The Outstater

March 7, 2024

IU Tenure and the Heidt Memo

WE APPLAUD the Indiana Legislature’s revolutionary attempts this session to reign in group-think and lockstep tenure in the university system. It’s about time.

We call it “revolutionary” in the sense the Founder’s used the term and as it is explained in our newly published “Indiana Mandate: A Return to the Founding Principles.” It is not a rebelling against anything, it is a revolving back to where it should be.

And thus thanks to some courageous legislative leadership the tradition of tenure revolves back, however haltingly, to its centuries-old purpose, i.e., to encourage and protect diversity of thought rather than continue an academic tyranny. 

It has been a long time since you could say that about Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law in particular. How do we know? We’ve been tracking it for more than three decades. During that time you would have felt lucky to draw a faculty advisor to the right of Malcolm X.

Robert Heidt, a professor there and a member of its admissions committee, documented the sorry situation in a series of articles for us citing a memorandum he wrote in 1996. The subject was the school’s wildly discriminatory and self-demeaning affirmative action policy:

“The admissions committee maintains a de facto quota for the minimum number of certain minorities that it insists be enrolled in each entering class,” Professor Heidt wrote. “And to fill that minimum quota the Admissions Committee has been willing to leap-frog minority applicants over more accomplished, qualified and promising non-minority applicants. While the same could be said for virtually all law schools, almost none is as willing as we to admit minority applicants with relatively poor credentials.”

Heidt said that more than 75 percent of the minority applicants at IU who were admitted with lower standards were from out-of-state. There have been years where fully two minority applicants were admitted for only one denied, a substantially better ratio than enjoyed by non-minority applicants.

Yes, you read that right; The policy of the state-funded university for many years had been to prefer significant numbers of under-qualified out-ot-state students over as qualified or more qualified in-state students. 

Heidt brought receipts in the form of charts comparing year-by-year admission rates and LSAT scores in dozens of other states. For example, in 2000, IU Law admitted 67 students with LSAT scores below 150 (more than 9  percent of that year’s class). Neighboring Illinois admitted only 16.

(In February this year, Indiana University President Pamela Whitten expressed concern to U.S. News & World Report that the Senate’s action would impede her institution’s ability to compete with other states in attracting faculty talent. Hah!)

Heidt’s memorandum was placed on the desks of the then IU president and chancellor. Only one or two faculty members and no administrator acknowledged receipt — too hot to handle.

The position had been summed up nicely in Justice Clarence Thomas’s earlier dissent in Gratz vs. Bollinger: “The law school (Michigan University) is not looking for those students who despite a lower LSAT score or under-graduate grade point average will succeed in the study of law. The law school seeks only a facade — it is sufficient that the class looks right; even if it does not perform right.” 

Thanks to Professor Heidt, everybody in the Indiana university system saw what was going on. They had reason to know it was stupid and went along with it anyway — group-think run amok. Aren’t supervisory boards and legislative committees supposed to be looking out for these things?

Flipping through pages of the 1992 version of “Indiana Mandate” you see the pattern of malfeasance beginning to form. It’s a feature not a bug. That is the way university oversight has been handled these 30 years — with eyes tightly closed.

Please know this is not rocket science. We have written about other examples recently: 

But again, we like to think things are looking up. It was greatly encouraging this time around that someone other than a lone professor stood up to speak the truth, to challenge the wrong  — indeed, a majority of the Indiana Senate did so. Agreed, some problems take longer to solve than others, but three decades would seem sufficient to address at least one or two.

We detail 75 such issues in the new “Indiana Mandate.” Plenty of them are non-partisan and some are even self-evident. The legislators got their copies earlier this month. The state elected offices and the media got theirs today. You can buy yours HERE.

Let’s get busy, we can’t wait another 30 years. — tcl


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