IU trustees to ponder Kinsey Institute spinoff as faculty raise concerns

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Indiana University trustees are scheduled Friday to consider a proposal to spin a portion of the Kinsey Institute out of the university structure and turn it into a not-for-profit.

The potential move is scheduled to be considered at a trustee meeting in Indianapolis and comes after state lawmakers earlier this year banned state funding from going to the sometimes-controversial sexual research entity.

Under the proposal, some of the institute’s administrative and operating functions would be transferred to a not-for-profit but its collections and archives would remain under university ownership.
“It is the university’s objective that the Kinsey Institute—and its name, research, scholarship and education initiatives—continue as a pillar of intellectual freedom and academic inquiry at Indiana University,” IU’s administration said in an FAQ.

The school said the move would assist IU in ensuring state dollars do not touch the institute even indirectly, as required by the new law. But the proposal was met with strong opposition from some faculty in the form of a nine-page letter to IU President Pamela Whitten and the university’s trustees.

Forty-five faculty and staff members, largely including those who work in or with Kinsey, signed the Nov. 1 letter asking the board to table discussions until the university investigated concerns about potential “irreparable harm” to the institute and answered several questions about what the not-for-profit structure and the institute’s relationship with the university would look like.

A Change.org petition protesting the split has garnered nearly 5,000 signatures and dozens of supportive comments.

“We ask the President and the Board of Trustees to fully address these questions and concerns before moving forward with any plan to restructure the Kinsey Institute or separate it from IU,” the letter from faculty reads. “We urge the President and the board of Trustees to keep the Kinsey Institute united with the Kinsey Collections and retain both at Indiana University.”

Kinsey faculty and staff said in the letter they found out about the university adminstration’s intention to propose the move in an Oct. 27 meeting with Provost Rahul Shrivastav, Vice Provost of Finance Aimee Heeter and Kinsey Institute Executive Director Justin Garcia.

The letter says the new proposal is much different than Kinsey’s previous structure as a not-for-profit, which existed until the institute was absorbed by the university in 2016.

State Rep. Lorissa Sweet, R-Wabash proposed stripping state funding from the institute as an amendment to the state budget on Feb. 22.

She and other lawmakers cited long-held but largely debunked allegations about Alfred Kinsey, his work and the institute’s current research and programming.

The legislation passed both chambers, and the governor signed it into law on May 4.

President Whitten issued a statement in support of academic freedom after the anti-Kinsey amendment was passed, saying it set a “troubling precedent.”

“The Institute, and its affiliated faculty, will have the university’s full and continued support in seeking and securing critical research grants and private philanthropic support,” Whitten wrote.

The university’s FAQ, posted Monday, reaffirms the administration’s support of the Kinsey Institute and its mission at Indiana University.

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