Students who feel wrongly graded for an assignment by a college professor or a high school teacher because of the instructor’s political beliefs could get the chance to appeal their grade through a new bill in the Iowa Legislature.
Senate File 2057 creates an appeals process for both college and high school students who feel an instructor’s political leanings influenced their grade on an assignment. Schools would be in charge of creating their own appeals process.
This comes as national criticisms increase from conservatives regarding their perception that liberal professors are pushing their biases into classrooms.
Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, said he heard from students who were intimidated by their teachers, prompting him to introduce the bill.
Each institution would need to institute a policy regarding grading concerns, Kraayenbrink said.
“They should not receive any political bias from any instructor,” Kraayenbrink said. “They’re there to learn.”
Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, questioned the definition of political bias in the bill.
He also said it would result in professors, particularly non-tenured instructors, to avoid controversial topics, so they aren’t entangled in an appeals process or receive a negative mark.
“As a result students aren’t challenged,” Quirmbach said. “They’re not exposed to other points of view.”
Several Iowa education groups were present at the meeting and presented concerns or opposition to the bill.
Mary Braun of the Iowa Board of Regents said there are already policies in place at Iowa’s public universities where students can appeal their grades for any reason.
“We do not feel it’s necessary,” Braun said.
Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference said the group opposed the bill.
“This is something best left at the school level and not mandated by the state,” Chapman said.
Chuck Hurley of the Iowa Family Leader, a religious conservative group, was one of the supporters of the bill during Tuesday’s subcommittee meeting. He said political bias occurs frequently in grading, particularly in higher education, and gave an example about his own son who conflicted with a professor at Iowa State.
“He was threatened with a bad grade unless he changed his view on his pro-life paper,” Hurley said.
While most Iowa education groups at the meeting said political bias and grading was not a major issue, Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, disagreed.
“I stand with my concerns over bias and I challenge all of you that you know it happens at least in the higher levels,” Rozenboom said.
The bill passed the subcommittee on a 2-1 vote and now moves to the full Senate Education Committee.