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February 13, 2012 10:00 AM The Arizona Legislature’s Weird Efforts to Meddle in Higher Education

By Daniel Luzer

New legislation in Arizona would punish professors for swearing while teaching. Really.

According to an article by Mitch Smith at Inside Higher Ed:

The “G-rated” bill would require colleges to suspend or fire an instructor who “engages in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the Federal Communications Commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech were broadcast on television or radio.” The first four-letter word would bring at least a one-week suspension without pay. By the third violation, the instructor would have to be terminated.

How this is supposed to improve education is unclear.

The bill was introduced by Lori Klein, a Republican lawmaker from central Arizona. Back in July Klein briefly achieved notoriety after pointing a loaded gun at a reporter interviewing her. But at least she didn’t swear!

Meanwhile Arizona’s House of Representatives recently held a hearing about a bill to prevent Arizona colleges, according to an article by Howard Fischer in the Verde Independent, from “using any faculty member’s political or religious beliefs in making hiring decisions.” Rep. Tom Forese introduced a bill to that effect, HB 2770, because, he said, “universities and community colleges, many of them lean to the left. They have very liberal views that are openly encouraged and expressed on their campuses.”

He was, according to Fischer, unable cite an single incident in Arizona history where an academic’s conservative political views had an adverse effect on hiring or tenure.

Meanwhile, Arizona governor Jan Brewer planned to cut university funding 20 percent and reduce state support for community colleges by 47 percent.

Glad to know the state has its priorities in order.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • Lauren L on February 14, 2012 1:37 PM:

    This bill does not just affect college professors. It affects every public school teacher from preschool to community colleges and public universities (not sure why private schools and universities are not included).

    It also restricts more than a teacher's speechl it also restricts their CONDUCT. Further, does not specify only speech and conduct within the classroom, so this bill could be interpreted to censor speech and conduct in every aspect of a teacher's life, including in the privacy of their own home.

    Additionally, the bill forces teachers to conform to the FCC's definition of obscenity for broadcast TV and radio, which the FCC has defined as “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.”

    Taken to its' extremes, this would mean that teachers could no longer have sex, or go to the bathroom anywhere, anytime, including their own home.

    This is the insanity of our AZ legislature.