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The Kinsey Institute was one of the primary reasons I chose to attend IU. I have had incredible opportunities to take classes taught by Kinsey researchers that challenged my ideas about sexuality and provided comprehensive sex education that was free of shame while studying here. It was the first time I had ever seen my identity recognized in an academic setting as a queer student. Classes offered by Kinsey researchers made me feel like queer people and queer issues belonged at IU and other academic spaces.
The benefits of the Kinsey Institute are not limited to the education it offers to IU students. The institute pioneered research into sexuality, and we would not know the information that we do today about sexual diversity without it. The Kinsey Institute has paved the way for women to express and enjoy their sexuality openly and it was one of the first research institutions to directly challenge the heterosexual norm in sexual behaviors. When the Kinsey Institute first began, its findings about the existence of queer people and sexual enjoyment – particularly for women – were groundbreaking and shocking to people around the world. It was the first time there was thorough, concrete research produced about queer existence. Findings like these directly changed public attitudes and policy around sexual freedom.
Despite the positive influence of the Kinsey Institute, it has been repeatedly attacked by lawmakers motivated by homophobic myths throughout history. In the 1950’s, senator Joseph McCarthy declared sex research as an attack on the American family unit, and successfully pressured the Rockefeller Foundation to cut funding from the institute in 1954. The IU administration has stood in support of the Kinsey Institute and its academic freedom through such attacks. The institute continues to perform research related to sexuality today because of IU’s continued support and bravery of Kinsey researchers throughout its history. Recent attacks on the Kinsey Institute are once again making it vulnerable to being shut down by conservatives. This time, the IU administration is not taking a firm stance.
The state of Indiana voted to cut funding from the institute this year. This news was devastating for Kinsey researchers, queer people and general supporters of sexual and academic freedom, but unsurprising. We have seen increases in legislation attacking queer people around the country, and Hoosiers are not immune to the suffocating pressures of such legislation. When I heard the news that funding was being cut from the institute, I was overwhelmed, but I hoped that the university would continue to provide the necessary funding and support to help the institution thrive.
The university did not provide this funding and support. Instead, the IU Board of Trustees plans to vote this week on whether or not to sever ties with the Kinsey Institute. Doing this would place the institute in a position vulnerable to further political attacks that could lead to it getting shut down. The University also plans to steal the institute’s archives after abandoning it. Doing so would make the archives vulnerable to removal by university administrators.
IU students and people around the world are watching as IU Trustees make the decision to support academic freedom or cowardly give in to pressures from lawmakers. To the IU Board of Trustees, we ask you to make the right choice and stand alongside your queer students in support of academic freedom. Indiana can be a dangerous place for queer people, and the Kinsey Institute is one of the slivers of hope and representation we have left. If the IU Board of Trustees votes to sever the Kinsey Institute from the university, it will send a clear message to queer students at IU and around the world that their experiences are not considered worthy of academic research.
Allison Masterson (she/they) is a senior studying psychology.