COHE, SDEA and Regents take on intellectual diversity bill

Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson

The South Dakota State Senate refused to pass a bill on Feb. 23 that would have required the Board of Regents to give a report regarding intellectual diversity to the Legislature every year.

In the bill introduced by Rep. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, intellectual diversity is defined as, “the foundation of a learning environment that exposes students to a variety of political, ideological, and other perspectives.”

The bill, which failed in an 18-15 vote, was not supported at many levels of the South Dakota education system.

“It was based on a 2004 study that was done by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni,” said Scott Allen, a member of the South Dakota Education Associ-ation (SDEA).

Of the 685 undergraduate students surveyed, Allen said, none were from South Dakota.

“The problem was that they looked at students in larger universities and not in the Midwest.”

SDSU professor and state president of the Council of Higher Education, Ron Utecht, spoke to the Legislature on Feb. 22.

“If it’s not a problem, putting it down into code just makes a lot of work for everybody,” he said.

Currently, if a student believes he or she were graded unfairly, they can appeal the grade and it could go all the way to the Board of Regents.

Dr. Tad Perry, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents, also spoke in front of the Legislature.

The partnership between COHE, the bargaining agent for the public employees teaching in South Dakota, and the Board of Regents is not one that is consistent, Utecht said.

“They’re management. We’re labor … it’s a natural tension that occurs,” he said.

Future partnerships may not be out of the question, though.

“Right now we have a lot of similar goals and we just need to work towards those instead of looking at the differences.”