Indiana ‘Viewpoint Discrimination’ Bill Targets Tenure

By  - 
Gavel and law books

Senate Bill 202 was the center of contentious debate in the Indiana Statehouse last week and drew higher ed faculty from across the state to present their perspectives to lawmakers. 

The bill, proposed by Sen. Spencer Deery, R-West Lafayette, is a response to perceived discrimination of conservative viewpoints and touted as an act of “reform” by the senator and the bill’s supporters. 

The bill significantly expands government oversight of public colleges and universities; one provision in the bill calls for institutional boards of trustees to grant house and senate Republican majority leaders appointment power, which currently rests with alumni councils. 

Another provision alters tenure and promotion policies, preventing faculty that the board sees as “unlikely to foster a culture of free inquiry, free expression and intellectual diversity” from gaining tenure or promotion and ensuring that existing tenured faculty adhere to these ideals in reviews every five years. 

Pamela Whitten, president of Indiana University, said in a statement that the language of SB202 puts “academic freedom at risk, weaken[s] the intellectual rigor essential to preparing students with critical thinking skills, and damage[s] our ability to compete for the world-class faculty who are at the core of what makes IU an extraordinary research institution.”

Other college faculty voiced their opposition to the legislation. Lindsey Everman, a professor at Indiana State University addressed lawmakers last week.

“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.” 

The bill passed in the senate by a vote of 39-9.