Indiana governor signs law to protect intellectual diversity at public universities

The law mandates that DEI offices and officials have to promote ‘both cultural and intellectual diversity.’

Disciplinary measures in the legislation include the ‘limiting or restricting the granting of tenure.’

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed into law legislation to promote intellectual diversity on public university campuses.

Senate Bill 202, signed into law on March 13, mandates that “certain offices or individuals established or employed by a state educational institution . . . regarding diversity programming must include within the mission of the office or position programming that substantially promotes both cultural and intellectual diversity.”

The law also establishes the “limiting or restricting the granting of tenure or a promotion if certain conditions related to free inquiry, free expression, and intellectual diversity are not met.”

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The bill also includes a provision prohibiting schools from “requiring an applicant, employee, or contractor to pledge allegiance to or make a statement of personal support for: (A) certain policies or actions; or (B) political or ideological movements.”

Republican State Senator Spencer Deery, SB 202’s author, spoke of the need for the legislation, saying: “The American public and Hoosiers as well are losing faith and trust in higher education. One of the strong reasons for that is, frankly, higher education hasn’t done a great job of making every viewpoint feel welcome,” according to NPR. 

In an official statement as part of a press release, Deery also said: “Recent events and blatant antisemitism have placed a spotlight on the hyper-politicalization and monolithic thinking of American higher education institutions, and many are warning that universities have lost their way. SB 202 prods the leaders of these institutions to correct the course.”

The press release also notes that “Gallup observed that the percentage of Republicans who have confidence in higher education fell 37 percentage points from 2015 to 2023 with only 19% of Republicans now trusting universities. In 2018, the Pew Research Center found that ‘professors bringing their political and social views into the classroom’ was the leading cause of the decline in approval, cited by 79% of Republicans.”

The legislation has provoked some opposition. 

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Indiana University President Pamela Whitten, for example, alleged that the measure targeting tenure 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,” as reported by NPR. 

Yet Governor Holcomb expressed confidence in the legislation, stating: “I have faith in our public universities to faithfully implement this law to foster the successful growth and intellectual vibrancy of academia while protecting the rights of all individuals.”

Campus Reform has contacted Indiana University, Indiana State University, and Purdue University for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.