President Mearns explains reasoning for issuing statement on House Bill 1037

The university president also provided reasoning to lack of response on other bills

President Geoffrey Mearns places his on a chair before the Board of  Trustees meeting Feb. 8, 2019. Mearns is Ball State's 17th president. Scott Fleener, DN
President Geoffrey Mearns places his on a chair before the Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 8, 2019. Mearns is Ball State's 17th president. Scott Fleener, DN

Editor's note: this story has been updated.

Ball State President Geoffrey S. Mearns said he wanted to “bring attention to the fact that our general assembly is attempting to do something about it” when referring to the statement he released voicing his support for House Bill 1037, a bill that aims to combat antisemitism and provide educational opportunities free of discrimination, March 13.

“My view is [that] it's important for our leaders, particularly our elected officials, to do what they can with the power that they have,” Mearns said. 

Mearns released the statement on House Bill 1037, which would define antisemitism and state it is a form of discrimination, after the bill passed the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously Feb 23. He noted that there “could be time to time incidents” that could warrant discussions with Becca Rice, vice president for governmental relations and industry engagement.

“I thought it was really appropriate not to talk about a specific incident, but rather to talk about our support for a bill like that,” Mearns said.

This is the first time Mearns has commented on a bill going through the Indiana General Assembly since 2018, when he voiced his displeasure about House Bill 1315 not being passed, which would had given the university the authorization to assume control of Muncie Community Schools; the bill later was passed later that year. 

“I've made statements about other issues related to whether it was the murder of George Floyd, or other incidents,” Mearns said.

Mearns said he did not issue statements on other bills presented through the General Assembly, like House Bill 1608 and Senate Bill 480, because he would need to talk to Rice for more information about bills that could affect LGBTQ+ students on Ball State’s campus. He said that the issued a statement on HB 1037 because it "would affect [the] university population."

“She was the one who made me aware of the antisemitism bill,” Mearns said. “I'll have to talk to Becca to get a better understanding of, of the status of those bills and specifically what they say and their potential impact on our student population.”

If passed and signed into law, HB 1608 would not allow public schools to provide instruction on human sexuality. Indiana Code 20-18-2-15 defines a public school as “a preschool, an elementary school, or a high school maintained by a state educational institution under IC 20-24.5 or another law.” 

HB 1608 passed the Indiana House on Feb. 23 by a vote of 65-29, with it being referred to the Committee on Education and Career Development March 6.

SB 480 would prohibit gender-affirming care for transgender people under 18 years of age; the bill passed through the Indiana Senate Feb 28 36-12 and had its first reading on the House floor March 6.

Mearns stressed that it is “not his role” to make statements on every bill that someone on campus may have a view on.

“What I try to assess in these situations is what is the timing of it? Am I the right person? And is it something that I should be saying now?” Mearns said.

Contact Grayson Joslin with comments at Grayson.joslin@bsu.edu or on Twitter @GraysonMJoslin.

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