February 21, 2024

Purdue University Senate passes resolution opposing SB202

Purdue’s University Senate passed a resolution this week opposing SB202. - FILE PHOTO: Ben Thorp/WBAA

Purdue’s University Senate passed a resolution this week opposing SB202.


The Purdue University Senate passed a resolution this week that opposes a bill that would reform tenure in an effort to grow “intellectual diversity” on campus.

The resolution calls the bill an “improper extension of state control over matters of academic freedom.”

The bill, introduced by Senator Spencer Deery (R-West Lafayette), would create a promotion and tenure review process that includes an analysis of whether professors are creating an environment for “free inquiry, free expression, and intellectual diversity.”

Deery, a former deputy chief of staff at Purdue University, has argued the bill is an effort to make students - particularly conservatives - feel more welcome on campus and to ensure the legislature will continue to support the state’s universities.

Chair of the University Senate Brian Leung sent a letter to the state Senate outlining faculty concerns. In it, Leung expressed a personal “note of bias” saying he worried the bill would create a “daily threat” to his scholarship and his family’s ability to thrive in Indiana.

Deery’s bill includes penalties for exposing students to opinions unrelated to a faculty member's discipline.

Speaking as an individual, Leung said he worries mention of his personal life could be flagged under the bill.

“If I mention that my husband and I saw Oppenheimer over the weekend by virtue of me mentioning my husband there’s room for saying that’s outside the bounds of whatever the course demands,” he said. “It’s a really slippery slope.”

Among other concerns, Leung said many faculty worried the bill could make it harder to recruit top teaching faculty to Indiana.

“University Senate members have a real fear that the passage of SB202 will stand as a barrier for some top scholars and researchers for wanting to come be a colleague at Purdue University,” he said.

Purdue officials have repeatedly declined to weigh in on the matter and say they are working to fully understand the details of the bill.

That stands in contrast to other institutions, particularly Indiana University, whose president has expressly denounced the bill, warning it would “put intellectual freedom at risk.”

“I think the administration has made it clear they are not ready to make a public statement,” Leung said of Purdue officials. “...But because I am an optimistic person I choose to believe that not declaring a public statement does not mean there isn't a conversation going on.”

The Purdue University Senate’s resolution urges Purdue’s President Mung Chiang to make a statement opposing SB202.

In a statement, Senator Deery called the University Senate’s characterization of the bill “distorted and opposition to it as misguided as the body’s past campaigns.”

He pointed to the University Senate’s previous opposition to a civics literacy requirement as an example.

The bill is expected before the House Education Committee on Wednesday.


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