Press Releases | Intellectual Diversity

Intellectual Diversity Bill Passes South Dakota Education Committee

Full Vote to Take Place Today; ACTA President Testifies in Favor
February 8, 2006

WASHINGTON, DC—The South Dakota House of Representatives is expected to vote today on HB 1222, a bill co-sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, which requires higher education institutions to report annually on concrete steps taken to ensure the free exchange of ideas on their campuses. The House Committee on Education yesterday approved the bill.

Anne Neal, President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), testified yesterday morning before the House Education Committee of the South Dakota Legislature, endorsing the legislation—House Bill 1222. “This bill is a national model,” Neal told the legislators. “By passing HB 1222, legislators will fulfill their responsibility to make certain that students receive the best education possible through an open and free exchange of ideas, and do so in a way that fully protects academic freedom, shared governance, and academic standards.”

“This bill understands that issues concerning intellectual diversity should be addressed first and foremost by colleges and universities themselves and that governing boards have the ultimate obligation to address those concerns,” said Neal.

HB 1222 was filed by Rep. Phyllis M. Heineman, chairman of the House Committee on Education, mandating that the South Dakota Board of Regents require institutions they govern to report on specific steps taken “to ensure and promote intellectual diversity and academic freedom.” The bill suggests a variety of measures institutions can take, but leaves the contents of the report—which will be made public—up to each reporting institution.

The bill comes in the wake of a national initiative, launched by ACTA, to ensure the free exchange of ideas on college and university campuses. In a report released last month, Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, ACTA outlined steps universities could take to encourage a mix of ideas on campus and to respond to the growing public concern about the lack of intellectual diversity. These suggestions are incorporated into the text of the South Dakota bill.

“As legislators we have many good reasons to request a report that assures taxpayers, parents, students and faculty that South Dakota’s public campuses are committed to intellectual diversity and a free exchange of ideas,” said Rep. Heineman

Rep. Gerald Lange (D-Dist. 8), who co-sponsored the bill, believes that providing an open forum for diverse points of view is rooted in the Bill of Rights itself. “It’s a no-brainer,” said the retired professor. “It’s in the Constitution.”

“Intellectual diversity and the opportunity to be exposed to a full range of ideas and philosophies is the heart and soul of a college education,” said co-sponsor Senator Lee Schoenbeck (R-Dist. 5). “College is about learning and maturing and developing through exposure to all of the ideas that unite and divide us as a society. This legislation is about self-examination by the system to ensure that no part of the college experience is lost to our students.”

Ryan Brunner, president, South Dakota State University Students’ Association, welcomed the proposed legislation. “Intellectual diversity promotes critical thinking that is an integral part of a college education. A report on intellectual diversity at universities would help identify areas of improvement, as well as praise the steps the Board of Regents has already taken. South Dakota universities have taken steps to promote intellectual diversity and a report will give us a chance to highlight those steps.”

“The legislators deserve our praise for emphasizing the importance of intellectual diversity and doing so in a way that is sensitive to the concerns of the academy,” said Neal. “By giving a mandate to the board of trustees who already are legally responsible, the legislature has properly placed the burden on the institutions themselves, rather than inserting itself in an inappropriate way.”

Neal addressed the committee at the request of Rep. Heineman who publicly thanked Neal and ACTA for providing advice and counsel on the drafting of the legislation. 

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a national higher education nonprofit dedicated to academic freedom, academic excellence and accountability. Founded in 1995, ACTA is dedicated to advancing intellectual diversity through its network of 12,000 alumni and trustees from South Dakota and all 50 states.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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