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IU Faculty Worries New Laws Indicate Legislative Overreach

IU faculty

Photo: Simon Thompson

A group of IU faculty members including Dennis Groth, IU Interim Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies (middle), and Herbert Terry, president of the Indiana University Bloomington Faculty Council (far right), discuss the implications of two laws that go into affect in the next two years.

Some Indiana University faculty members are warning that a new set of standards set to go into effect next year are an overreach of the Indiana legislature.

Starting next year, universities in Indiana are being required to change some of their practices in an attempt to help more students graduate in four years.

Senate Enrolled Act 182 establishes a core set of classes by 2015 that students can complete at two-year institutions to waive general education requirements at four-year universities.

House Bill 1348 mandates that by 2014 every student enrolled in a public higher education program will have a degree map that outlines objectives for graduation in four years.

At a panel discussion Monday night, Herbert Terry, president of the Indiana University Bloomington Faculty Council, said he is concerned that the legislation gives the Indiana General Assembly more power over higher education affairs than is necessary.

“My concern is we are gradually, to be honest, incrementally increasing the role of the Commission for Higher Education through both of these bills,” he says. “Each of these bills has given some new authority, to ultimately approve or disapprove of some of the things these institutions will do in response to this legislation.”

Terry says he doesn’t think any member of the General Assembly intends to harm higher education. He says it is the responsibility of higher education institutions to approach the General Assembly with their own legislative ideas.

“It’s time that the institutions, if we can, step forward more often and say here’s our idea, and here’s why we think it’s better than other ways of proceeding, and not lobby to change somebody else’s legislation, but actually more often propose our own.”

The legislation itself, however, has many supporters. Dennis Groth, IU Interim Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies, says the laws will have positive impacts on both students and faculty.

“Indiana University’s approach to addressing these legislative actions is to actually empower students to make informed choices, to own their degree in more significant ways, that it will retain the ability for the faculty to define what the degrees are and what it means to get a Bloomington degree,” he says.

The legislation was created after a study commissioned by Tom Reilly, Chair of the IU Board of Trustees, found that higher education in Indiana is around 50 percent less efficient than states like California and Illinois.

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