Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

campus administration

IU protesters organize ‘Day of Action’ in defense of academic freedom

cadayofaction022724.jpg

Members of the IU community met for a “Day of Action” to protest alleged attacks on academic freedom from Indiana University administration and the state government. The day-long event featured a teach-in and rally to address concerns surrounding Senate Bill 202, the threats previously faced by the Kinsey Institute and the Israel-Hamas war.  

Prior to the IU Board of Trustees decision March 1 to forgo the establishment of a nonprofit entity for the Kinsey Institute, the Indiana House voted to prohibit the use of state appropriations to fund the Kinsey Institute in February 2023. This led the IU administration to propose plans in November to establish a non-profit entity, to manage the institute's operations, which garnered backlash. 

Additionally, Senate Bill 202, which was sent to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk Feb. 29, would change criteria for tenure and heighten legislative overview of Indiana’s public universities to increase “intellectual diversity.” Many administrators and faculty from universities across the state testified that the bill would inhibit academic freedom.  

Shane Greene, a professor in the anthropology department, said teach-ins are a historically American tradition of non-violent, civil disobedience that brings people together outside the classroom to discuss important social and political issues. At the teach-in, Greene and the speakers discussed the February 2023 legislation barring the Kinsey Institute from receiving state funds and Senate Bill 202, which he said acts under the guise of intellectual diversity.  

“What they really want to do is directly assert more political interference into the process of teaching and learning and researching at institutions like IU and the broader State System of Higher Education,” Greene said.  

Seppo Niemi-Colvin, a post-doctoral fellow in the mathematics department, said he chose to speak at the teach-in because of the interconnected issues on campus.  

Niemi-Colvin said, people need to keep fighting against attacks on higher education, and the battle isn’t over. If SB202 is signed and people lose protections like tenure, they might be afraid to speak out, but they can’t stay silent. 

“Even if we wait until we have protections and manage to keep those protections there, we will have trained ourselves into silence,” Niemi-Colvin said. “That's part of the reason I, even with the risks, decided to speak out.” 

Hannah Hinshaw, an IU student, said these events are important because as a minority student, these are issues that directly impact them. 

“it's difficult knowing when I'm going into and watching what I'm studying being played out against me,” Hinshaw, who studies international law with a focus on atrocities, said. 

After the teach-in at 11 a.m. on the steps of the Student Building, the organizers reconvened at 4 p.m. in front of the Kinsey statue in Dunn Woods to hold a series of speeches. The first speech by Russ Skiba, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, centered around SB202. He said in the speech the bill is discriminatory and dishonest.

According to the bill, universities would have to submit a report including their budget allocations for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives each year. Moreover, each university would be required to have a system in place for faculty members and students to report to the administration about any faculty member who does not meet certain criteria related to free inquiry, free expression and intellectual diversity. The universities would also be required respond to the claims and submit an annual report on how many faculty members were reported.  

Skiba expressed worries about professors potentially being reported and punished by demotion or suspension if they spoke about racism or discrimination in a public rally or protest like the ‘Day of Action.’ He likened the situation to McCarthyism in the 1950’s — a campaign against alleged communists in institutions carried out under U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy where many of the accused lost their jobs, although most of them had no affiliations to Communism. 

Steven E. Vigdor, Professor Emeritus of Physics, urged the legislators to not pass SB202. He said the language of the bill is intentionally vague to censor topics like sexuality and race, but a lot of topics in natural sciences have been controversial.  

He said sexuality and gender are scientific issues and emphasized that teachers can take advantage of the vague wording of the bill.

He said faculty should train students to produce and evaluate evidence, openly discuss conflicts and avoid imposing their own interpretation, underlining there is little scholarly purpose in spending time on discussing claims that aren’t backed by evidence. 

The next speaker, an IU student, discussed the Israel-Hamas war and called for an immediate ceasefire. She said the IU administration has consistently intervened to silence pro-Palestinian voices, referencing the suspension of Professor Abdulkader Sinno and the cancellation of Palestinian artist Samia Halaby’s art exhibition. She said blatant attempts at silencing them have failed due to students leading campaigns. 

The next speaker addressed the proposed separation of the Kinsey Institute into a separate nonprofit entity. A few days after the demonstration, the IU Board of Trustees approved unanimously a plan to forgo separating the institute from the university during their meeting March 1. 

Some of the protestors brought down a man-made float of a foot on the Kinsey statue to symbolize oppression by authorities while they tried pushing the foot away. A protestor dressed as Robin Hood tickled the foot with a feather and several others joined in to tickle the foot away. 

A few students who are members of LGBTQ community also spoke, saying some proposed bills are trying to erase them and silence their voices.  

Towards the end of the protest, one of the organizers announced the SB202 bill had just been passed in the Indiana House. She also announced they are organizing more formally under the name “Green Feathers Indiana,” stating that being organized would allow them to get more things done. She said interested individuals can email them at greenfeathersindiana@gmail.com to be added to the organizing list.  

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story included incorrect claims from a source about SB 202.

Get stories like this in your inbox
Subscribe