The South Dakota State Capitol, pictured on Nov. 2, 2022. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)
A bill that would remove a requirement for the South Dakota Board of Regents to produce an annual intellectual diversity report passed the Senate Education Committee 5-2 on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 45, introduced by Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, would backtrack a requirement set by the 2019 intellectual diversity law. The 2019 bill also ordered public universities to protect free speech, including speech that may be “offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical or wrongheaded.”
The bill would only repeal the annual report portion, which Schoenbeck said was originally intended to “catch hot button things” presented at universities.
Schoenbeck, who originally supported the bill in 2019, said the report is a waste of taxpayer dollars. He attempted to repeal the report during the 2022 legislative session, but the effort failed.
Opponents argue that the report still has value and provides transparency to what is happening at South Dakota’s public universities.
The Board of Regents estimated the report costs $10,000 annually to produce, Schoenbeck told senators on Tuesday, because each institution has an employee track every speaker who comes onto campus.
The 2021 report is 126 pages long and lists speakers on topics ranging from dental calculus presentations to anthropology students to interviewing tips for future teachers.
However, a representative from the Governor’s Office and committee member Sen. Jessica Castleberry, R-Rapid City, argued to keep the report.
“I think we’re in a particular time period in society where taxpayers want to be assured there aren’t activities taking place on campuses that are, as referred to, ‘hot button topics,” Castleberry said, “or at least be made aware.”
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