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STATEHOUSE — With time starting to wain on getting bills passed and to the governor’s desk, lawmakers in the House are fast-tracking a bill that Republicans say will bolster protections for students and faculty to speak freely on college campuses.

They can already do that thanks to the First Amendment, but the GOP wants to codify that by setting new standards of accountability to make sure Indiana’s colleges and universities do not retaliate in any way to speech that may go against the school’s position on any one topic.

A bill to do that would also establish a new tenure review framework to ensure this “intellectual diversity.”

“The number of Hoosier students and parents who view higher education as monolithic echo chambers, shelter or coddle students from minority and scholarly viewpoints, or ostracize faculty, speakers, or students with different viewpoints is significant,” State Sen. Spencer Deery (R-West Lafayette) has said of his bill.

The different viewpoints he refers to are conservative viewpoints in speech on campus as well as research. Deery’s bill cites a few studies that rank colleges for their ability to allow viewpoints from all angles to be freely expressed.

Indiana University has ranked low among some of these studies.

Democrats say the bill is the result of people who don’t spend much time on college campuses nowadays not understanding what happens on college campuses. State Rep. Matt Pierce admonished Republicans for going by a study from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE)

“They look at this study and say ‘Look at IU, they are way at the bottom. They must be the horrible left-wingers indoctrinating our kids and slapping down those conservative students if they raise a different viewpoint.”

Pierce claimed the study is skewed based on metrics regarding emails sent out last year by seven trustees who spoke against the state’s abortion ban and in like manner urged faculty to support Dr. Kaitlin Bernard, an IU faculty member who performed an abortion on a ten-year-old girl from Ohio and subsequently drew the ire of Attorney General Todd Rokita.

Pierce said the study’s metrics saw that as promoting more left-leaning viewpoints on the IU campus and thus affected their ranking in the study. He added that the IU administration then emailed those seven trustees informing them that that email violated university policy since it was sent through the official emailing system of the school.

“People are getting sucked into this impression that somehow there are all these crazy, leftist professors indoctrinating all the kids,” Pierce said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Before the full House adopted the House Education Committee’s majority report on the bill, and in like manner rejected the minority report, Pierce said there was some common ground. He said it makes sense for schools to make clear when schools are speaking clearly for the entire institution and not from individual employees.

Democrats also like that schools make it clear that if students don’t like what other students are saying it is addressed through an ‘exchange of ideas” rather than shouting and ostracizing someone with differing opinions.

Where Democrats split from Republicans is the provision of reworking tenure review. The bill would implement a five-year tenure review cycle to ensure faculty are adhering to “intellectual diversity” in their teaching and their research.

Pierce said this would add an unnecessary level of bureaucracy to the tenure process.

Democrats tried to hold the bill up by referring it to the House Ways and Means Committee citing its financial impact on schools. That motion was blocked by Republicans. The bill will now enter into its reading process on the full House floor.

The post Democrats On Intellectual Diversity Bill: “Colleges Are Not Indoctrinating Students” appeared first on WIBC 93.1 FM.

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