Ball State promotes professor from intelligent design course dispute
A professor has been promoted after being told last year to stop teaching intelligent design in a science course.
Physics faculty member Eric Hedin was among 19 assistant professors promoted to associate professor last week by Ball State's Board of Trustees. Hedin faced complaints that his "Boundaries of Science" class inappropriately taught intelligent design, which holds that the complexity found in nature must be from rational design, as by God.
Hedin said he's thankful the university has confirmed that he's a valued faculty member.
The controversy started when Ball State received complaints from the Freedom from Religion Foundation in May 2013 that Hedin was integrating intelligent design into one of his Honors College classes.
The university then put together a panel to review Hedin's course and did not release any findings. Hedin's course also was canceled.
In late July, President Jo Ann Gora released a statement that said intelligent design was not a science and academic freedom was not an issue at hand a few months after receiving a letter from Discovery Institute, an organization supporting intelligent design, which questioned the review panel.
"Intelligent design is overwhelmingly deemed by the scientific community as a religious belief and not a scientific theory," Gora's statement said.
By October, Ball State announced it intended to review all the Honors College courses for the appropriateness of the teaching style, teachers' qualifications and course materials.
This announcement came with a change in the review process. The university moved from an informal process to an advisory council and four subcommittees — social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and colloquia — to examine the classes.
In early March, four Indiana Republican legislators sent a letter to the university to question Ball State's stance on intelligent design and the legitmacy of canceling Hedin's course.
"In order to determine if legislative action is required, we feel obligated to investigate whether BSU has acted in accord with state educational policy, legal requirements and BSU's own published standards," the letter said.
Gora invited the authors — Sen. Dennis Kruse, Sen. Travis Holdman and Sen. Greg Walker and Rep. Jeff Thompson — to campus for a talk.
“We really believe it is better to talk through these issues with folks,” Gora told the Daily News in late March. “We have written lots, frankly, so we thought it would be much more effective to sit down and engage with a conversation which might lead to a better understanding.”
Ball State officials spoke with Kruse, Holdman and Walker in a closed meeting in April, but the university did not release information from the event.
“[The] meeting was a great opportunity to discuss an issue that’s important to all of us – academic freedom,” the senators’ joint statement said. “The meeting was very productive, and we appreciated the insight of Ball State officials in attendance.”