Arizona Lawmakers Want to Put End to Higher Education 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy

Thursday, February 9, 2012

State lawmakers are moving to end what one says amounts to a "don't ask, don't tell' policy at universities and community colleges—at least for political and religious conservatives.

The House Committee on Higher Education, Innovation and Reform approved legislation Wednesday to require schools to hire, fire, promote and grant tenure on the basis of competence and "appropriate knowledge.'

More to the point, HB 2770 would bar using any faculty member's political or religious beliefs in making those decisions. And the measure would prohibit using either factor to exclude faculty from tenure, search or hiring committees.

The vote came despite the fact that proponents could cite no specific incidents in Arizona of such discrimination. But Rep. Tom Forese, R-Gilbert, said it does exist.

Forese said he has been approached by some faculty members whose views fall outside the majority.

"They communicated to me they need to keep that to themselves and to keep quiet, especially when they were up for a promotion, when they were up for tenure,' he told Capitol Media Services. Forese said they have to "pretend to think or believe in a different way in order to fit in.'

Forese said there's a good reason they did not come to Wednesday's hearing.

"They would never testify,' he said, saying they feel the need to keep their beliefs secret to protect their careers. Forese said he agrees.

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