New IN Law Attacks Tenure

By  - 
State Capitol Indiana

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, signed a bill into law this week that protects conservative viewpoints on college campuses by tying tenure to perceived “intellectual diversity.”

The bill’s key provisions include requiring university boards of trustees to develop policies that prevent faculty members from receiving tenure or promotions if they do not provide learning materials from a variety of standpoints or are considered unlikely to foster free inquiry, expression, and diverse learning materials. Additionally, it mandates periodic review of tenured professors every five years based on established criteria and performance evaluations.

University administrators and faculty across the state have condemned the bill, including Indiana University (IU) President Pamela Whitten, who argued that the law poses a significant risk to academic freedom and the quality of education. Whitten and other opponents worry that it may deter top-tier faculty from joining Indiana’s universities and hinder the institutions’ ability to compete on a global scale.

“[W]e are deeply concerned about language regarding faculty tenure that would put academic freedom at risk, weaken the intellectual rigor essential to preparing students with critical thinking skills, and damage our ability to compete for the world-class faculty who are at the core of what makes IU an extraordinary research institution,” Whitten wrote in a statement.

Purdue University’s faculty senate also criticized the bill in a resolution, pointing to examples like New College in Florida, where the state government appointed openly partisan trustees. 

“[M]easures such as these in the name of ‘viewpoint diversity’ have already had disastrous impacts on freedom of inquiry and dissemination,” a resolution from the Purdue University Faculty Senate reads. “This has taken the form of closing institutions, state governments taking control of institutions,and the creation by boards of governors of new institutions to further partisan views. Indeed robust evidence for a lack of intellectual diversity at universities in the U.S. is absent. The cure, however, for a disease that might not exist, is most certainly a problem.”

These statements are especially relevant given that Purdue is the state’s largest employer and four IU entities — two campuses and two health facilities — also fall in the list of Indiana’s top 10 employers.