This past week, our nation’s attention has turned toward Indiana and the passage of SB 101, a law that purports to support religious freedom but, in its language, potentially licenses discrimination. In case you are not aware, Indianapolis is the site of our 2016 NASPA Annual Conference. This has placed NASPA and many other higher education associations squarely in the center of this issue. I have received many emails from you, our members, expressing opinions on the most appropriate action to take regarding the annual gathering of our Association. Many of you have urged us to consider relocating the event; many of you have implored us to stay in Indianapolis and have our voices heard.
Yesterday, I spoke personally with Indiana Governor Mike Pence and expressed to him that the legislation as written does permit discrimination and that both NASPA and its members find this expression of hate, bias, and intolerance to be reprehensible. I urged him to work with the Indiana General Assembly to pass an amendment to the Indiana Religious Freedom Reparation Act (INRFRA) that makes a clear statement that discrimination will be prohibited under law.
Within the last week, I have written two letters that outline NASPA’s stance on the issue and approach to decision-making, found here:
The NASPA Board of Directors met today via phone. We are also following very closely the recent activity in Indiana, as outlined below:
- Governor Pence has reported that he asked the General Assembly to submit new legislation that amends the INRFRA Bill to provide protection for all people against discrimination. He asked legislators to work around the clock and have the language to him before the end of the week.
- Mayor Ballard of Indianapolis has signed an executive order titled, “Indianapolis Declaration of Non-Discrimination.” In part the Executive Order reads as follows:
o “The City hereby affirms its policy that no vendor, contractor, grant recipient, or anyone receiving public funds or benefits of any kind shall discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, or United States military service veteran status, and any breach of this policy shall continue to be considered a material breach of the relationship with the City.”
We will continue to monitor the activity in Indiana.
As an update to the process – it goes without saying that this is a very complex issue. We are considering a range of options for our 2016 NASPA Annual Conference and are currently in a fact-finding and listening phase. Please know that NASPA is committed to transparency and open dialogue throughout this process. To that end, we encourage you to continue to contact us via email, social media, and NASPA Blog comments. We also have created an online feedback tool. We want to hear from you and welcome your voices in this dialogue, respecting and valuing every opinion. I feel fortunate to work in a profession whose members care so deeply about social justice, equity, and inclusion issues.
We are a profession that values education, has a commitment to social justice, and understands that solidarity is necessary in times of challenge. As we gather information, collect feedback from our individual members and constituent groups, and decide on a course of action, we will continue to update the entire NASPA community with transparency and expediency through email, social media, and the NASPA Blog.