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The Indiana Daily Student

campus administration

IU Board of Trustees expected to decide future of Kinsey Institute this weekend

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The IU Board of Trustees is expected to decide the future of the Kinsey Institute during its Feb. 29-March 1 meeting. However, Kinsey faculty and students still don’t know what that future will look like. 

“Everyone feels anxious and uncertain and in the dark,” Zoë Peterson, director of the Sexual Assault Research Initiative at the Kinsey Institute, said. 

In February 2023, the Indiana House voted to prohibit the state from funding the Kinsey Institute. Rep. Lorissa Sweet, R-50, who proposed the amendment to the state budget bill, made unsubstantiated claims that the Kinsey Institute could be harboring child predators. The state budget bill went into effect July 1, 2023. 

Following this vote, IU administration submitted plans to establish a nonprofit 501(c) entity to manage the Kinsey Institute’s operational functions currently supported by the university’s general fund. Although the institute has not received direct state funding since July 1, 2023, some state appropriations could still pay for the institute’s operations indirectly through the university’s general fund, according to a release from the IU Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President. 

After receiving backlash from Kinsey faculty and students, who objected to separating the institute from the university and the short timeline of the discussions, the Board of Trustees tabled discussions of the plan at its Nov. 9-10 meeting. The university established a working group comprised of Kinsey faculty and IU administration and hosted three public listening sessions in January to hear concerns from the public about the future of the institute.  

Following the sessions, however, Kinsey faculty and staff sent a letter Jan. 22 to IU Provost Rahul Shrivastav and the working group urging IU to be more transparent after there were limitations on attendance at the listening sessions and outlining four main recommendations: defend the institute, retain Kinsey and its collections, fund the institute without state dollars and be more transparent.  

The working group recommended Feb. 16 that the institute could remain part of the university by creating an income statement and balance sheet to track all costs while adhering to Indiana law, according to a document sent by the working group to Shrivastav and IU General Counsel Anthony Prather obtained by Indiana Public Media. 

Peterson said she did not see the working group’s recommendation before Indiana Public Media’s story. She said Kinsey Institute Executive Director Justin Garcia told Kinsey staff that IU President Pamela Whitten only met with Kinsey leadership twice to discuss the institute’s future — both times at his request. She said it is still not clear who will be writing the new proposal, but from her understanding, that person or group of people was not present at the listening sessions. 

“On the one hand, I appreciate that the administration organized the working group and the listening sessions, but on the other hand, there was really no one at the listening sessions who could answer any of our questions,” Peterson said. “I still feel like we have been left totally in the dark about exactly what is being proposed, and our questions are just still unanswered.” 

Peterson said Kinsey faculty still haven’t heard about how faculty appointments would be affected and where Kinsey’s collections of sexological artifacts would be held if the institute were separated from the university. She also said the safety of faculty and students has been a concern.  

“The Kinsey Institute often gets threats, and there has been an increase in that since this controversy has come to put us on people’s radars recently,” Peterson said. “Our building has a lot of safety and security measures in place, which we’re really grateful for, and it’s not clear if we weren’t part of the university would we still have those kinds of protections, would we still have access to the university police.” 

Following the listening sessions, Kinsey Institute students formed the group Friends of Kinsey to advocate against separating the institute from IU. Over the past two weeks, members have demonstrated in front of Sample Gates handing out flyers, candy and condoms. 

On Instagram, Friends of Kinsey members photographed students holding a sign reading “Protect the Kinsey Institute” and “#StandwithKinsey.” On Feb. 21, they hosted a screening of the 2004 movie “Kinsey” about the life of Kinsey Institute founder Alfred Kinsey in the Monroe Public Library. They also participated in the  “Day of Action” on Tuesday in support of academic freedom. 

A change.org petition, which was started by Kinsey researcher Jen Bass in November 2023, in support of keeping the institute part of the university, received over 10,000 signatures as of Wednesday evening. Additionally, Peterson said over 400 people have sent a pre-made email to Whitten and the Board of Trustees through the Friends of Kinsey’s website, urging them to keep the institute and its collections at IU; defend the institute from attacks; seek an accounting solution to the budget bill; and provide “effective, proactive leadership.” 

Melissa Blundell, a Kinsey Institute doctoral student and Friends of Kinsey member, said she chose to attend IU specifically because of the Kinsey Institute. She said she is concerned with what the next years of her education would look like if it were separated from the institute. 

Blundell said keeping Kinsey part of the university is important for both IU’s reputation and the sex research field in general. She also said IU has not done enough to protect Kinsey’s safety and defend it from attacks and misinformation, like the claims made by Sweet last year. 

“This just seems to be part of a pattern of the IU administration not doing enough to stand up for Kinsey, and to protect Kinsey, so this proposal to sever it into a separate 501(c) leaves Kinsey in a vulnerable position,” Blundell said. 

When asked for comment on Kinsey faculty’s concerns about communication with IU administration, an IU spokesperson referred to a Feb. 15 column by Shrivastav. Shrivastav addressed concerns about safety and criticism targeting Kinsey employees as well as advocating for academic freedom after Senate Bill 202 was proposed. 

“The hate and misinformation you withstand is undeserved, and yet, you persist in advancing understanding and hope for those who follow in the spirit of human connection,” Shrivastav wrote. “Thank you for all that you do – and for who you are. IU values you.” 

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