At first glance, a report in the Muncie Star Press and the Indianapolis Star makes it sound as if the situation at Ball State University has been pretty much all ironed out. Could that be true?
"Ball State promotes ‘intelligent design’ professor," says the headline. That refers to physicist Eric Hedin, whose interdisciplinary course on the "Boundaries of Science" provided the occasion for Ball State president Jo Ann Gora to issue a gag order on scientists at the school, directed against teaching about the theory of intelligent design.
Dr. Hedin has now been given the title of "associate professor," which the article calls "a giant step toward tenure," possibly "put[ting] the debate to rest." Hedin’s being tenured would grant "greater flexibility without fear of losing employment," Ball State’s provost is quoted as explaining.
The case had attracted the attention of state Senator Dennis Kruse, who leads the Indiana Senate’s Education Committee, and three of his colleagues from the state’s legislature. As reporter Seth Slabaugh recounts, Kruse questioned "whether academic freedom, free speech and religious liberty had been respected by Ball State."
After "Kruse and Ball State officials sat down last month for a private meeting," Kruse told Slabaugh:
Ball State officials were very attentive to our requests and concerns during the April 4 meeting. A majority of issues have been resolved, and I look forward to working more on these matters concerning academic freedom with the university.
Kruse "declined to answer questions," and Slabaugh notes that a Ball State spokesperson was also "vague." Dr. Hedin, meanwhile, says he is
thankful that the university has confirmed its earlier statement that my academic credentials are an asset to the university, and that I remain an important and valued member of the physics and astronomy department.
Officials were "attentive." "Giants steps" are being taken. "Fear" is in the process of being dispelled. Is everything fine now? Can we all relax? Discovery Institute vice president John West told Slabaugh:
"That’s news to me that anything has been resolved. If it has been, I think the public deserves an explanation of what exactly has been resolved."
Hedin’s class remains canceled and a "gag order" on BSU professors remains in effect, West said.
"They can’t be resolved through closed-door meetings and private assurances that are never revealed," he added. "BSU is a government institution, and its policies and actions should be open to public inspection."
More from Dr. West:
"Professor Hedin is a superb scientist, and so it is good that BSU has recognized that fact," he said. "But that makes their one-sided censorship of Hedin — but not of professors who oppose intelligent design — all the more disturbing."