Indiana Law Requires Professors to Promote ‘Intellectual Diversity’ or Face Penalties

A new law in Indiana requires professors in public universities to foster a culture of “intellectual diversity” or face disciplinary actions, including termination for even those with tenure, the latest in an effort by Republicans to assert more control over what is taught in classrooms.

The law connects the job status of faculty members, regardless of whether they are tenured, to whether, in the eyes of a university’s board of trustees, they promote “free inquiry” and “free expression.” State Senator Spencer Deery, who sponsored the bill, made clear in a statement that this would entail the inclusion of more conservative viewpoints on campus.

The backlash to the legislation, which Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, signed March 13, has been substantial. Hundreds wrote letters or testified at hearings, and faculty senates at multiple institutions had urged the legislature to reject the bill, condemning it as government overreach and a blow to academic free speech.

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

Colleges nationwide have been buffeted by debates about academic freedom in recent years. Several states, including Florida, Texas and Nebraska, have proposed bills limiting tenure, some of which have passed. More broadly, Republican-led states have targeted diversity programs in universities; those bills, which have restricted or eliminated those programs, have had more success becoming law, with such measures in place in at least a half-dozen states.

Under the Indiana law, which goes into effect in July, university trustees may not grant tenure or a promotion to faculty members who are deemed “unlikely” to promote “intellectual diversity” or to expose students to works from a range of political views. Trustees also may withhold tenure or promotion from those who are found “likely” to bring unrelated political views into the courses they are teaching.

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