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Indiana proposal to overhaul tenure moves forward

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Dive Brief:

  • Indiana’s House will soon consider a proposal that would overhaul tenure and mandate that the state’s public colleges detail their diversity, equity and inclusion spending to state lawmakers.
  • The bill would prevent college governing boards from giving tenure to any faculty member who would “subject students to political or ideological views and opinions that are unrelated to the faculty member’s academic discipline.” Tenure would also be tied to whether candidates expose students to works that espouse a variety of ideologies and political views.
  • It would further require colleges to include intellectual diversity in all DEI programming, review tenured professors every five years and establish disciplinary policies for protestors who disrupt other forms of protected speech.

Dive Insight:

Republican state Sen. Spencer Deery said his 56-page proposal is meant to foster intellectual diversity and reverse the public’s declining perception of higher education. He cited a 2023 Gallup poll that found fewer than 1 in 5 Republicans said they had confidence in higher education, down from over half in 2015.

“Recent events and blatant antisemitism have placed a spotlight on the hyper-politicalization and monolithic thinking of American higher education institutions,” he said in a statement. “Many are warning that universities have lost their way.” 

The House’s education committee is to review the bill Monday.

Tenure and DEI have been two of conservatives’ biggest targets of late within higher education, and the bill in Indiana attempts to tackle both at once.

Senate lawmakers passed the bill Tuesday in a 39-9 vote along party lines and it could progress similarly in the House if that chamber’s Republicans also support the bill. Republicans have controlled both chambers of the state’s Legislature, as well as the governor’s office, for over a decade.

The bill would also mandate a post-tenure review system, similar to one created in Republican-controlled Florida. It would partly tie faculty’s performance to their work fostering a culture of free inquiry and intellectual diversity

Deery said his bill is intended to bring transparency to DEI spending. 

“Diversity is an essential part of the university experience, and infringing on academic freedom is a red line we should not cross,” Deery said. “That said, we don’t need to give up on those values to curb the excessive politicalization and viewpoint discrimination that threaten our state’s workforce goals.”

Under the bill’s provisions, the Legislature’s majority leaders would have power over several appointments to university boards.

State Democrats, including Minority Senate Leader Greg Taylor, have pushed back against the legislation.

Taylor criticized the measure, saying it cited a decades-old study that found Black and conservative students felt the least comfortable on college campuses. However, Taylor said the bill would only take action to protect conservatives.

“To create a bill aimed at supporting only a particular subsection of students is unjustifiable,” he said in a Tuesday statement. “With no data presented from this decade, SB 202 seeks to safeguard conservative students who claim they’re a target of harassment if their political views are known. For Black students — who cannot hide their race and are always vulnerable to racism — no additional protection or aid was included in this bill.”



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