Now, along with the Discovery Institute and the Freedom from Religion Foundation—strange bedfellows indeed—the Muncie Star-Press has called for the Ball State University committee investigating Eric Hedin to disclose their report, or at least a summary of it. Here’s yesterday’s editorial, “Findings in report should be made public“, in full:
Did he or didn’t he? We may never know.
Ball State University officials this week refused to make public the findings of a faculty report delving into whether assistant professor Eric Hedin brought religion into a “Boundaries of Science” course.
Ball State is sticking to a policy against releasing files it deems to be of a private nature. The decision is regrettable because the university’s action does nothing to shed light on the matter or to settle this controversy.
The Indiana Public Access Counselor determined there is nothing on the state’s open records laws that prevents BSU from releasing the findings. The law gives the university discretion over its release.
So the public may never know whether Hedin espoused “intelligent design” in his class, or whether he stuck to straight science, or whether he did something else. And while the public might not get answers, neither will the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which started the whole controversy by sending a threatening letter to the university alleging the honors science course was a gateway by a government-paid employee (Hedin) to show that “science proves the truth of religion.”
As we mentioned in an earlier editorial, Hedin’s career could be at risk because of these allegations. The university might not be doing him any favors by keeping the report under wraps.
Which leads to another issue: Why couldn’t the university release a summary of the report, without releasing the actual documents? Anything to shed some light on the controversy.
It’s rather ironic that concerns made public prompted an investigation, but the findings will remain in the dark, and a shadow of doubt will follow Professor Hedin.
How does this action serve anybody’s best interest?
Well, this sounds good, and I agree that the findings should be released, but the paper’s reasons are misguided. The university is in fact doing Hedin a big favor by keeping the report under wraps. I’m pretty sure that report will show that Hedin not only proselytized for Christianity in his class, but taught an unbalanced course slanted towards an intelligent-design view of the cosmos. And I’m just guessing, but I think the syllabus and student evaluations will show the same thing. But the university won’t fire Hedin: at best they will make him stop teaching that course, and they may not even announce it publicly. (We’ll then have to see if it appears on the syllabus next year.)
What I think Ball State University is doing here is protecting not just Hedin but, more important, themselves. It will be seen (if the reports of anonymous students are true) that complaints were filed with the administration a while back, but were ignored. And the panel, if they have any credibility as scientists, will decry Hedin’s teaching of intelligent design as unscientific. That, too, will look bad in light of the Physics and Astronomy chairman’s defense of his course.
There’s no way this report will make Ball State look good, and that’s why they’re keeping it under wraps. The only thing that puzzles me is whether they will make some public announcement about the fate of Hedin’s course.