February 6, 2014

Parents and educators concerned about teens' digital wandering have resources. Controls or locks are available to guide youngsters away from corrupting websites and influences, keep them within the Net's guardrails of decency - to the extent that is possible.

Often, when witnessing the philosophical meanderings of State Sen. Mark Segebart, one wonders, even wishes, it were possible to make certain reaches of the Internet - or perhaps just his mind - off limits. Where's the nonsense mine? How do we shut it off?

Segebart has suggested watching certain films and TV shows can turn the straight to gay. He's advocated pulling all funding for one of the Carroll area's foundational institutions, Des Moines Area Community College, because he didn't like the content of some anti-bullying forums in Altoona. And there he was last Saturday, at the first Carroll Chamber of Commerce legislative forum of 2014, telling us that the root problem with education resources in Iowa is that we have too many state universities.

"We probably have, for 3 million people, having three huge universities, and all the infrastructure and employees that go with that, it's probably too many for just 3 million people when you think about it," Segebart, a graduate of Iowa State University, said during the forum at New Hope Village.

If there were fewer universities, Segebart said, Iowa lawmakers could provide more funds to K-12 education.

In an interview after the forum, Segebart, a Vail Republican, declined to say which state school - or schools - he thinks should be closed,.

"You're not going to change it now," Segebart said. "You can't cut any of them at this point. Looking back on it, we never should have had three."

He added, "Two would probably be enough in Iowa in a perfect world."

But keep this mind. Just because Segebart says he can't see the way clear to closing a school, doesn't mean his eccentric view won't inform decisions he makes affecting the three universities.

Segebart suggested it may be time to rein in certain capital spending at the state's universities.

"We keep building and building and building at our three universities," Segebart said. "The infrastructure is basically there, but we're never satisfied with that."

The schools should just stop constructing many of the new facilities, Segebart said.

"I would vote 'no' on most of those capital improvements," he said.

So what does he think about plans to build a $53 million West Campus Residence Hall at Iowa State University? The school, after all, has seen enrollment jump 25 percent in seven years. The Des Moines Register reports a record enrollment of 33,241 this academic year, and those students, it would seem, have to live somewhere - unless Segebart wants many of them in tents inside Jack Trice Stadium.

The stadium, by the way, is set for a $60-million south-endzone upgrade, funded in large part through the generosity of a man who grew up in Segebart's district, publishing magnate Roy Reiman from the Auburn area (with strong ties to Carroll) who donated $25 million to the Jack Trice project.

In Segebart's "perfect world" the school in line for shuttering clearly would be the University of Northern Iowa. It is the smallest. Immediately, that would kill the 2+2 program at DMACC, which allows students to begin a bachelor's degree on Carroll's DMACC campus and finish it with UNI, either in Cedar Falls or right here in Carroll. It's been enormously successful.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, a leader on education issues for decades in Congress, and an ISU graduate, said Segebart's comments are "not even rational."

"They have distinct qualities from Iowa to Iowa State to UNI," Harkin said in response to a question from The Daily Times Herald on a conference call with other media this morning. "Just suppose you closed one. Those students would have to go to Iowa or Iowa State. There's not enough room. So you have to build more dorms, build more buildings, house more professors. It would cost a fortune to do something like that when you have the physical plants already established at UNI, Iowa State and University of Iowa. So I couldn't disagree more that we have too many universities."