June 19, 2023
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A “whistleblower” hotline designed to report liberal practices at South Dakota universities has received calls about schools encouraging “transgender ideologies,” promoting race-based teaching and pushing mask mandates, Gov. Kristi Noem said.
In a letter sent Friday, Noem asked the South Dakota Board of Regents to investigate the complaints and advise her office what actions would be taken to address them.
When she announced the hotline on May 26, the Republican governor said it was a response to states allowing “liberal ideologies to poison their colleges and universities.”
Shuree Mortenson, a spokeswoman for the Board of Regents, said in a statement the board’s goal is to address issues as quickly as possible, as it does with any concerns that students provide through its reporting processes.
“While anonymous complaints can be challenging to verify, we strive to make every student feel welcome at our universities,” Mortenson said. “We are looking into these concerns and will work with the board to determine any necessary action.”
Many of the reports referenced by Noem in Friday’s letter involved Black Hills State University, which is based in Spearfish.
She said callers reported that during orientation, the school encouraged new students to use prescription anti-depressants to cope with homesickness.
Other allegations included requiring students to choose non-white authors for their freshman literature classes; pushing students to wear Ukrainian flag pins; and paying students to take COVID tests.
The public relations office of Black Hills State did not immediately return a message seeking reaction.
Noem also said before the hotline when live, her office received allegations of students being required to provided preferred pronouns during course introductions at the University of South Dakota.
Another caller claimed the regents did not provide timely notification of a Ph.D program closing, causing some students to not receive their degrees while international students were allowed to complete the program. The letter didn’t identify the program or which university was involved.