Indiana House Education Committee Advances SB-202 Despite Opposition from University Community

Staff report

Bloomington, Indiana – February 21, 2024

The Indiana House Education Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to advance Senate Bill 202 (SB-202) despite vocal opposition from university teachers and students.

The bill, which has sparked heated debates throughout the legislative process, seeks to address various aspects of education policy, including curriculum content and funding allocation. Critics argue that B-202 threatens academic freedom and undermines the autonomy of educational institutions.

The bill will seek punishment for university professors not meeting policies on free expression, and “intellectual diversity.” And establish control by the legislature over universities by appointing trustees to Indiana schools of higher learning.

During the committee meeting, university teachers and students expressed their concerns about the potential implications of the proposed legislation. The dissenting voices emphasized the importance of allowing educators to shape curricula based on academic expertise rather than political considerations.

“SB-202 poses a threat to our ability to provide a well-rounded education that encourages intellectual exploration,” said the AAUP after the vote.

SB-202’s supporters, however, contend that the bill is necessary to ensure accountability and alignment with state educational goals.

“This bill is about maintaining a balance in our education system and ensuring that students receive a comprehensive and unbiased education,” Representative [Name] asserted during the committee session. Spearheaded by Sen. Spencer Deery, R-West Lafayette, the bill claims to be a “reform” effort aimed at addressing the perceived decline in the perception of higher education by Republicans who feel unwelcome at universities.

The party-line vote underscored the deep divisions on the issue, with super majority GOP Republican members supporting the advancement of SB-202 and Democrats opposing it.

Critics of SB-202 have vowed to continue their advocacy, organizing rallies, and reaching out to lawmakers to express their concerns. Meanwhile, supporters of the bill are gearing up for additional debates as it progresses through the legislative pipeline.

The AAUP sent the following press release to the media Wednesday:

American Association for University Professors – Indiana State Conference
https://inaaup.wordpress.com, [email protected]
For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:
Stephanie Masta, [email protected], (641) 821-0017
Moira Marsh, [email protected], (812) 320-0536
Ben Robinson, [email protected], (812) 360-1506
Kelly Benjamin, [email protected], (414) 943-1255
For Immediate Release
February 21, 2024
University teachers and students say, “Keep government out of our
classrooms!” as Indiana House Education Committee passes SB-202 on party line
vote.
Dozens of university teachers and students gathered today at the Indiana Legislature House
Education hearing on Senate Bill 202. their message was clear to committee members: “Keep
big government out of university classrooms.”
Advocating for over 150,000 Indiana students and 9000 faculty, faculty senates at Ball State,
Indiana State, Indiana University at Bloomington and South Bend, and Purdue University West
Lafayette, Fort Wayne, and Northwest have passed statements opposing Senate Bill 202. AAUP
chapters at Ball State, Indiana State, Purdue-West Lafayette, Purdue-Fort Wayne, Purdue-
Northwest, and Indiana University-Bloomington have all passed statements opposing S.B. 202.
Concerned citizens sent over 7,500 letters opposing the bill to the House Education Committee
members in the last week. Faculty, students, and administrators statewide see S.B. 202 as
government interference in education, and include concerns regarding legislative appointments
to governing boards; politically-motivated penalties in teaching evaluations including for
tenured faculty; budget regulations which threaten diversity programs at all state universities;
and a provision encouraging student complaints against course material they find “offensive
and disagreeable.” Letter-writers expressed concerns for the accreditation of professional
programs, for researchers’ abilities to compete for federal grants, and about how the best and
brightest faculty will choose to bring their ideas, passion and skill for teaching, and patent and
startup ideas to others states than Indiana.
The House Education Committee voted (6 yes, 4 no, 3 excused) to adopt S. B. 202, which will
now move to the full House for hearing and then a vote. The committee passed several
amendments , making the House version of SB 202 different than the bill the Senate passed; if
it passes the House, it will go to conference committee to resolve the differences.
Dr. Moira Marsh, (Indiana University-Bloomington librarian and President of the Indiana AAUP
State Conference), added, “S.B. 202 is bad for students, bad for higher education, and bad for
Indiana. It will create an atmosphere of suspicion in the classroom and on campus, subject
faculty to discipline by inexpert people, and create a brain drain from our state. Indiana’s public
universities are world-famous, and the AAUP is determined to keep them that way. We will
keep fighting to keep this costly and damaging bill from becoming law.”
Dr. Stephanie Masta (Associate Professor in Purdue University (West Lafayette)’s College of
Education, and President of AAUP Purdue) said, “We are very disappointed with the outcome of
the House Education Committee vote. S.B. 202 will have long lasting, harmful effects on
Indiana’s public colleges and universities and will not accomplish the goals and tasks the author
purports it to accomplish. We will continue to work with our business, education, and
community allies across the state to defeat S.B. 202.”
Dr. Ben Robinson, (Associate Professor of Germanic studies and immediate past president of
AAUP Indiana University-Bloomington), also noted that S. B. 202 “repudiation of academic
freedom is a debacle for Indiana.”
The Indiana Conference of the American Association of University Professors (INAAUP)
promotes cooperation among AAUP chapters at Indiana institutions of higher education. It
works for the betterment of higher education in the state through promoting academic
freedom, shared governance, and the rights of faculty.
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), with over 50,000 members and 500
local chapters, champions academic freedom; advances shared governance; and organizes to
promote economic security for all academic professionals. Since 1915, the AAUP has shaped
American higher education by developing standards and procedures that uphold quality
education.
-END-

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