Letter Alleges Indiana University Staff Demand Resignation of Administration Over Violations of Free Speech and Workplace Rights

Editor’s note: The following letter was shared with the Bloomingtonian, and expresses the opinions of those who wrote it. The Bloomingtonian is simply sharing the letter with the community as it does other statements of varying opinions and perspectives:

An Open Letter to our Indiana University community:
As staff of Indiana University Bloomington, the protections that cover many of us are far
more fragile than those of students and faculty. We write here, an open letter that has been
created by many voices, though we withhold signatures to ensure the identities of those involved
may not be revealed due to concerns of retaliation from an administration that has shown a
penchant for that type of behavior.
In day-to-day operations, IU’s staff people work on the ground as liaisons,
representatives, and support to students, faculty, and administrators, helping to actualize the
policies and procedures disseminated from leadership. Over the course of the last three years,
President Whitten, Provost Shrivastav, and VPFAA Docherty have side-stepped recognized
communication practices, contravened decades-old policies, and breached standard operating
procedures on numerous occasions. The effect of these violations has been felt in every corner of
the university and put undue strain on staff in a way that no other administration has done before.
Departments have been unable to achieve goals and execute responsibilities that have previously
been non-issues due to debilitating budget restraints, massive gaps in hiring, and overburdened
staff juggling jobs well outside of their positions. Internally, successful communication and
collaboration between administrators, faculty, staff, and students of university schools has been
destabilized. There are constant questions about budget restraints, hiring gaps, student funding,
policy, decreasing numbers of applicants, and more, but Deans are unable to provide answers.
This is because there is no transparency from President Whitten, Provost Shrivastav, and VPFAA
Docherty. The three have displayed a clear inability to cultivate trust, effectively do their jobs,
and have resorted to quantifying the people of the university as budget lines resulting in growing
frustration for all.
Following similar calls from faculty and students, we believe that the recent
circumstances and actions of President Whitten, Provost Shrivastav, and VPFAA Docherty all
demonstrate the need for the three listed members of the administration to resign or be removed
from office. These reasons include: the refusal to recognize the IU Graduate Workers Union, the
faculty vote of no confidence, and most importantly, the decisions in the past week to incite
police brutality and violate free speech. In addition, Indiana University must rescind any campus
bans issued by the Indiana University Police Department against protesters and advocate to drop
all charges.
On April 24, 2024, Indiana University administration betrayed its longstanding support
for freedom of expression on campus by forming an “ad hoc” committee to change a 1969 policy
that had designated Dunn Meadow as a “public forum for expression on all subjects”. This
committee was made up of only four members, who were overseen by Provost Shrivastav, and
the policy change was pushed through late in the night just before a known protest was planned
in Dunn Meadow the following morning. It is clear that this policy change was a tool of
suppression from the university as a formality to permit violence against a specific topic of
expression, a clear violation of the First Amendment.
We feel that most members of our community are familiar with the details of this change
by now, but recap it briefly here: The policy prohibited the use of “unauthorized structures” in
Dunn Meadow, which protesters on the morning of Thursday, April 25, 2024 had prepared to use
in advance per the 1969 Board of Trustees policy. By 4:00 pm, Thursday, Indiana State Police
and Indiana University Police Department raided the encampment in Dunn Meadow,
aggressively dismantling all structures, and partaking in the violent arrests of 33 protesters,
including several staff members. The encampment regrouped and reassembled structures the
same day, a show of dissent to the rushed policy change that was notably in anticipation of the
planned use of structures. Friday, April 26, 2024, the City of Bloomington and IU’s campus were
swarmed with Indiana State Police (ISP) and the militarized equipment they brought along. This
includes, but is not limited to, snipers, BearCat vehicles, SWAT armor, tear gas canisters, pepper
bullets, riot shields, batons, and automatic weapons. Saturday, April 27, 2024, just before 12:00
pm, ISP swarmed Dunn Meadow for a second time in two days and proceeded to violently arrest
23 more protesters, as well as demolish the supplies and structures in the encampment. All 56
individuals that had been arrested were charged, the majority with criminal trespassing, and
subsequently banned from IU’s campus ranging from one to five years.
As a collective of one hundred and thirteen staff, we vehemently stand by the right to
protest peacefully and take these violations of free speech in grave offense. Protest and free
speech are crucial components of democracy. They allow for safe, productive discourse, they
bring diverse ideas together, and they help formulate solutions to the problems of global
communities. An effort to stifle these rights is an effort to stifle democracy. If staff, faculty, and
administrators are witnessing clear disregard for the democratic process, then there is no space
where they could feel safe to advocate for improved working conditions without fear of that
same disregard. The oppression of these basic rights are far from the only reason that no
confidence is had in the current administration at IU, but it is the final straw of what is long
overdue: We these one hundred and thirteen staff people of Indiana University unequivocally call
for the resignation of the President, Provost, and VPFAA. It’s time for change, and not the kind
made by the four-person “ad hoc” committee.
Sincerely,
One Hundred and Thirteen Indiana University Bloomington Staff
Below are the blank signature lines of the one hundred and thirteen staff folk that created this letter, of whom work in an environment where they cannot safely make their opinions known. Find in place of signatures some comments from the staff about their working conditions and their fears of retaliation for objecting.
The shockingly aggressive response to a
peaceful protest has traumatized our campus.
This administration has irrevocably lost the
trust of the vast majority of campus
community.
We have been told our communications are
heavily monitored for signs of dissent and that
people who speak against workplace
conditions (Whitten) will be RIF’d or outright
terminated.
Have my full support. God I hope this isn’t a
scam, and I’m not about to be fired.
We have reached an unstable precipice at IU
where the constant braindrain of cycling staff
due to low compensation, overwork, and an
increasingly challenging campus climate has
made it seem impossible for us to advocate
for ourselves without organizing.
I have no confidence in Rahul Shrivastav,
because he has handled very poorly the
viciously toxic environment in the School
despite knowing about it for more than a year.
I fully expect to get fired for clicking this link
and signing this form.
The workplace discomfort among support
staff/frontline staff is a feature of all of this,
not a bug.
They are hiring people into the same position
that I have occupied for more than 10 years at
$10-$15,000 less than what I was making 10
to 15 years ago.
Horrific “leadership” demonstrating the exact
opposite of what should be encouraged in our
students.
I have felt an increasing need expressed by
my colleagues and myself for there to be new
networks established for staff to communicate
safely and confidently with one another about
the challenges we face due to this
administration.
[Dean’s name’s] clinically psychotic
“leadership” has created an angry,
disillusioned faculty; exhausted, demoralized
staff; and an astonishing attrition rate. If the
provost can’t stand up to [Dean’s Name] and
demand his resignation, I doubt that
Shrivastav is capable of other, more difficult
This administration’s actions make association
with IU increasingly shameful.
leadership challenges.

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