Letter of Concern About Indiana SB 202

February 16, 2024

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Representative Robert Behning
Indiana House of Representatives
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204

February 16, 2024

Dear Representative Behning,

We are writing to express our deep concern about Indiana Senate Bill 202. This bill poses a direct threat to Indiana’s educators and those wishing to be educated here. More, it attacks and undermines tenure, academic freedom, and rigorous intellectual inquiry and exchange. Under the guise of supporting intellectual diversity, this bill is more an effort to restrict open inquiry, expand partisan oversight of higher education classrooms, and circumscribe the teaching of research-based subjects and information, including American history.

Founded in 1907 and representing over 6,000 members, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) is the largest professional organization dedicated to the teaching and study of American history, guided by principles of professional integrity, advocacy for and advancement of historical scholarship. With our national and journal offices located at Indiana University’s flagship campus in Bloomington, we pursue a mission of fostering a deeper understanding of our world through research, teaching, and learning in history and the humanities.

The OAH is deeply concerned over not only the specific provisions of SB 202, but with the anticipated chilling effect they will have across all higher education classrooms in the state and beyond. SB 202 as currently presented alleges that Indiana public university campuses—and by extension all American colleges—are places where conservative views, texts, and approaches to teaching and research are not welcome, and that tenure decisions demand oversight from political appointees because members of the academy cannot be trusted to determine tenure for their peers. We categorically reject these assertions and are likewise deeply concerned about the establishment of a reporting apparatus whereby students and other employees can accuse professors of not meeting certain criteria related to intellectual diversity. To be clear, the OAH is devoted to the study and presentation in the classroom of the American past from all approaches, methods, and perspectives.

We are also concerned about provisions in the bill that would restrict Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statements. While we recognize that DEI practices can vary widely and are sometimes controversial, they also serve the greater good by protecting and advancing the cause of American pluralism, one of the country’s greatest enduring ideals.

As historians we believe in the open mind and free exchange of ideas in our state’s, and our nation’s, higher education classrooms. We strongly urge the withdrawal of Indiana Senate Bill 202, which would close or restrict—much more than enhance—academic freedom, tenure, and an understanding of the United States.

Respectfully, from the Executive Committee of the OAH,
David W. Blight, President-Elect
Beth English, Executive Director
Annette Gordon-Reed, Vice President
Anthea M. Hartig, President
Erika Lee, Immediate Past President