State Representative Jon Hansen’s experiences with “intellectual diversity” at our Universities

In the South Dakota Board of Regents “Intellectual Diversity Public Conversation” yesterday, State Representative Jon Hansen gave remarks to the group that might be a different perspective than they wanted to hear – because he has first-hand knowledge of the problem that students have experienced with free speech on our university campuses:

Thank you for hosting this discussion.  My name is Jon Hansen I’m a Representative from Dell Rapids.  I do want to make something clear upfront. I’m proud of South Dakota universities.  I’m a proud graduate of our law school. But on this issue, our own universities have followed a disturbing national trend.  On campuses everywhere disagreement is said to be hatred. Intellectual diversity said to be bigotry. Speech is quelled and voices are silenced.  That’s why our legislature passed House Bill 1087.

My colleagues in the House and Senate were exactly right when they wrote that “the intent of HB 1087 is to ensure the pursuit of truth.”

The solution is not difficult.  Begin by teaching facts, and where the world is not black and white, it’s not your job to tell students what to think. It’s your job to teach students how to think. Indoctrination is no laudable goal, but fostering the pursuit of truth is.  The people of South Dakota–those who we serve–believe that, but universities all over this country, including our own, have lost sight of that.

In my own experience, a fellow student and I sought to form the St. Thomas More Society at the law school.  We immediately received significant pushback solely because our group associated with religion.

One Dean in particular was fixated on her concern that we would be “proselytizing” to all the students and that a Priest would exercise dominion over our group.  We sought simply to organize and share ideas under the banner of a common set of core beliefs.

Well thankfully, another Dean intervened and opened a path for the group’s formation.  But even his hands were tied. Unlike other groups, the university would not allow student funds to be distributed to our Christian group.  No support for speakers or events.

Universities themselves speak when they allow for the distribution of funds to certain groups and not to others. When you did not allow the distribution of funds to a conservative, religious group, but allowed funds to groups with opposing, nontheist views–you spoke loud and clear.  Your preference was made known.

Here’s another glaring contrast.  When it comes to drag shows, our universities have not only advertised, but hosted drag shows on campus.  The advertisement even encouraged people to bring dollar bills to tip the drag queens. But when a simple request was made to our medical school to merely advertise an event where our medical students would gather, pray, and recite the hippocratic oath–the school refused to advertise.  Your preference was made known. That’s viewpoint discrimination.

These problems exist today.  I know other people’s stories, but I am not at liberty to share them with you today.  Why? Because the students in those situations today fear repercussion from their teachers and school if they speak out.  That is unacceptable.

No student should feel pressure, fear or intimidation from any professor, dean, or administrator for exercising his or her ideas.  But that pressure and intimidation is present in South Dakota today. That is unacceptable.

So allow students to be educated in a place where ideas compete and the truth can prevail.  When students engage in the honest pursuit of truth in an environment where that pursuit is promoted, they will likely find it.  Truth is attractive to the human soul.

So do not social engineer.  Do not create safe spaces from what you somehow deem to be threatening viewpoints.  Do not discriminate in funding or access to facilities based upon viewpoint. Do not create a culture of fear and intimidation for students who simply speak what they believe.

Instead, equip students with reason.  Instill good judgment. Judge by the content of character.  Orient toward the pursuit of truth. And let the students flourish.

If your report demonstrates that you’ve done that–then you have fulfilled the intent of the law.

Great comments! And a good example why the law was long overdue.

39 Replies to “State Representative Jon Hansen’s experiences with “intellectual diversity” at our Universities”

    1. tara volesky

      This is a solution to a problem that does not exist. What the Legislature is proposing is incredibly harmful to higher ed. Focus on education instead of your political ideology. Enough is enough! Open up free speech to students that are asking why the costs of education keep skyrocketing. Focus on critical issues facing the state instead of dog whistle politics.

      1. Anne Beal

        If the problem does not exist, then what do you call hosting drag shows?
        Drag shows exaggerate negative feminine stereotypes and disparage women. Drag is the new blackface, and the sooner you comprehend that, the better.

        1. tara volesky

          If you don’t like it, don’t go. Kind of like tv…turn the channel, or protest it. You can’t pick and choose…..that’s for private schools. Look what happened to UC Berkeley by not allowing certain speakers. They now have LBGTQ parades in several towns in SD. You could protest with Westboro Baptist Church.

        2. Anonymous

          Are you kidding Anne? Where on God’s green earth did you come up with that stupid idea of what Drag is?

          Drag is the illusion of femininity, even yours. It glorifies women in the performers artistic expression. I hear some performers also style their own wigs and give phenomenal makeup tips, if you should choose to improve your skills.

          Whether you like this or not – students who are apart of a student lead group fundraise for these events, they find the entertainers, and they organize spaces, not the University or faculty. These events are typically solely organized and funded through fundraisers by the students.

          There is a HUGE difference when it comes to the organizations that State Rep. Hansen discusses – the groups he has discusses all involve a religious affiliation. Where is State law on the separation of Church and State? Isn’t this why we can’t pray in classrooms in South Dakota; why we cant have priests in public schools; why we can’t pray before high school football games?

          If you want to live a secular lifestyle, raise your children in a secular home, or have a secular education – do so in your private life, not in a publicly funded environment like a school.

          My religion is deeply personal and not something I need to blare from the street corners like is said in Matthew 6. When did it become a part of someone’s outward identity? If you’re also religious, that’s great, but it’s a personal choice that cannot be thrust upon others who may or may not want it.

    1. Austin Hoffman

      I became good friends with Mr. Hansen during law school. He is one of the brightest and most common sense people I know. Our state is lucky to have him in Pierre. Hopefully he sticks around for years to come.

  1. Anonymous

    This guy is going places, and I will support him in that journey to help keep our State a conservative state that supports free speech and does not indoctrinate through gubmint schools.

  2. Dave R

    He’s right. Its astonishing that there are people in authority who really do infringe on free speech on campus.

    Thanks Jon!

  3. tara volesky

    You can’t be making these accusations without facts. So give us some cases and testimonies from students, faculty, BOR, Legislators etc. Where Have these so called infractions occurred? So you insinuating there is a problem with intellectual diversity? What ever the hell that is. Are you using that as an excuse as to why we are losing so many students to MN colleges? Are you using that as en excuse to the large decline in enrollment? Are you using that as an excuse for the increase costs of tuition, fees, room and board. If you want freedom of speech on college campuses, you have to take the good, bad and the ugly. Remember, you have nobody to blame but yourselves. So quit passing the buck.

    1. Anon.

      Did you read the transcript of his speech. Literally, right there, is exactly what you are asking for.

      1. tara volesky

        Yes I did. I am sure there is money involved isn’t there? Unless there is a problem I don’t see any problems where we need government stepping in. I believe in local control. Students and faculty do a very good job handling situations such as Hawaiian days. I was quite impressed with the BOR and students testimonies.

        1. Hank

          Honestly, Tara, no one cares what impresses you. You monopolize nearly every post on this blog like you’re the only person in this state that has an opinion. You’d do better to listen more and type less.

          1. tara volesky

            Hank, this is something that interests me. It’s fun to have civil debate and listen to all sides. But many times people would rather remain silent. I guess I am not one of those people. I take your comment lightly since you are to cowardly to state your last name.

  4. Anonymous

    Susan Wismer was spot on in her comments before the Board of Regents.

    I’d also agree with David Newquist on this “If South Dakota wishes to get out of the higher education business, it can just pursue those courses of action Ms. Wisner warns against. There are plenty of professors and college graduates willing to help in that regard. We need no political hackery in higher education.”

    There are a number of fairly good religious based private colleges in the state out of state for those seeking to immerse themselves in a safe environment free of imaginary intolerant liberals

    The other prospective students could just go out of state to pursue their education.

  5. Pat Powers Post author

    And apologies to “A friend of education” for one of the banned trolls trying to spoof his handle.

  6. a friend of education

    C’mon, Trolls. Up your game! To imitate me, use tons of ostentatious SAT words & adopt a haughty, supercilious tone. Otherwise, the spoof is transparent. 🙂

    FWIW, I support campus intellectual diversity.

    1. Anonymous

      We have plenty of campus intellectual diversity without more duplication. How much would this cost the state?

      1. a friend of education

        When you assert: “We have plenty of campus intellectual diversity without more duplication,” you may be right. Or, you may be wrong. I don’t claim to know for sure. Are you a student? I’m not often on campus. Hence, I’m not in a terrific position to judge. I do advise college students. I’ve been saddened by their reports, and I’m not alone.

        Here, we elect leaders to represent the majority will. Most South Dakotans feel our college campuses will benefit from greater intellectual diversity. That’s what these legislative reforms hope to achieve. But if you know better than us voters, maybe we should cancel all future elections & just let you & your flawless wisdom run the state. 😉

  7. tara volesky

    Where did the bill 1087 originate from? Don’t tell me it is an American’s for prosperity bill. What a waste of time. I am sure the colleges and it’s students would not support this. More government overreach and nannyism.

  8. Jake

    Legislators are fighting for freedom.
    ACLU, Wismer, Muslim wackos, Democrats attacking real diversity in our colleges. They don’t want to lose their monopoly!!

    1. tara volesky

      What monopoly. They have had zero power in over 40 years. We need some intellectual diversity in Pierre.

    2. tara volesky

      Attacking real diversity in our colleges? Care to explain? Isn’t this suppose to be about intellectual diversity?

  9. Susan Wismer

    See Attachments III and V in the BOR agenda item “Intellectual Diversity” at this location:

    You will find communication from the National Association of Scholars and American Council of Trustees and Alumni there. If you check em out they are both obvious fronts for bill mills like HB 1087. I don’t know what legislator may have churned out all of the correspondence on this issue since June of 2018, but it’s been no small number of trees that have been felled for it and no small number of Board of Regents hours that have been devoted to responding to it.

    The testimony on Wednesday at the meeting by the man from out-of-state representing the National Association of Scholars used identical language about demanded minors and courses of study that was in the legislative leadership letter of June 26, 2019. If he’s not the one who’s been crafting the correspondence, his material has been drawn upon heavily to produce it.

  10. Fred Deutsch

    I had no involvement with development of this bill, did not meet with any of the authors to confer about it, was not involved in correspondence with the BOR or anyone else, and have no knowledge who the prime sponsors of the bill communicated with in its development.

    I voted for the bill in committee and on the floor because I thought it was an important bill and still believe the same. I am hopeful the bill will result in significant reform in higher education in SD.

    I attended the BOR meeting yesterday in Brookings. In preparation for the meeting I read the supporting material including the 19 attachments submitted by organizations and various individuals in response to BOR President Kevin Scheiffer’s request for public comment on how to fulfill the intent of HB 1087.

    Many of the recommendations provided by the leadership (Peterson, Stalzer, Haugaard, Greenfield, Langner, Qualm and Maher) are consistent with recommendation provided by multiple organizations and individuals. Seems to me they make sense. I expect the BOR to take them seriously.

    The testimony before the BOR was spirited. It reminded me of the type of viewpoint diversity and expressive freedom I hope I will see regularly on SD college campuses.

  11. Anonymous

    @ Susan Wismer,

    It doesn’t matter who helped write the bill.

    The question to you is have Conservative and religious students and speakers been discriminated against on SD campus?

    Please have the respect for South Dakota Citizens to answer my question.

  12. Troy

    Hansen makes great comments of a significant problem. A problem the Legislature has ignored and continues to ignore.

  13. tara volesky

    Like the Government is going to solve the problem. lol. I will put my money on the college students. They can solve their own problems. And I think they are doing a good job. You will always have a few poor me victim mentalities. But hey, that’s life. Stand up for your rights instead of relying on big brother.