INDIANAPOLIS – This morning, the ACLU of Indiana filed suit in U.S. District Court asserting that a new state law, Senate Enrolled Act 202, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Earlier this year, the Indiana General Assembly passed the bill and Governor Eric Holcomb signed it into law. The law blatantly impinges on the academic freedom that is guaranteed by the First Amendment.  

The suit was filed on behalf of two professors at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Steven A. Carr is a professor of communication and the director of the Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. David G. Schuster is an associate professor in the history department. 

SEA 202 states professors must be disciplined if they fail to “foster a culture of free inquiry, free expression, and intellectual diversity” and “expose students to scholarly works from a variety of political or ideological frameworks.” However, neither professor can discern what these incredibly ambiguous terms mean and what they are required to do or refrain from doing to avoid running afoul of the statute. The law could mean that public college or university professors must give debunked theories equal time in their classrooms alongside rigorously studied academic analysis.  

Both plaintiffs have stated they are fearful of the law’s penalties — including not being promoted, having their tenure revoked, or facing discipline up to and including termination — if they fail to comply with the ambiguous law. The suit seeks to block the unconstitutional portions of the statute to protect the free speech rights of professors Carr and Schuster before the law is set to take effect on July 1, 2024.
Statement from ACLU of Indiana Staff Attorney Stevie Pactor:
“SEA 202 puts Indiana’s professors in an untenable position.  Through vague language and the threat of harsh sanctions, including termination, the law strips professors of the academic freedom that the Supreme Court has long recognized they have the right to exercise.  

No professor should have to choose between their employment and their First Amendment rights.”
The complaint can be found here.