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Indiana Statehouse

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STATEHOUSE — It had a rocky road through the State Senate, but a bill that Republicans say would protect students and faculty from retaliation over their political beliefs is moving its way through the Indiana House.

The bill written by State Sen. Spencer Deery would rework the parameters by which faculty at Indiana’s high education institutions get tenure by including a more regular review process of their work every five years. These parameters have to do with how a professor handles “free inquiry, free expression, and intellectual diversity”, according to the bill.

Deery has said many times as he has followed the bill through the Statehouse that it protects faculty and teachers from retaliation from the university over the topics they are researching or if they speak against the administration in any way.

Overall, the bill is intended to protect faculty and teachers who are of a conservative mind who work on campuses that have a history of harboring more liberal views.

“There is nothing in state code right now that says you are protected against retaliation for criticizing administrators, for the content of your research, or for your outside political views, and this says that you have those protections,” Deery told the House Education committee Wednesday.

Democrats, namely State Rep. Ed Delaney (D-Indianapolis), are staunchly opposed to the bill. Delaney said the First Amendment is enough to ensure the protections Deery is seeking to codify.

“This is a state institution that cannot suppress the free speech of our professors,” he said as he questioned Deery during the hearing. “This bill does not, intended to, and will not increase (teachers’) sense of security in teaching, and putting in some ‘holy water’ to the effect that we are not trying to do certain bad things is not a solution.”

Delaney claimed there have been no instances of teachers at colleges and universities being fired in Indiana over their political views.

Committee chairman State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) noted he believes Indiana’s colleges and universities need the guidance of the state legislature on how to handle issues related to “intellectual diversity.”

Democrats introduced several amendments to try and scale down the bill on Wednesday, but the GOP majority on the committee rejected all.