Ball State panel finishes investigation of Eric Hedin, refuses to divulge results

I am informed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) that the five-professor panel empowered to investigate Professor Eric Hedin’s proselytizing for Christianity and intelligent design creationism in one of his physics classes has finished its investigation. After the FFRF sent a letter to every member of the panel detailing the case about Hedin (including student complaints), the FFRF was informed by a Ball State University (BSU) spokesperson that the panel had already finished its deliberations:

(email addresses redacted; Ryan Dwyer is a legal intern at FFRF):

From: “Caty Pilachowski”
Sent: Thursday, July 11, 2013 12:52pm
To: “‘Ryan Dwyer'”
Cc: “‘Fluegeman, Richard'” “‘Todd, Joan'”
Subject: RE: Information on Professor Hedin’s class

Dear Mr. Dwyer – Thank you for your message.  The Review Panel concluded its work when we submitted our report to the Provost at Ball State, and I am unable to comment further on the content or recommendations of the report, since our deliberations and the report itself are confidential.  Joan Todd at Ball State is the appropriate conduit for further correspondence on the matter

Best wishes -
Caty Pilachowski

Andrew Seidel, the crack FFRF lawyer handling this case, then wrote to Joan Todd asking for more information; here’s the letter:

Screen shot 2013-07-14 at 5.56.45 AMAlthough BSU maintains that the panel’s deliberations and decision are confidential, as well as the student evaluations of Professor Hedin (which are anonymous, of course), this is not certain. I suspect that the FFRF will try to pry these things out of Ball State using public records laws like the Freedom of Information Act.

I hope that the panel’s recommendation will be vetted by higher authorities such as the provost and president of BSU, and that then we’ll finally learn what the University is going to do about Hedin’s course.  It would look pretty bad for them if they kept the entire decision secret.

If I had to guess, I’d say that BSU will take Hedin’s “Boundaries of Science” course out of the lineup of courses for which students can get science credit, and somehow move it to religion or philosophy.  But even then it would be unsatisfactory, for it presents a one-sided view of the universe as a product of God’s design, and still violates the First Amendment by foisting a Christian view on the students.

27 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Ohhhhhh I want to hear now! :)

  3. Chrerick
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Having served on committees like the one at Ball State, confidentiality by the committee is appropriate. Regardless of the merits of this case, very often complaints against a professor are spurious, involve issues that if made public would inhibit witnesses, and so on. Moreover, the panel results are almost certainly a “recommendation” to the Ball State administration and not a final decision. Finally, Hedin probably has the right of appeal. I don’t know the Ball State process in detail, but I’d be surprised if the above wasn’t true.

  4. Jeff D
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Under Indiana state law, the analogue to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is the Access to Public Records Act (Ind. Code 5-14-3, http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title5/ar14/ch3.pdf ).

    In my practice I have had to deal with this state statute, but (so far) not in the context of a state university that receives significant state tax dollars in support. I hope that FFRF will be able to obtain details of the committee’s deliberations and what evidence or information it considered. But FFRF would have to show that Ball State University fits the complicated definition of a “public agency” in I.C. 5-14-3-2(n). If BSU is subject to audit by the State Board of Accounts, then BSU is a “public agency” for this purpose.

    I.C. 5-14-3-4 contains a very long list of exceptions (various types of records that have been classified as confidential under other laws or court decisions) to the general rule that the public must have access to “public records” of “public agencies.” I don’t see any exception that obviously applies here.

    • Posted July 14, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      If BSU is subject to audit by the State Board of Accounts, then BSU is a “public agency” for this purpose.

      BSU is the very first university listed by the SBOA.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Jeff D
        Posted July 15, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Three cheers for alphabetical listings!

        • Posted July 15, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

          If “Vincennes” comes before “Ivy” in your dictionary, I think you should get a refund….

          b&

  5. Erp
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Philosophy and Religious Studies is a joint department at Ball State (probably to save administrative costs as the disciplines are treated separately). I have a strong suspicion, judging by the bios of the professors, they wouldn’t be happy having this course foisted on them (academic study of religion is very different from indoctrination in).

  6. ladyatheist
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I hope it’s only temporarily not available. There are probably a lot of professors at Ball State and elsewhere who would like to know how it went.

    …and I really hope they put the kibosh on ID masquerading as science.

  7. Erp
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    And ID being used to fulfill a science requirement (and worst a science requirement for a honors college (it was honors 296)).

    Note studing the Intelligent Design movement as a cultural phenomena and therefore reading primary texts by propopents would be fully appropriate but in an anthropology, religious studies, political science, or history course.

  8. Notagod
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Deer Ball State,

    As I will be attendin school in Ball State next yar and havin been a lokin at da catlog of class I be wondrin which classss be preachin of Jesus the Christ? As u can see I alredy bean gived, thank que Jessus, a reel good edumacation in lord Jesus and wood wanna be wanna be takin some of the lesser classss what dont have the teachin of the lord Jessus, thand que Jesus, just soze I cun round out my edumacation in case I instructed by Jessus to enter act some day with a muzzeled man or worst yet a heathen. I be seen a class in the catlog neamed Bounderees of Science Hedin and I rek on that class might or maybee not bean a class of our lord Jeses Christ. Sew tell me if that clas is taut for our lord Jesus? As U can tail eyes has all redy had alot of Jesus edacatin an cood rightly spend a bit a time on learn’n other less importunt stuff just too roundout my edamacation. Tell me about udder classss two. Thankyou in Jesus win you have told me as soon as you can eyell send in my list of classss that you can learn me.

    Thanku Jesus Aman

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 14, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      You had me at “deer”

      • Notagod
        Posted July 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        *blush*

        I lookt at the deer xing sign to make sure it was spelt rite.

  9. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    A retirement reception honoring Dr. Thomas Robertson, Chair and Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, will be held on Thursday, May 2, 2013 from 3:00 – 5:00 P.M. in CP 108 (Cooper Science Building).

    Please join us in celebrating his 35 years of excellence in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.”

    It’s looking to me like he left a parting gift to ensure that his chairmanship would be looked back upon as ‘the good old days.’

  10. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Jun 14 article in the StarPress

    After the review panel makes a decision, “we will take decisive action,” Todd said. But because it is a personnel matter, “we will be limited in what we can share.”

    What? I thought it was a matter of curriculum.

  11. RFW
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    The thought strikes me that whatever else may be true, Hedin is not qualified to speak about religious issues in any department. If you’re going to mix theological b.s. into your science honors courses, at least make sure you have a qualified theologian shoveling it.

  12. Posted July 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Ohhh! I am afraid the good name of BSU will be dirtied in the name of school/faculty support. Rather than criticize, the committee probably supported Hedin and his department. They will choose school loyalty over the Constitution and science. Let’s hope they will find a way out of this embarrassing situation in the future.

    • Redacted.
      Posted July 15, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      The panel actually seemed composed of legitimate professors who, at one point or another, have actively promoted evolution or spoken out against ID. The Discovery Institute was mad for a reason.

      Caty Pilachowski is a professor at Indiana, so we can at least hope that she has no reason to defend BSU.

    • eric
      Posted July 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t assume that. Its very typical of organizations to not release internal recommendations until they (the organization) have decided on a course of action.

      Its also somewhat typical to require panelists sign a some form of non-disclosure agreement before sitting on such a panel. So Ms. Pilachowski’s non-response should really not be taken to imply any support for Hedin; she may be under a legal agreement not to speak about what they found.

  13. Lauryn Anna
    Posted July 15, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    The “crack” FFRF lawyer? I think Andrew Seidel is awesome! He’s not a crack!

    • Notagod
      Posted July 15, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      I’m on an impossible campaign to outlaw all words that have opposing meanings. Too many people think they are cute and fun too. My campaign will never succeed and yet I am driven on.

      Among an almost gazillion possibly conflicting meanings:

      crack

      adj.
      Excelling in skill or achievement; first-rate: a crack shot; a crack tennis player.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 15, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        Idiomatic expression hater :)

    • Draken
      Posted July 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      Now don’t confuse ‘crack’ with ‘crackpot’ or ‘crack-sniffing’.

      • gbjames
        Posted July 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        Or “good craic” in Ireland.

  14. Diane G.
    Posted July 15, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    sub

  15. Posted July 16, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, here’s an article about former Indiana Governor Daniels, who appointed the board of trustees to Purdue University, and in turn was appointed president of the University by them after he finished his term. The article talks about Daniels’ attempt to censor academic courses…though I’m sure that Ball State’s Hedin wasn’t one of those on the “hit list.”

    https://www.indystar.com/viewart/20130716/NEWS/307160061/As-governor-Mitch-Daniels-looked-censor-academic-writings-courses


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