WASHINGTON, DC—The South Dakota House Committee on Education today approved House Bill 1222, a bill which requires higher education institutions to report annually on concrete steps taken to ensure the free exchange of ideas on their campuses. The vote came after testimony by ACTA president Anne Neal, who called the bill a national model. “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,” Neal told the legislators.
“This bill is a national model,” Neal continued, “since it 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.”
HB 1222 was filed by Rep. Phyllis M. Heineman, chairman of the House Committee on Education, and mandates 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.
More than 30 legislators co-sponsored the bill, including both Democrats and Republicans. Full floor consideration is expected later this week.
The bill comes in the wake of a national initiative, launched by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 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.
Neal addressed the committee at the request of bill sponsor Heineman, who publicly thanked the American Council of Trustees and Alumni for providing her advice and counsel after a constituent raised concerns.
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 isdedicated to advancing intellectual diversity through its network of 12,000 alumni and trustees from South Dakota and all 50 states.