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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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BeyondMU: Indiana Signs Law Threatening Professors’ Tenure over ‘Academic Diversity’

The+entrance+to+Indiana+University%2C+one+of+the+state%E2%80%99s+higher+ed.+institution+that+will+be+affected+by+the+new+law.
Courtesy of AdobeStock/Susan Vineyard
The entrance to Indiana University, one of the state’s higher ed. institution that will be affected by the new law.

A new law signed by Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb forces college and university professors to promote “intellectual diversity” in their classrooms or risk losing tenure.

The law, signed on March 13, was created with the intent to force higher education institutions to be more accepting of conservative ideas amongst students in the classroom; however, the law has faced fierce backlash from many professors and faculty who fear repercussions over what they include in their curriculum.

According to Ben Robinson, associate professor of Germanic Studies at Indiana University, the new law marks the end of tenure as it is currently known in the state.

The law “allows faculty the freedom to pursue their inquiries and their teaching without reprisal,” he said when speaking to NPR.

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This fear by Robinson is echoed by many professors within the state who fear the law will open the door for interference from university boards of trustees, who could now determine a professor’s tenure.

However, the determining factor does not lie solely with the board of trustees, as the law also creates a system for complaints by students and faculty, in which those complaints can be reviewed when considering a professor’s tenure.

The law does feature some protections for faculty, including protections for professors engaging in public commentary or criticizing the university; however, many opponents of the legislation feel it is only an attempt to limit academic freedom and will ultimately hurt the quality of education in the long run.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Spencer Deery, who was previously chief of staff at Purdue University, said the sole intention of the law is to create a more comfortable environment for conservative students on campuses state-wide.

Michael Berghoff, the Purdue University Board of Trustees chair, claimed the bill does not change much, especially in the university’s approach to maintaining freedom of speech on campus, despite the Purdue University Senate passing a resolution denouncing the bill.

The passage of this law marks the third of its kind in the nation created to reconstruct higher education curricula to favor conservative discussion in classrooms.

Previously, both Texas and Florida have passed similar legislation that reviews tenure, with Nebraska introducing a bill this year that would eliminate tenure entirely.

However, these pieces of legislation have caused unforeseen repercussions, with a survey by the American Association of University Professors finding many professors are seeking employment in other states due to the passage of these laws.

The survey found two-thirds of the 4,250 professors interviewed across Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina would not recommend their state for academic work.

Meanwhile, last year’s AAUP Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession found real wages for professors had dropped 2.4% for the third year in a row.

Combining these factors with declining college enrollment and university programs ending, which has recently occurred at West Virginia University, or closing institutions down entirely, such as the case for Notre Dame College in Cleveland, Ohio, there is an air of uncertainty surrounding academic professions.

Tenure used to mean stability amongst educators, with it providing indefinite job security for those who qualify, with tenured professors being granted extra protections to conduct research or teaching on controversial topics without the fear of repercussions. With new laws being passed and legislation being considered, tenure may not be the incentive many educators once strived for.

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