Indiana law requires professors to promote “intellectual diversity” or risk sanctions

A new law in Indiana requires professors at public universities to foster a culture of “intellectual diversity” or face disciplinary action, including firing even for tenured ones, the latest in an effort by Republicans to assert greater control on what is taught in classrooms.

The law links the employment status of faculty, regardless of whether they are tenured, to whether, in the eyes of a university’s governing board, they promote “free inquiry” and “free expression.” State Senator Spencer Deery, who sponsored the bill, clarified in a declaration that this would result in the inclusion of more conservative viewpoints on campus.

The negative reaction to the legislation, which the Governor. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, signed on March 13, was substantial. Hundreds wrote letters or testified at hearings and to teachers senators a multiple institutions had urged the legislator to reject the bill, condemning him as government overreach and a blow to academic free speech.

“The whole point of the mandate is to protect academic freedom,” said Irene Mulvey, president of the American Association of University Professors, who described the law as “thought police.”

In recent years, universities nationwide have been hit by debates over academic freedom. Several states, including Florida, Texas AND NebraskaHave proposed tenure-limiting bills, some of which have passed. More generally, Republican-led states have targeted diversity programs at universities; Those bills, which limited or eliminated such programs, were more successful in becoming law with such measures in place at least half a dozen states.

Under the Indiana law, which takes effect in July, university administrators cannot grant tenure or promotion to faculty members deemed “unlikely” to promote “intellectual diversity” or expose students to works from a broad range range of political opinions. Administrators may also deny tenure or promotion to those who are deemed “likely” to bring unrelated political views into the courses they are teaching.

Faculty members who already have tenure would be subject to periodic reviews to determine whether they meet all of these criteria, and if the board concludes that they do not, they could be demoted or fired. The law also requires universities to establish a procedure to allow students or other employees to file complaints against faculty deemed not to comply with these requirements.

Boards are not, under the law, allowed to penalize teachers for criticizing the institution or engaging in political activity outside of their teaching duties. The restrictions do not apply to private academics.

“I have confidence that our public universities will faithfully implement this law to foster the successful growth and intellectual vibrancy of academia, while protecting the rights of all individuals,” Gov. Holcomb said in a statement.

In describing the rationale for the legislation, Mr. Deery, a Republican, pointed to polls that have shown a significant decline in the number of Republicans who have confidence in higher education, a decline of many who credit faculty with the right to carry political opinions in the public debate. classroom. He also highlighted controversies that have erupted in recent months over anti-Semitism on campuses, which have led to the resignations of university presidents and calls for greater oversight by university administrators.

“Recent events and blatant anti-Semitism have exposed the hyperpoliticization and monolithic thinking of America’s higher education institutions, and many warn that universities have lost their way,” Deery said after the bill passed at Senate. The legislation, he said, “pushes the leaders of these institutions to correct course.”

Alice Pawley, an engineering professor at Purdue University, said many Indiana teachers are angered by the new restrictions and that “no one trusts that these will actually be enforced fairly.” Many felt despondent about their job security, believing they would be at the mercy of trustees who were not experts in their fields and who would make decisions based on highly subjective criteria, Dr Pawley said.

“This policy is a clever way to appear reasonable, but at the same time it produces a climate in which people are always looking over their shoulders to see who will judge them,” he said.

Even those concerned about the lack of conservative voices on campuses were skeptical. Keith E. Whittington, a professor of politics at Princeton University, expressed concern about the law’s vagueness, including uncertainty about what it will take to meet the requirements.

What distinguishes Indiana’s law from other similar measures, according to Dr. Whittington, is that it “does not seek to punish people for introducing controversial ideas into their classrooms.” Rather, “it tries to punish people for not introducing enough ideas into their classrooms. And this is still an intervention in people’s professional judgment about what they should teach.”

In practice, Dr. Whittington said there will be many professors “running around scared and trying to figure out not only, ‘How can I build a class that I think is intellectually coherent, satisfying and educationally useful?’” but also “ ‘How can I protect myself from being fired?’”