Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Breaking News

Opinion

November 8, 2013

LoBianco: Gay marriage debate draws in higher education leaders

Should our leaders take political stances?

In the Indiana higher education community, a world meant to promote free thinking and debate, a seemingly lower-level question of how university officials weigh in on hot-button issues is being pondered.

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie took the unusual step last week of throwing IU’s official support behind an effort to keep the state’s ban on gay marriage out of the constitution.

“Equality, compassion and respect for individuals have long been the bedrock of Indiana University’s educational mission, and the lack of tolerance implicit in HJR 6 (the amendment) runs counters to IU’s deeply held values,” McRobbie said in a statement announcing the university’s stance.

Business leaders, lawmakers, veteran activists and many other people and organizations have been taking sides in the upcoming gay marriage battle. Supporters of amending the ban into the constitution say it is needed to prevent the courts from effectively legalizing gay marriage in Indiana, but opponents say the step would enshrine inequality in the state.

But the involvement of Indiana’s higher education community is still somewhat unusual. Purdue University President Mitch Daniels decided the state’s other flagship university would not be taking sides in the debate.

“Over the years, Purdue has traditionally declined to comment on social issues that have been contended in the public arena,” Purdue Vice President for Public Affairs Julie Griffith told the Lafayette Journal & Courier. “Any departure from this policy should be undertaken only after careful consultation with the university’s many and diverse stakeholders.”

Daniels drew attention to the role of leaders and politics last year when, as part of his high-profile selection as president, he announced that he would refrain from commenting on certain political issues. That vow, offered in the middle of the 2012 election cycle as he was rounding out his term as governor, has led to questions of how it is applied.

Speaking last week at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, Daniels offered his thoughts on everything from the Keystone XL pipeline to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who won re-election Tuesday. But he also said his “vow of political celibacy” would keep him from weighing in on certain issues, like Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli’s race for governor.

“Partisan means just that — Republican versus Democrat. The president has not participated in campaign politics of any kind. He sat out the 2012 election completely and has turned down every invitation from any partisan committee or candidate,” Purdue spokeswoman Shelley Triol told The Associated Press in an email responding to questions of how Daniels applies his vow.

Peter Wood, president of the conservative National Association of Scholars, has consistently defended Daniels in higher education forums and argues his voice is needed most in traditionally left-leaning academia. Wood wrote last month that Daniels was wrong to apologize for a paid appearance at a conservative Minnesota think tank and should not shy from public debate, despite Daniels’ political vow.

He noted that other university presidents, like Harvard’s Drew Faust and Spelman’s Beverly Tatum, have not shied from appearances at liberal think tanks like the Center for American Progress.

“Such ideological lockstep isn’t good for higher education,” he wrote last month on The Chronicle of Higher Education website. “It conveys to students that the range of views that can be openly discussed on campuses is limited. It drives faculty members underground. And it tells the public pretty vividly that colleges and universities are not the havens for open-minded inquiry that they pretend to be.”

Open commentary is hardly the same as throwing a university’s name behind a political stance, but McRobbie’s decision last week elevated the question of involvement for at least the duration of the gay marriage battle.

Tom LoBianco covers Indiana politics for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter @tomlobianco.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Cleaning up Indiana could be as easy as a bottle deposit Scan the roadside on a drive through the Wabash Valley, and you might spot an empty pop bottle or two. Or two dozen. Or 200. Drink bottles have become our litter du jour. They compose an estimated 40 to 60 percent of all litter, according to the Mich

    April 21, 2014

  • Doctors Brown and Bucshon become seekers Seated across the table from me at Cafe Patachou were Drs. Tim Brown and Larry Bucshon. Dr. Bucshon was a heart surgeon from Newburgh. Dr. Brown is an emergency room physician from Crawfordsville. What made this breakfast meeting extraordinary is tha

    April 21, 2014

  • Wolfsie: High-tech got you down? I love where I bank. It’s a branch inside of a big supermarket. I can make a modest withdrawal and then go and blow every last penny in the cookie aisle. The tellers at the window appreciate me. They know about my obsession with round numbers and und

    April 21, 2014

  • Vasicek: Celebrating Easter I have shared a few bits of Easter humor over the years, so I thought I’d start with a new one. Joseph of Arimathea was the wealthy Pharisee who is famous for helping to bury the body of Jesus. He procured the body, asking Pilate’s permission, and, w

    April 20, 2014

  • Public Eye: Was Turner the only one?

    CNHI Statehouse Bureau Chief Maureen Hayden and other Statehouse reporters didn't get an answer as to why the House ethics committee hearing concerning State Rep. Eric Turner was postponed, but it now appears the committee will meet Wednesday. A note

    April 20, 2014

  • DAY: God trusted us with them Well, you heard about my wife and I, and our families from the past, so it is time for me to tell you about two of the prettiest girls I have ever known. They are our daughters Debbie and Patty. They are the greatest gifts from God that we have had i

    April 19, 2014

  • LoBianco: Bigger ethics questions raised in House Turner review

    Members of the House Ethics Committee who will take up Rep. Eric Turner’s case face daunting tasks as they try to answer two questions: Did their powerful colleague violate any ethics rules in privately lobbying against a measure that would have hurt his family’s business?

    April 18, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 18, 2014

    Attendees at the Tipton County Board of Commissioners meeting April 7 were treated to an appalling lack of both action and concern by the commissioners.

    April 18, 2014

  • Letter to the Editor: April 17, 2014

    On March 20 of this year I attended a public meeting of the Tipton County Economic Development Alliance. Members of this group include the three county commissioners, a member of the county council, two members from the city council, and the mayor.

    April 17, 2014

  • Hicks: Measuring the unmeasurable

    One aspect of economic research I think is especially powerful is the ability to measure or monetize the things that humans clearly value but for which a market price is not necessarily apparent. This is one of the aspects of economic analysis that gives it such dominance over other social sciences.

    April 17, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll