College faculty overwhelmingly opposed to bill seeking to end ‘viewpoint discrimination’

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Faculty from higher education institutions across Indiana descended on the Statehouse Wednesday to speak out against a contentious bill that would increase lawmaker oversight of state colleges and universities and push speech in the classroom toward “intellectual diversity.”

Sen. Spencer Deery, R-West Lafayette, has called his Senate Bill 202 a reform effort intended to reverse “declining views” of higher education.

But dozens of opponents argued the proposed changes could harm students and professors, or would overly burden public institutions.

Testimony was heard on the bill in the House Education Committee on Wednesday. Committee chairman Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said a vote on the measure is expected next week.

“At the end of the day, there is an elephant in the room that we need to address, and that’s the increasing number of students who just don’t feel like higher ed is a place for them,” Deery said, He pointed to a 2023 Gallup survey which found the percent of Republicans “with confidence in higher education” declined from 56% in 2015 to 19% in 2023.

“Addressing this issue will both improve the quantity of Hoosiers that we can get enrolled in higher education,” Deery continued. “I also believe it will improve the quality of education they receive, because we all benefit — no matter your political beliefs — from being challenged and exposed to new scholarly ideas.”

Faculty, students and other campus representatives from Ball State University, Indiana University, Indiana State University, Purdue University, University of Southern Indiana and Vincennes University disagreed, however. They argued the bill “would severely constrain academic freedom” and threaten schools’ ability to recruit and retain top faculty.

Separately, Ivy Tech Community College expressed concerns about the complaint process and Vincennes University about changes to its trustee board.

“SB 202 will put the state at odds with specialty accreditors and risk programs’ specialized accreditation, resulting in even greater shortages fundamental to the needs of Indiana citizens,” said Lindsey Everman, a professor at Indiana State University. “I encourage and welcome intellectual and ideological diversity in my classroom and throughout my scholarship. I work to educate students to also welcome diversity in the way they think.”

“Effective practitioners have to embrace diversity of thought, and it is a misconception that one cannot both believe in diversity, equity and inclusion, and also offer an opportunity for free expression of faith and political ideology,” she continued. “A college classroom is meant for this kind of dialogue. And everyone — faculty and students together — grow in their critical thinking from this kind of exchange. Instead of encouraging free expression, as the bill hopes to do, the ambiguity of SB 202 will only stifle those activities that encourage critical thinking.”

Preventing faculty from imposing their views

Deery and other Republican lawmakers contend that conservative students and faculty members are increasingly ostracized at progressively liberal college and university settings — or at least perceive such shunning.

As an attempted remedy, Deery’s bill would change up institution boards of trustees by removing appointment power from alumni councils and pass it off to House and Senate Republican majority leaders — “with advice” from Democrat minority leaders. It would require boards’ existing diversity committees to consider “intellectual diversity” alongside cultural diversity in employment policies and faculty complaints.

The legislation would additionally require the committees to make recommendations promoting recruitment and retention of “underrepresented” students rather than the “minority students” specified in current law.

The measure re-shapes tenure and promotion policies, too.

Boards of trustees would be required to prevent a faculty member from getting tenure or a promotion if the board thinks the member is “unlikely to foster a culture of free inquiry, free expression and intellectual diversity” and unlikely to offer students scholarly works from a range of “political or ideological frameworks.” Boards would also dock members considered likely to bring up personal political views unrelated to their specific field or class.

Boards would get wide latitude in making those policies. The bill says decisions would be based on past performance “or other determination by the board.”

The bill also mandates that boards conduct reviews of tenured professors every five years based on the above, as well as if faculty members “adequately” carry out academic duties and more. A fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency notes IU’s flagship campus at Bloomington alone has over 1,000 tenured faculty, meaning its board would have to conduct 200-plus reviews annually.

“One of the fundamental things that ought to happen to you as a young person in college is to be challenged by thoughts you’re not familiar with — thought you’re not comfortable with,  thought you don’t agree with,” Democrat Rep. Ed DeLaney told Deery during committee discussion, adding that his bill “will cut that down.”

“You’re requiring the professors — for example, in sociology or political science — to give a range of opinions and to be neutral,” DeLaney continued. “In effect, you are neutering your faculty. That’s what you’re trying to do.”

Deery opposed that description of his proposal and maintained that he wants to protect tenured faculty by codifying things the board can’t consider in reviews, like expressing dissent or engaging in research and public commentary, as well as criticizing institutional leadership and engaging in political activity outside teaching or mentoring duties.

Still, institutions would be required to adopt policies establishing disciplinary actions — termination, demotion, salary cuts and more — for tenured faculty members who fail those reviews.

Deery said the bill does not “mandate that any particular content be taught,” nor does it require students be exposed to “every scholarly idea” or “pseudoscience.”

“If you believe that it’s unreasonable for faculty to answer, occasionally, how they expose students to competing scholarly views, or if you believe that doing so will somehow ‘threaten’ the stature of your university, or the economic and cultural vitality of our state, or weaken the intellectual rigor of your students … then you and I have a very different definition of what it actually means to be higher in higher education,” Deery said.

“If you believe that we should not include in our definition of diversity the importance of competing ideas, along with the traditional goals of creating equal opportunity for all, then you and I also have a very different view on what diversity is, and I stand by that policy difference.”

University faculty speak out

joint statement released Monday by the Purdue-West Lafayette and Indiana University-Bloomington chapters of the American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, said adoption of the Senate bill “would severely damage the ability” of the two public research universities “to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, erasing the State of Indiana’s uniquely prominent national profile in higher education.”

“In its attempt to ensure that all students and faculty at state universities feel confident they can express their political and intellectual views freely — an aspiration the AAUP shares — SB 202 mandates a system of surveillance and political scrutiny that will instead stifle the free flow of ideas,” the statement said. “It requires that hiring, tenure, and promotion become subject to reviews that judge faculty based on political criteria, and that post-tenure employment be contingent on further periodic reviews. These measures would severely constrain academic freedom at our university.”

That sentiment was echoed by multiple other faculty members from public universities across Indiana who testified against the bill on Wednesday.

Mary Dankoski, who has served as faculty at IU’s medical school for 24 years, said Senate Bill 202 “is unprecedented” and will have “an enormous impact.”

“It is a deterrent to prospective faculty from considering making Indiana their home and the place to grow their careers,” Dankoski said.

Dan Smith, a professor and dean emeritus at IU’s Kelley School of Business, noted that students in all classes already complete faculty evaluation surveys and appear content with their teachers.

“One of those questions has to do with whether the faculty member for that course creates an environment in that classroom that is conducive to engagement from all students,” Smith said. “When you look at the battery of responses, and you add them all up — the Kelley School has 10,000 students, 400 faculty — last year, the average on this composite index was a six-point-three out of seven on a seven-point scale. That’s comparable to how happy and satisfied you are with your Apple iPhone.”

College faculty emphasized, too, that within campus environments now, students have the ability to think critically and for themselves — and they actively do so.

“I think that the misconception that higher education may be indoctrinating students would be better evidenced if we had a room full of liberals as legislators,” said Everman, from ISU. “We’re not as effective as you think we are at changing the minds of our students. And that is because we are able to have a dialogue in a classroom and that the system evaluates our ability to do that.”

Capital Chronicle reporter Leslie Bonilla Muñiz contributed reporting.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.

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27 thoughts on “College faculty overwhelmingly opposed to bill seeking to end ‘viewpoint discrimination’

  1. There are many examples on YouTube of conservative professors being screamed at by students. There are legions of examples of Republican students saying that they felt uncomfortable speaking their peace, and therefore stayed quiet. The system we have now already “stifles the free flow of ideas.” Diversity should not mean that everyone says the same thing. In one study conducted by The College Fix, only 5.7% of professors are registered Republicans–which is decidedly at odds with society as a whole. By contrast, 58% are registered Democrats. This has profound impacts across a spectrum of issues. Hopefully, this legislation will lead to the hiring of professors who are registered Republicans in hopes of having diversity of thought on campus.

    1. Affirmative Action is illegal per the supreme court

      Maybe they should get the job based on their skills instead of their political ideology

      Mussolini would love this idea though

  2. Too many professors have moved away from exposing students to new ideas to actively promoting Marxist anti-capitalist, anti-Christian ideology. I’ve seen firsthand the damage they’ve done to several of my kids and favor defunding any public institution that engages in the teaching of the toxic doctrines of DEI. Moreover, the kids and their parents are now saddled with massive amounts of debt that is helped in no small part by the ever-expanding administrative state that has been created to support these divisive ideologies. Have no idea if this particular bill will be effective, but I do appreciate Indiana legislators, and the AG, following Florida’s lead to take meaningful steps to eliminate this scourge from our schools.

    1. Your comment although short and simple reeks with hypocrisy. One could make a very persuasive argument that democratic liberals are always preaching fear to its supporters. The fear of religion, the fear that all conservative republicans are racist and homaphobic. You can’t even ask whats the definition of a biologic woman without being giving and emotional opinion vs a factual and scientific proven one. Only in America do we see this idiotic mindset being accepted as normal….

    1. While Senator Deery worked at Purdue for over a decade, Purdue leaned into a policy of admitting less Indiana students and taking more and more out of state and international students to make up the financial difference. They are not alone among Indiana colleges to take this approach.

      Put another way, given that admission into an in-state Indiana college is increasingly a pipe dream for Indiana students, as Indiana colleges shift their focus to educating the workforce of other states, someone explain to me why Indiana legislators are wasting their time on this issue.

    2. Fundamentally I agree. This decision would apply to about 98% of higher-ed institutions, including historically conservative-leaning ones like University of Notre Dame.

      And people are making this decision. Enrollments are down, sometimes precipitously. It doesn’t help that birthrates are low. As Joe indicates, many schools are trying to make up for this by bringing in more international students, who usually have to pay full price (they often get sponsorships from their home government) and are thus more lucrative than native-born.

      But this depends on schools actually offering a product commensurate with their astronomical price tags. For decades American universities were the gold standards, but their ability to deliver the necessary training hasn’t risen along with their annual tuition rates.

    3. LOL. Joe somehow manages to single out Purdue as the bad guy. Wonder why?…. As for the “pipe dream”, multiple Indiana colleges would happily accept any reasonable candidate, Indiana State, USI, etc.
      IBJ readers are the Democrat version of John Jacob voters.

    4. Joe is a Purdue grad who likely wouldn’t get into today’s Purdue because he was only in the top third in his class, high SAT score notwithstanding.

      Big turn off to hear just a few months ago that a kid from a Lawrence Township high school, top ten in his class, was waitlisted for Purdue.

      So tell me my motivation, Chuck. You’re so smart … even though replying to me works about as well for you as IU’s defense against Purdue the other night in men’s basketball.

      Purdue’s primary mission as Indiana’s land grant college should be to educate the next generation of Hoosiers. That’s what it was for over a century, and the latest pivot has been a mistake, IMO.

    1. This…Rokita’s fascist Education Portal, Holcomb sending IN National Guard Troops to TX to support Abbot’s blatantly ignoring the FEDERAL ruling from the Supreme Court…Wouldn’t be surprised if Indiana is among the first states to secede and become United States of Gilead.

    2. Too funny. Watching the shrieking pampered children shout down Ben Shapiro while calling him a “fascist” or, yes, even a “Nazi”, will never get erased from my memory. And about that same time, a campus building at Cal-Berkeley basically got firebombed when it invited Milo Yiannopoulous to speak.

      It was that point when I realized American higher ed had jumped the shark. It’s a joke. Rarely in history has the price tag been so high for a product so useless. Might as well just get a degree in phrenology or bloodletting. If they can’t treat the ideological rot within them, let them fail the same way legacy media is failing.

      Let’s not forget that two of our most “prestigious” Ivy League universities, Harvard and UPenn, forced their brand-new presidents to step down a few months ago because neither of these eggheads were able to take a firm stance on student uprisings calling for the genocide of Jews. Both of them are still tenured faculty, even though the Harvard one has a track record of plagiarism longer than her list of published journal articles.

      It’ll be hilarious when one of these universities gets the terroristic bombing they seem to be encouraging. through their carefully curated definition of “free speech” that Good riddance.

    3. Ironic that this coincides with Mr. Never Back Down in Florida backing down on waging culture war in schools:
      A solution (legislation) in search of a problem, perpetual persecution complex, a boogeyman around every corner – should take about 18 months until the unintended consequences these morons failed to consider are revealed. Were these people ever actually in favor of small government?

  3. Please Michael and Matthew, you’re soiling your diapers over your hyperpartisan moral panic. Stinky.

    “Handmaid’s Tale” is second-rate dystopia fiction. America wasn’t Gilead when abortion was illegal in 90% of the country, and that was a time when women had a minor political presence. They don’t anymore, so it should terrify you even more that women have been instrumental in advancing the anti-abortion movement. I still prefer abortion to remain safe, legal, AND RARE–but when the “pro-choice” team is this hysterical and delusional, it’s hard not to experience some Schadenfreude when they totally lose their poopy.

    Nobody’s stopping you from moving to California. SOMEBODY has to go there to fill all the vacant homes (presuming the homeless junkie squatters haven’t gotten to them)

    1. to be clear Lauren, when abortion has come up for vote at the state level it is being voted to be legal at a rate of 80% by women…

      The facts and data seem to get in the way with your opinion once again :/

    2. As opposed to what? The first-rate dystopian non-fiction growing in this country now? I love the typical fascist reply of “if you don’t like it here, move.” No thanks. I’d rather stay and fight to keep democracy here.

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