Students want representation in today's intelligent design meeting
• In a closed meeting today, legislators and university representatives will talk about how Ball State’s stance on teaching intelligent design.
• Some students say the meeting needs to include student voices.
• The meeting comes after four legislators sent Ball State a letter, concerned with its private handling of accusations against professor Eric Hedin teaching intelligent design in an honors colloqium.
Some students are asking for their voice to be heard while legislators meet with university representatives today to discuss Ball State’s stance on teaching intelligent design.
Jesse Sallee, a junior advertising major, said even though students may not know as much about the particulars of course content or academic freedom, they still need a voice in the debate.
“Someone that represents [students] should be there,” he said. “The Student Government Association should be there.”
On March 10, four legislators "sent a letter":http://www.ballstatedaily.com/article/2014/03/nothing-new-to-add-ball-state-representative-says-about-legislators-letter to the university expressing concerns about the handling and release of information about professor Eric Hedin, who was accused of teaching intelligent design in an honors colloquium.
Instead of releasing information, Ball State officials invited the legislators who authored the letter — Senate Education Committee chairman Dennis Kruse, Sen. Travis Holdman, Sen. Greg Walker and Rep. Jeffrey Thompson — to visit campus today to discuss the matter in person.
Sallee said although he wants legislators to know his opinion, he disagrees with an open forum where all students could express their views because many students aren’t experts on teaching or religion.
“We can say as much as we want, and we usually think we know more than we really do,” Sallee said. “But we aren’t legislators.”
Max Johnson, a junior public relations major, also said he wants a student representative at the meeting and said the university should have set up a poll to gauge student opinion.
“That way, [the representative] could have some idea of what everyone wanted,” he said.
Chloe Anagnos, Student Government Association president, said Monday that SGA may look into creating a poll, but it was not brought up in Wednesday’s Senate meeting.
She said neither SGA nor any other student, including the student member of the Board of Trustees, will be involved in the meeting.
“I think [SGA’s] approach is to just wait and see what is said [or] done afterwards,” Anagnos said. “We can’t act until we find out what’s going on.”
She said as far as she knew, no students had expressed interest to SGA about wanting to be in the meeting or wanting a representative.
“I think, like most people, a lot of students just don’t quite understand what is going on,” Anagnos said.
In the letter, the legislators flagged President Jo Ann Gora’s statement that said religion had no place in a science course.
“We are disturbed by reports that, while you restrict faculty speech on intelligent design, BSU authorizes a seminar that teaches ‘Science Must Destroy Religion,’” the letter reads.
The lawmakers questioned the legitimacy of Ball State’s policy restricting religious discussion and canceling Hedin’s class.
allee said although he may not completely understand the situation, he absolutely disagrees with professors discussing their opinions on religion in low-level, required classes.
“For 100-level classes, professors need to keep their opinions out of it,” he said.
However, he said it should be open for debate in more advanced science courses, so long as students know what they are getting into.
Daniel Anderson, a sophomore telecommunications major in the Honors College, said he believes honors classes are held to a different standard than traditional classes.
“Honors courses are different — we get all these different beliefs,” he said. “I think this is good. I don’t want to be a one-sided person.”
Alexis Coburn, a freshman pre-medical biology major, said she thinks professors should have the right to speak about their beliefs, but not during university class time. “If a group wants to meet with [a professor] after class, they can learn about it like that,” she said.
Douglas O. Linder, a university of Missouri-Kansas City professor on the First Amendment, said an informal discussion not on class time is the only way a professor should be able to inject a religious argument into a science class. “Obviously, the professor is free to invite students over and expound on his ideas,” he said. “Clearly, if someone in math class starts talking about Deuteronomy, they aren’t doing their job.”
However, using their position as a professor to teach students about a religious idea is not only counter to constitutional law, but reflects poorly on a university, he said.
“I think that it is probably inappropriate use of state funds,” Linder said. “And could very well be a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.”
Terry King, Ball State provost, said in June that he had questions for Hedin about whether a discussion about religion was appropriate in an honors colloquium class because they are largely discussion based.
“This is an honors course, and it may be that discussion is appropriate,” he said at the time. “But I don’t know yet.”
Ball State consequently changed its honors review policy after receiving flak for the Hedin controversy. The process was changed from an informal review policy to the implementation of an advisory council and four subcommittees to review classes each semester.
Meghan Miller, a freshman architecture major in the Honors College, said she disagrees with the notion that honors courses should be treated differently because they are discussion based.
“Colloquiums ... are still a university class and need to be held to the same standard,” she said. “It is still an education class, you can’t just treat [honors courses] differently because it is still Ball State credit.”