Indiana State Senate Republicans have advanced a bill that they say would protect students on Indiana’s college campuses’ ability to freely speak their minds.
State Sen. Spencer Deery (R-West Lafayette) wrote the bill saying that its goal is to protect “intellectual diversity” just as much as cultural diversity.
Deery’s motivation behind the bill comes from a survey conducted on college campuses in Indiana that he says showed only 46-percent of students who say they identify as conservative feel they can openly express their views on their campus without facing any kind of retaliation from faculty of staff. 79-percent of liberal students said the same, according to the survey.
“The number of Hoosier students and parents who view higher education as monolithic echo chambers, shelter or coddle students from minority and scholarly viewpoints, or ostracize faculty, speakers, or students with different viewpoints is significant,” Deery said.
The different viewpoints he refers to are conservative viewpoints.
The bill also would rework the parameters by which faculty at Indiana’s high education institutions get tenure by including a more regular review process of their work every five years. These parameters have to do with how a professor handles “free inquiry, free expression, and intellectual diversity”, according to the bill.
Deery said this would strengthen tenure for faculty by protecting faculty and teachers from retaliation from the university over the topics they are researching or if they speak against the administration.
Furthermore, it would require a more thorough review process of how colleges and universities are using funding for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.
“It’s a secret among our higher ed institutions that nobody really knows what we are spending in this space because it is so hard to define,” Deery said. “It’s so spread throughout our departments and institutions. For the first time, we would have an accounting of what’s being spent and what’s being done.”
Democrats spoke ardently against the bill on Tuesday.
State Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) questioned Deery directly about who the bill would cover. He took issue with the possibility that the bill is placing one particular group of students in front of another when it comes to prioritizing the right to freely express themselves.
He said it was offensive that the bill doesn’t explicitly say that it addresses the ability of black and minority students to speak as well.
“If you are going to address one, expect me to be offended if you don’t address mine too,” Taylor said.
State Sen. Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington) believes the bill would do the opposite of its intent. She added that would also discourage college professors from wanting to come to Indiana to conduct their research.
It passed the Senate on a party-line vote and now heads to the Indiana House.
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