FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lance Gideon, Press Secretary
STATEHOUSE (Feb. 6, 2024) — Major higher education reform legislation authored by State Sen. Spencer Deery (R-West Lafayette) passed the Senate today by a vote of 39 to 9.
With the goal of reversing the public's declining views of higher education, Senate Bill 202 aims to modernize tenure, promote intellectual diversity and create transparency in regard to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) spending.
"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," Deery said. "SB 202 prods the leaders of these institutions to correct the course."
Deery said the worry is backed by multiple surveys. 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.
In Indiana, a 2022 Gallup survey commissioned by the state found that only 46% of politically conservative students in Indiana believe they can openly express their opinions compared to 79% of politically liberal students.
"In recent years, the General Assembly has enacted important reforms to recruit more students into a college path such as requiring high school juniors to take the SAT, and last year, I passed SEA 404 to give students more rights over their transcripts so they can get back into school after dropping out," Deery said. "Those bills are important, but we will never reach our goal of 60% of Hoosiers with a post-secondary degree if we don't also correct the declining views of higher ed."
SB 202 would put into law for the first time, protections for tenured faculty against retaliation for their research, or criticism of administrators. The bill would also require faculty to undergo a post-tenure review every five years to ensure they are meeting adequate performance expectations, as well as encouraging intellectual diversity and refraining from pushing political views in the classroom that are unrelated to the scholar's expertise.
SB 202 would also require DEI offices at public universities to include intellectual diversity in their missions and require transparency in spending on DEI initiatives.
"Diversity is an essential part of the university experience, and infringing on academic freedom is a red line we should not cross," Deery said. "That said, we don't need to give up on those values to curb the excessive politicalization and viewpoint discrimination that threaten our state's workforce goals."
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Deery encourages constituents to contact him with any questions or concerns on this and other topics at Senator.Deery@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9400.
State Sen. Spencer Deery (R-West Lafayette) represents Senate District 23,
which includes Fountain, Parke, Vermillion and Warren counties,
and portions of Montgomery and Tippecanoe counties.
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