jobs. This is the reality.  It is hardly a soft system. The system does not really care if you are a rich kid or a church-goer. Your dad and mom’s money may increase the quality of the school you attend and whether or not you have to work while there. So, if this is the system selects or maybe generates a disproportionate number of liberals, so be it.

Anyone, you included, are free to give it a try – conservative, liberal or whatever. No one will ask your party affiliation. You have eight years to invest?


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