February 27, 2024

Purdue reaffirmation of academic freedom and faculty tenure

The message below was sent to all faculty on the West Lafayette, Purdue Fort Wayne and Purdue Northwest campuses


Dear faculty colleagues,

Senate Bill 202, which was voted on by the Indiana Senate on Feb. 6 and by the Indiana House of Representatives on Feb. 27 after going through multiple recent improvements, is meant to cover all public universities in the state. Our own university has long been an institution that consistently “walks the walk” in freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry. Furthermore, many of the provisions do not impact what Purdue has been doing already, e.g., the institution being a home for critics but not a critic itself, incorporating free speech programs into student orientation, not requiring personal statements of support for political ideologies, and protecting the right of individuals to criticize the government or the university.

We also reaffirm the following two commitments as foundational to the generation and dissemination of knowledge through free inquiry:

  1. Academic freedom, a core value of our university, will continue to be ensured at Purdue for all faculty and for all students, and continue to be protected as strongly as in any American university. Unlike many other institutions that headed down convenient yet slippery slopes in recent years and months, this university has not been in, and will not get into, the business of censoring controversial speech, chilling unfashionable viewpoints, canceling campus events, suspending faculty or fellows, or issuing endless institutional public statements on social-political issues. We will continue our use of long-established channels to receive and assess student feedback, and will continue to operate our campus as neither a “surveillance state” nor an “echo chamber” but as a bastion of individual freedom to doubt, debate and dissent.
  2. Faculty tenure will continue at Purdue, especially now that recognition of public university tenure is codified in state law. The Board of Trustees, as has always been the case, will continue to cast the final vote on tenure cases. Periodic review after tenure, also not new here, will continue with a low-overhead process. It will be proposed to the Board of Trustees that post-tenure review at Purdue West Lafayette be formally delegated by the Board of Trustees to the university’s chief academic officer and the Academic Deans Council. With this delegation, and as has long been true in granting tenure at Purdue, only very rarely will a review be directly assessed by the Board of Trustees. Faculty, across all ranks and tracks, are the backbone of the university, and Purdue will continue to grow our support for faculty success.

We thank everyone who has offered insights and opinions. This university resolutely stands for freedom of speech and academic freedom, and always will.

Thank you for all that you do at Purdue.

Michael Berghoff, Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Mung Chiang, President and Roscoe H. George Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Patrick Wolfe, Provost and Miller Family Professor of Statistics and Computer Science

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