Indiana’s Autocratic-And Delusional–Legislature

The most positive thing I can say about Indiana’s just-departed legislature is that at least it was a short session.

I have yet to address one of the most offensive bills passed by our legislative overlords: Senate Enrolled Act 202, which presumes to overrule accepted academic standards and procedures in the name of “intellectual diversity.” As numerous professors and other educators have pointed out, the bill is a thinly-veiled effort to combat what its proponents believe is “liberal bias” in higher education. (Unfortunately, as a popular meme proclaims, facts have a well-known liberal bias.)

The bill aims to emulate Ron DeSantis’ war against education and “wokeness”–turning Indiana into Florida, but without the water and sunshine.

Actually, as faculty and students overwhelmingly and unsuccessfully argued, in addition to having a chilling effect on free expression, the proposal is first and foremost an effort to micromanage Indiana’s higher education institutions. And that effort highlights the most prominent characteristic of our legislature’s Republican super-majority: its unbelievable hubris.

Hubris is defined as “excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.” It comes from the Greek, and denotes an excess of ambition and self-regard that ultimately causes the transgressor’s ruin.  It is the overwhelming trait of the Republicans who control Indiana’s Statehouse.

Do Indianapolis citizens want public transportation? Our legislative overlords will restrict the kinds of transit for which we can tax ourselves (no light rail, for reasons that escape most of us). If we are finally allowed to proceed, self-appointed mavens in the legislature will overrule transit experts on issues of implementation.

Did the City-County Council pass a tax to support special needs in the city’s mile square? The legislature will tell them who can and cannot be subjected to that tax. (Gotta protect those political donors…)

The same hubris that is evident when the legislature routinely overrules local government decisions about transit, taxes, puppy mills and plastic bags extends to the idiocy of Senate Enrolled Act 202.

As the Capital Chronicle recently described the Act: 

Included are changes to institutions’ diversity-oriented positions and their policies for tenure, contract renewals, performance reviews and more. It also establishes new reporting and survey requirements based on “free inquiry, free expression, and intellectual diversity.”

Garrison noted that, as part of Senate Enrolled Act 202, Indiana “is one of the few states” that now requires boards of trustees to establish diversity committees on our campuses.

Under the new law, those diversity committees must make recommendations promoting recruitment and retention of “underrepresented” students rather than the “minority students” specified in current law….

The law additionally requires institutions to establish complaint procedures in which school students and staff can accuse faculty members and contractors of not meeting free-expression criteria.

Institutions will have to refer those complaints to human resource professionals and supervisors “for consideration in employee reviews and tenure and promotion decisions,” according to the law.

From a legal standpoint, I would argue that language in the bill is unconstitutionally vague, but of course, that’s the point.

It is glaringly clear that the intent of the measure is to warn professors who might be advancing “liberal” ideas that they are jeopardizing their tenure. Of course, what constitutes a “liberal” classroom lecture and a lack of “intellectual diversity” is pretty subjective–and in our current political environment, subject to constant change. If a biology professor teaches evolution and fails to give equal time to creationism, has she failed to be “intellectually diverse”?  Is a professor teaching about the Supreme Court case on same-sex marriage prohibited from agreeing with its reasoning?

And about that encouraging of complaints….

When I taught, it was abundantly clear that most students who filed complaints against my colleagues were students who got poor grades. (I didn’t get any official complaints, but one student did sue me in Small Claims court for giving him a B-, a grade that was actually a gift. He lost.)

There is much more that is truly horrible about Senate Enrolled Act 202, but what is even more troubling than its content is that its passage represents the majority’s hubris and lack of self-awareness. Someone needs to tell these self-important examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect that election to the Indiana Statehouse (courtesy of gerrymandering) is not a grant of  authority to rule everything in Indiana.

At some level, Indiana lawmakers must recognize that they’re on thin ice–why else would they adamantly refuse to extend the hours our polls are open, or allow citizen referenda or nonpartisan redistricting?

Until Indiana’s weak, ineffective Democratic Party is able to run credible candidates in every one of Indiana’s gerrymandered districts, Hoosiers will continue to inhabit an autocracy governed by culture-war know-nothings with wildly inflated self-images.


  1. Altering the quality and substance of education is what autocracies do. Texas and Florida lead the league in doing just that. They no longer hide the facts about their outright fascism. EVERY red state is buying into this theme because it’s what the Republican party has become. Since they have NO civic agenda that serves the people – as our national Constitution says it must – the only way these corrupt liars can retain power for their corporate masters is to pull crap like this.

    It’s their long game, and as we’ve all noted before, the intent to destroy democracy for the sake of hoarding money is a sickness from which they will never recover. They must be voted OUT of office while elections still matter. For example, how do you think those elections in Russia are going? Free and fair? Sure.

  2. I agree with your assessment of the Indiana State Democratic Party, but I vehmently disagree with your assessment of the quality of our candidates. As a part of the Party leadership structure ( Secretary of the 8th District Dem Party). I have contact with many of the candidates running as Democrats from County Surveyors to the Governor. I can state without hesitation that EVERY Democrat candidate is outstanding. After all, you have to have very strong beliefs in the party and a will to serve people to run as a Democrast in Indiana. As a candidate myself for State Legislature the third time, the problem Democrat candidates have is the ability to get our message out to voters because we don’t get the big donations from PACS and other organizations that allow us to compete on a level playing field. Add to that, the overwhelming amount of money the GOP directs to all of their county parties helps to suppress the message of any opponents the GOP may have. While the GOP has several former and current members of our legislature involved in accepting campaign donations from gambling corporations, nothing serious seems to affect their candidacy. Mark Messmer, state senator representing counties in southern Indiana was found guilty of accepting donations from a gambling corporation executive through a straw donor and nothing happend to him, so now he is running for US Congress.

    The only way to make a change in our State Legislature is to donate to our Democrat Candidates. Everyone please donate now to Jennifer McCormick’s campaign for Governor, The GOP list of candidates for governor is horrible, but the most dangerous is the likely Primary winner Mike Braun, who is just an extension of Trump’s crazy. If you can’t donate, seek out your local Democrat candidates and offer help of any kind, walking in parades, helping with mailings, anything that will help them reach potential voters. And don’t forget to encourage everyone you know to get registered to vote and check their registration to make sure it is still valid. You can do this at

    Democrats are out there in the state working hard to let voters know that we offer a better choice than the GOP, we just need a little help from our friends.

  3. Would this bill have any impact on the already signed contracts between professors and the universities for which they work? If so, would it give a rationale for lawsuits against the state?
    I’m not a litigious person, but it seems that the only way to change the legislature might be to bring suit for breach of contract, or free speech violations and do it as often and as noisily as possible.

  4. Sadly, Peggy, the judges in this state are Republican goons as well, so lawsuits would not benefit the plaintiffs much.

    Once again, Trump has promised violence (a bloodbath) if he doesn’t win the election. In his humble mind, he expects to win big against #GenocideJoe, so it must have been stolen from him if he doesn’t win. Interesting!

    Since most of the BOTs are appointed by the Republican governor, the same goes for the university Presidents. Our local board at Ball State is very conservative, and so is El Presidente. An early buyout occurred several years ago, and all the professors departing were gagged. They could not say anything about what happened during their employment or be sued and have to pay back the buyout sum.

    Freedoms are being lost, and there is no justice for all. Our society is closing down from fear of the people. They’re coming for our First Amendment rights. Our right to gather and protest against the government has become criminal. We are no longer a republic or democratic.

  5. Teresa–I said NOTHING about the quality of Democratic candidates. I strongly support McCormick, Marc Carmichael, Trish Whitcomb and others running as Democrats. What I criticized was the seeming inability to run such candidates in EVERY legislative race.

  6. Teresa,

    As with most red states’ Democrat candidates, they are ready to work for the people they attempt to represent. Sadly, though, the voters in the red areas don’t seem to be able to grasp that simple concept and instead keep voting for the corrupt, lying, incompetent Republicans.

    What do you do about that?

  7. I wish every red state, especially Tennessee, had a Sheila Kennedy posting warnings about “stupid” legislation pending in their congressional halls. Sadly, such proposals are a coordinated effort to destroy public education, decrease “socialist programs,” and install MAGA policies.

  8. Gardeners plan what to plant, where and when to create conditions conducive to the needs of each plant so that the all flourish in rich displays each unique to their kind.

    Republicans plan what to mislead about, where and when, to create conditions conducive to the needs of each voter, up to and including a plurality of actual voters in red states, so that they all flourish suporting singularly anti-diversity hate and fear of anyone unlike the prototypical white, Christian, heterosexual, rural, anti-freedom for all, exclusionary power disciples.

    They demand their rights at the expense of any other’s without responsibility for anyone-thing else.

  9. “Hubris…denotes an excess of ambition and self-regard that ultimately causes the transgressor’s ruin.”
    May that ruin be complete, and come quickly, to the Indiana GOP!

  10. Your last paragraph is the key. As much as we criticize the Indiana GOP, the Democrats have no clue, or will, to take them on. Because of the Electoral College system, the national Democratic Party has no reason to help. Votes we cast for statewide races and in the presidential election are meaningless. I would call this situation a win for the GOP.

  11. I moved from my house on a lake in North Naples, Florida, a few years ago (where I had planned to live it out) back to Indiana as a result of the De Fascist attack on education in Florida, among other such attacks, some unconstitutional, on the rights of citizens to enjoy their lives free of his fascist deprivation of their individual rights, especially professional tenure and the rewriting of curricula by politicians. Who invited politicians to interfere with the inner workings of a system that works by redoing tenure and political rewriting of curricula in the state’s colleges and universities, replacement of educational boards of directors with politicians etc.? Achtung time? When do we citizens take to the streets?

    It now appears that by returning to the Hoosier state I have jumped from the frying pan into the fire. De Fascist and the Republican supermajority here in Indiana have joined forces with their apparent plan to destroy our democratic institutions in favor of an ism which finds no support in either the Constitution or our democratic history but lots of support in the politics of 1930ish Germany.

    I am not a “Good German” and will not live under a fascist regime, but I will not make a decision on whether to leave Indiana until after this fall’s election. I am thinking Burlington, Vermont, as a potential venue suitable to my political future, having almost retired there instead of Naples many moons ago. I hesitate to call the moving vans just now since we Democrats have such excellent and outstanding candidates for the Big Three, i. e., governor, senator and AG, and if we fund their candidacies with the means for messaging, lightning could strike.

  12. My name is Chris Hartig. I am currently running as the Democrat candidate for State House Rep Dist 29 in Noblesville. It is difficult as a Democrat to run for office against the established base of Republicans in Indiana. They will outfund us hundreds to one and have a redistricted area advantage. I agree 100% that we should be running in every race, to build confidence to get voters to not vote in the Republican primary. That is our fault for not always showing up, but we are here now and need your support to push back against the supermajority.

  13. Sheila, I meant no disrespect to you or your position on candidates. Democrats are often told we are not effective, but as you have pointed out what Democrat candidates need is support.

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