Indiana Senate Bill 202 Reforms DEI Policy

National Association of Scholars

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) congratulates Indiana’s legislature and governor for having made Senate Bill 202 (SB 202) into law. SB 202 is a good first step for removing authoritarian “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) policies from Indiana’s public universities. We urge Indiana’s citizens and policymakers to continue with further legislation, to ensure that the intent of SB 202 is carried out.

SB 202 makes many excellent reforms to Indiana’s public education. The bill:

  • Redefines “diversity” as “cultural and intellectual diversity.”
  • Broadens recruitment and retention from “minority students” to “minority and underrepresented students.”
  • Requires a disciplinary policy to punish disruption of expressive activity.
  • Establishes tenure review linked to faculty work to “foster a culture of free inquiry, free expression, and intellectual diversity within the institution.”
  • Establishes a complaint system against faculty who do not foster such a culture and requires universities to report to the Commission of Higher Education about such complaints.
  • Prohibits diversity statements.
  • Requires boards of trustees to establish institutional neutrality policies.
  • Requires student surveys on how well the colleges have instituted intellectual diversity.
  • Requires comprehensive information, including financial, about each college’s DEI initiatives.
  • Requires comprehensive information about DEI employment, DEI abrogations of the law’s policies, and policies to promote intellectual diversity, intellectual freedom, and free speech.

Most of these provisions will improve Indiana’s public higher education system. Tenure review is most likely to be subject to legal challenge, but Indiana’s provisions include extensive guarantees that this tenure review will not be abused to restrict professors’ intellectual freedom and will function as intended to ensure that professors do not restrict their students’ intellectual freedom. “Institutional neutrality” is a policy we have favored in the past; but since we now realize it can be used—for example—to justify college administration’s complicit passivity as anti-Semitic goons harass Jews on campus, we are no longer sure it is good policy. Generally, however, SB 202’s provisions have good aims.

NAS worries that SB 202 may not provide proper means to ensure its aims are achieved.

  • Above all, SB 202 does not remove the existing DEI bureaucracy. So long as the same administrators have the same jobs, we fear that it does not matter whether their official mandate is changed to “cultural and intellectual diversity,” or whether the university officially commits itself to “free inquiry, free expression, and intellectual diversity.” The existing DEI administrators are an ideologically committed cadre who will continue to work for DEI policies no matter what the laws are on the books. We think it is all too likely that SB 202 will be a dead letter until Indiana’s public universities end the employment of every DEI bureaucrat.
  • SB 202 goes after DEI by name—and that means that the substance can continue under new terminological camouflage such as “belonging.” Indiana’s policymakers should broaden SB 202 to remove the concepts of DEI as well as the name.
  • SB 202 preserves a focus on recruitment and retention of “minority students,” and this will be seized on as an excuse to preserve DEI policies.
  • SB 202 requires reports of how it is being implemented, but it does not require reporting directly to the legislature and the governor. Nor does it take measures to ensure that the individuals and institutions doing the reporting are not part of the far-left education establishment. SB 202 does not guarantee that there will be an accurate system of reporting to guarantee compliance.

Fundamentally, these shortcomings cannot necessarily be fixed by legislation. What they require is the appointment of Boards of Trustees and university presidents who make it their priority to remove DEI policies and bureaucrats from Indiana’s public universities, and who make further staffing decisions throughout the higher education administration to ensure that this removal is carried out in detail. Indiana’s governor and legislators have done excellent work by passing this law, but the law alone cannot ensure change on the ground. Indiana policymakers must exercise their oversight and appointment powers to make sure that each public college and university is led by education reformers dedicated to removing DEI.

Indiana has done excellently by passing SB 202 into law. We urge Indiana’s policymakers to follow up on the good work they have done with the further work needed to ensure that Indiana’s public universities comply with the ideals eloquently articulated in SB 202.

Photo by pabrady63 on Adobe Stock

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