Ball State administrator discusses science and religion controversy

The Daily News

Terry King, Ball State provost and vice president of academic affairs, said he’s not sure what the committee reviewing professor Eric Hedin’s “Boundary of Science” course will find, but he should know by the end of this month.

Last month, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a letter of complaint to Ball State saying Hedin’s course has presented a one-sided argument for intelligent design rather than an honest attempt at investigating the relationship of science and religion.

Ball State has appointed a review committee of four faculty members to investigate and determine the course’s academic integrity. The committee includes three Ball State faculty: Gary Dodson, professor of biology; Richard Fluegeman Jr., professor of geological sciences; and Juli Thorsen Eflin, professor of philosophy. It also includes Catherine Pilachowski, a professor of astronomy at Indiana University.

King said the committee will review if the content is appropriate, if the professor is qualified and if the teaching is appropriate. He said he seeks advice often, but has chosen the committee because of the complexity of the case.

“It’s not exactly clear to me,” he said. “If this were an ordinary differential equations math course and someone wanted to talk about no mathematical subjects in the course, then I would be very concerned. This is an honors course and it may be that discussion is appropriate, but I don’t know yet.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation’s attorney Andrew Seidel said the committee is exactly what the foundation was looking for.

“The letter that we wrote has kind of been blown out of proportion,” he said. “We asked for an investigation into the class and if the allegations are confirmed, which we do expect they will be, that professor Hedin be removed from the class. We didn’t ask for the class to be canceled or anything of that nature.”

King said the university still hasn’t received any complaints from inside the university and only one complaint from outside the university from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization whose purpose is to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church. But the university has received contact from individuals reacting positively and negatively about the situation.

He said some confuse First Amendment freedom of speech with academic freedom in a course, but the two are different.

“On the teaching side it is very specific about in the appropriate teaching of a course, one can bring in controversial concepts if it’s appropriate to the nature of the course. Academic freedom is something that I know the president [Jo Ann Gora] and I feel very strongly about,” King said. “We are very much in support of faculty members appropriately teaching their courses or appropriately doing their research even if it takes them into unpopular areas.”


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