Indiana’s terrible legislature is–as usual– considering several terrible bills. One of those is a thinly-veiled attack on Hoosier higher education.
Senate Bill 202 would establish government oversight of tenure and promotion for all faculty teaching at the state’s public universities. The bill would require those institutions to “deny, limit, or terminate continued employment to faculty if certain conditions related to free inquiry, free expression, and intellectual diversity are not met.”
The author of S.B. 202 wasn’t taking any chances that a classroom discussion violating his quixotic definition of “intellectual diversity” might go unchallenged; SB 202 also establishes a reporting system encouraging students and employees to file complaints against any faculty member they feel is failing to meet the new pro-conservative conditions. It also adds two additional alumni representatives to university boards of trustees.
The Indianapolis Star has published an opinion piece that describes the bill and its likely effects: the departure of competent faculty and an enforced intellectual conformity, a la DeSantis’ Florida. The article reported on the real motives of the bill’s supporters and the political dishonesty involved.
The bill is similar to proposals advanced in other majority-Republican state legislatures — in Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Texas — that seek to establish political oversight of tenure and promotion procedures, curriculum planning, and student services at public institutions of higher learning. Such initiatives are part of a concerted effort to curb the expansion of diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and programs that many colleges and universities across the country have adopted.
Sen. Spencer Deery, R-Lafayette, the bill’s author, has cited partial and unspecified polling data in a number of press reports that purport to show 46% of right-leaning students not feeling welcome to express their views on college campuses in Indiana. In fact, no such Gallup survey results exist.
The figure of 46% does, however, show up in a 2022 study conducted by political science professors at the University of North Carolina (and much cited by conservative advocacy groups) that seems to confirm Deery’s worries. But that study only surveyed students across eight institutions in the UNC system (and even there, with a sample size of 500 students, a mere 2.5% of the student population), not in Indiana.
Of course, as the author notes, even if a more rigorous survey produced the same results, S.B. 202 wouldn’t alleviate the problem. Instead, it would turn Indiana’s campuses into incubators of political correctness and intellectual conformity and would replace the scholarly and professional basis for employing faculty with political litmus tests.
The article ends with a pertinent question: why is a political party that holds a supermajority in the state legislature, the governorship, both U.S. Senate seats, and 7 out of 9 seats so alarmed by the prospect of actual education on the state’s college campuses?
I think we all know the answer to that question.
All available polling and research confirms that the more educated voters are, the more likely they are to vote, and the more likely they are to vote Democratic.
Here in Red Indiana, any threat education poses to GOP dominance will be delayed, thanks to gerrymandering and the lack of a mechanism to overcome it (not to mention the ongoing “brain drain” that sends our brightest graduates to states more congenial to that pesky diversity and inclusion), but our legislative overlords are looking down the road. The rural districts that reliably send MAGA Republicans to the Statehouse are emptying out, and even in the hinterlands, some of Indiana’s small towns are showing signs of dreaded culture change–welcoming immigrants and other “diverse” town-folks.
Several political observers have noted that MAGA Republicans are prone to projection–that when they hurl an accusation at Democrats or “Never Trump” Republicans, they are usually accusing their targets of behavior of which they themselves are guilty. Senate Bill 202 is an effort to indoctrinate students attending the state’s institutions of higher education; anyone who has been paying attention is aware that Republicans have been insisting that teachers, librarians and professors are “indoctrinating” students by introducing them to subversive “liberal” ideas.
The problem is, indoctrination is the antithesis of genuine education.
Educated individuals can recognize complexity, live with ambiguity, and discuss, negotiate and compromise with people who disagree with them. Today’s MAGA voter rejects complexity, is terrified by ambiguity, doesn’t understand the concept of negotiation and refuses to compromise. To be a MAGA Republican means to believe in a black and white universe threatened by any rapprochement with fellow-citizens who differ.
Education and intellectual inquiry are the enemy. Hence S.B. 202.Comments