Many states have majorities of conservative citizens and legislatures who are getting tired of funding public universities who often seem to despise conservative people and values. In an ideal world universities would be responsible enough to avoid ideological possession, but we don't live in an ideal world and legislatures are moving to oversee their state university systems more closely.

[Patrick Garry, University of South Dakota law professor] concludes that "political indoctrination is not a legitimate academic function and hence is undeserving of special constitutional protection. ... [Campuses] have, in a way, become like the southern states under the Voting Rights Act. Those states were put under judicial supervision to make sure that voting rights were respected in those states," Garry concludes. "Perhaps, as the South Dakota Legislature has recognized, universities may now have to be put under a kind of formalized public review process regarding their actions concerning free speech and academic freedom." ...

Sue Peterson, one of the state representatives who sponsored the bill, told RealClearInvestigations the Board of Regents' lack of progress over such a long period of time left the legislature no choice but to act. "They did make some policy changes between 2018 and 2019 that were positive," she said. "We still felt certain changes needed to be in statute because policies can change." South Dakota Rep. Tina Mulally was even blunter. "I don't believe the Board of Regents has been responsive to the taxpayers for decades," she told the Chronicle of Higher Education. "I tried to have conversations with them when I became a representative, and I got the impression that they didn't want to talk to me."

The motivations for reining in campus radicalism aren't just ideological. Legislators say radicalism is making their schools less attractive to prospective students. The University of Missouri, in one of the states currently considering intellectual diversity legislation, was rocked by violent protests in 2015 that caused such a steep enrollment drop that the university closed four dormitories, saw its credit rating downgraded, and created a budget shortfall of $32 million.

Political oversight of public universities is an unfortunate necessity, but I encourage legislatures to use a light touch.

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