Press release: Indiana’s Civil Rights Leaders Warn Universities: “Failure to Protect Faculty of Color Makes You Complicit”

The following was sent to the Bloomingtonian:

For Immediate Release
Contact: Russ Skiba

University Alliance for Racial Justice

Indiana’s Civil Rights Leaders to Universities:

“You Will Be Complicit If You Fail to Protect Faculty of Color”

Indiana’s civil rights leaders and their allies have come together to warn administrators, faculty leaders
and Boards of Trustees of Indiana’s universities of the failure to act decisively and urgently to protect
Indiana’s faculty of color after SEA 202’s passage. In an open letter to university leaders, civil rights
leaders and allies express deep concern over the current lack of advance planning to mitigate the law’s
harms:
“Universities that fail to proactively and publicly address methods to mitigate the harms that
will almost certainly befall students and faculty as a result of 202 will in fact be complicit in the
actualization of those harms.”
Universities are required under the new law to report on its implementation by September 1, 2024.
Since the bill’s passage, concerned faculty have forwarded resolutions to faculty councils and senates
to ensure faculty participation in implementation and protect faculty of color. Surprisingly, however,
these resolutions have garnered little support from university administrations or from the faculty
governance structures that typically advocate for faculty interests.
Said Pastor David Greene, President of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, “It would be shocking if our
universities fail to act on the tremendous threats that 202 will create for faculty and students of color.
But” he continued, “we don’t see much evidence that our universities understand the urgency of
protecting Indiana’s faculty of color.”
SEA 202, part of a national attack on diversity, equity, and inclusion in 28 states, effectively ends
tenure by mandating 5-dyear reviews for all faculty, establishes a surveillance system whereby any
student can complain about any instruction, and allows faculty to be reprimanded, demoted, or fired for
violating the bill’s provisions. Faculty of color, most likely to be called upon to teach courses on
diversity, equity and inclusion, are most likely to be harmed by the law.
President Harper-Scott of the Indiana NAACP State Conference stated “Look at Florida, where faculty
of color, and indeed any faculty who cares about social justice and fairness, are leaving in droves. As a
teacher, I wonder: How can we maintain a culturally competent teaching force when most of the
faculty who teach those courses are gone?”
The consequences of 202 may extend well beyond classrooms. Responding to a rash of DEI firings at
the University of Florida, the national NAACP urged Black student-athletes to consider bringing
their talents to other states without such laws. President Tony Mason, President of the Indianapolis
Urban League, pointed out that the new law “will not only hurt our ability to attract and retain talent, it
will negatively impact tourism. We could very well see boycotts and the withdrawal of major national
and intercollegiate events hosted in Indianapolis across Indiana by sports organizations, educational

entities, arts and cultural institutions, fraternities and sororities, social service organizations, and faith-
based organizations.”

In conclusion, Indiana’s civil rights leaders and their allies call upon:

  • Faculty councils and senates to immediately take up resolutions defining “intellectual
    diversity” and calling for full faculty involvement in all implementation of 202
  • University administrations to commit to protecting faculty of color, and lay out a detailed
    process to back up that commitment this summer.
    While the civil rights community role is to defend those at risk of marginalization, the leaders argue
    that “protecting members of the university community who are vulnerable to the corrosive effects of
    racism and discrimination is a responsibility shared by our state’s university leaders as well.”
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The following was sent to the Bloomingtonian:

To:

Indiana’s University Presidents;

Presidents of Faculty Councils/Senates;

Members of Executive Committees of Faculty Councils/Senates;

Boards of Trustees


We write this letter in deep concern about the approaching implementation of SEA 202 for universities in the state of Indiana. Recognizing the harms that it will cause for faculty and students of color, we remind you of the great urgency to protect those faculty and students. Unfortunately, we have not yet sensed that urgency among campus leaders.

We understand the pressure faced by faculty governance at the end of the academic year, especially given the other important issues on the agenda, such as the upcoming meeting of the entire faculty at Indiana University-Bloomington. It is a hectic and stressful time.

But it is important to bear in mind that the reasons for urgent attention to the coming impact of SEA 202 are even more compelling. We draw your attention to the following:

  • SEA 202 is a civil rights trojan horse. SEA 202 is not now and was never about protecting free speech. The term “intellectual diversity” was invented by a hyper-conservative faculty member as a method of attack against “the left” and the civil rights movement. While we firmly believe in and have fought for free speech rights for all, current data show that Indiana 75% of undergraduates perceive their campuses as placing a high value on free speech including over 55% of self-defined politically conservative students. Rather, SEA 202 is one of dozens of such bills introduced in 28 states by outside interests as part of a national campaign to undercut and eventually remove all traces of diversity, equity, and inclusion from American college campuses.
  • SEA 202 contains provisions clearly attacking DEI. The bill contains a provision that Indiana universities may not consider statements about diversity, equity and inclusion in any application, hiring, or tenure decisions. The bill also requires universities to report all expenses on diversity, equity, and inclusion and specify their definition of all offices that may be related to DEI. Clearly, such intrusion into the budgets and hiring decisions of our universities puts Indiana on a clear path to the actions taken at the University of Florida and the University of Texas in their unprecedented firing of all DEI staff.

Efforts to dismantle DEI are already well underway in other states and in Indiana. At the University of Texas-Austin, at least 60 current and former employees of diversity, equity, and inclusion offices were laid off amid threats that any universities failing to do so would have their funds frozen by the legislature. The Wyoming legislature defunded the DEI office and all other DEI activities at the University of Wyoming. In Indiana, a conservative student group has begun releasing exact figures on the amount of money spent on DEI activities at Indiana University—Indianapolis. There can be little doubt that the next session of the General Assembly will see attempts to defund all DEI activities on Indiana campuses.

The egregious consequences of such bills are clear. Faculty of color are those most likely to teach courses requiring discussion of diversity, equity and inclusion and are already disproportionately targeted for complaints. Giving institutional support to such grievances through the surveillance system and penalties required by 202—ranging from reprimands to demotion to firing—will vastly increase the impact of such complaints and will lead to the migration of faculty of color from Indiana. Faculty are beginning to leave Florida universities at alarming rates; those most at risk for forced migration are faculty of color.

The consequences of 202 may well also extend beyond classrooms. In response to DEI firings at the University of Florida, the national NAACP urged Black student-athletes to consider bringing their talents to other states without such laws. While it is impossible to predict the actions of any national organization, it should be noted that the national NAACP drew parallels between the Florida and Indiana situation in its official statement on SEA 202. Civil rights leaders are calling for the NCAA, whose home is Indiana, to ban tournament play in states with anti-DEI bills.

More importantly, as the Indianapolis Urban League has noted, the effects of racist policy may reverberate well beyond the walls of academia to the many areas of our society where Black and Brown communities make a significant contribution, suggesting there could be serious downstream effects of 202 on entertainment, the business community, and the arts in Indiana.

With deadlines specified in the law looming, the time for faculty to act is severely limited. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2024 and a detailed report from universities on the implementation of the law’s provisions is due on September 1, 2024. If specific expectations and ground rules for faculty involvement in decisions regarding the implementation of 202 are not established by the end of this academic year, the faculty in effect will cede their opportunity for input on the shape of such implementation to university administration and Boards of Trustees.

It is important to note that resolutions protecting faculty of color have already been developed and submitted across a number of campuses. The Alliance for Racial Justice, representing over 1,000 individuals and 70 organizations, worked with faculty leaders throughout Indiana and forwarded a draft resolution to faculty councils/senates at a number of institutions nearly two weeks ago. Surprisingly, we have seen little or no movement on those resolutions at any Indiana campus.

Together, this disturbing information can lead to only one conclusion: The effect of a failure on the part of university administrations and faculties to develop a strong university response containing a specific outline of actions to be taken prior to the end of this academic year will be to allow the harms to faculty and students of color to go forward without faculty opposition. Universities that fail to proactively and publicly address methods to mitigate the harms that will almost certainly befall students and faculty as a result of 202 will in fact be complicit in the actualization of those harms.

In light of these facts, it is critical that:

a.) resolutions calling for the adoption of a faculty driven definition of intellectual diversity and faculty participation in the implementation of all other provisions of the bill be introduced and considered by faculty councils/senates before the end of this academic year

b) university administrations make clear and public statements that support the faculty of color at their university, and outlining a process to take place between now and September 1, 2024 that has as its explicit goal to preserve the opportunity for faculty of color to remain at and thrive at Indiana’s universities.

While it may seem atypical for a community outside of academia to weigh in on university matters, this is a matter of the civil rights of the faculty and students of color, and the citizenry of Indiana. It is our job as leaders of organizations defending those rights to seek to protect those at risk from harm. We would argue that protecting members of its community who are vulnerable to the corrosive effects of racism and discrimination is a responsibility shared by leaders at our state’s universities as well.

Sincerely,

Sadie Harper-Scott, President, NAACP Indiana Conference

Tony Mason, President & CEO, Indianapolis Urban League

Pastor David Greene, President, Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis

Rabbi Aaron Spiegel, Executive Director, Greater Indianapolis Multifaith Alliance

Dr. Khaula Murtadha, Associate Vice Chancellor, Indiana University-Indianapolis

Rev. Ivan Douglas Hicks, Founding General Secretary, The Ministerium

Patricia Payne, Indiana Coalition for Public Education

Dr. Gwen Kelley, Educational Consultant

Professor James Scheurich, School of Education, Indiana University

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