Here's How 9 Indiana Colleges Have Responded to the New Anti-LGBT Law

March 30th 2015

Kathleen Toohill

While many entities and people have advocated for a boycott of Indiana, one group of people who cannot easily boycott Indiana are those affiliated with its universities. The students, faculty, and staff of these universities are not, for the most part, able to express their displeasure by picking up and leaving, and so must find other ways to make their voices heard.

Here's what they have said:

(You can read our explainer on the law here, and you can read about similar, older laws passed by 19 other states and the federal government here.)

Butler Seal

Butler University (Indianapolis)

James Danko, the president of Butler University, released a statement about the RFRA on Sunday, which reads, in part:  "[O]ver the past week I have heard from many Butler community members—as well as prospective students, parents, and employees—who have expressed concerns about the impact this law may have on our state and our University. As such, I feel compelled to share my perspective and to reinforce the values of Butler University.”

The statement continues:

“While I have read a variety of opinions and rationale for RFRA, it strikes me as ill-conceived legislation at best, and I fear that some of those who advanced it have allowed their personal or political agendas to supersede the best interests of the State of Indiana and its people. No matter your opinion of the law, it is hard to argue with the fact it has done significant damage to our state.”

Notre Dame Seal

University of Notre Dame (South Bend)

As of the publication of this article, Notre Dame’s student newspaper, The Observer, has yet to cover the passage of the RFRA, nor has president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C released a statement. Due to its affiliation with the Catholic Church, Notre Dame (full disclosure: my alma mater) may be hesitant to release an official statement. The university’s LGBTQ student group, PrismND, was founded and granted official status in 2013. PrismND did not respond to a request for comment.

Gov. Pence mentioned Notre Dame specifically in a statement about the RFRA: “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

IU Seal

Indiana University (Bloomington)

The Indiana Daily Student spoke to an IU sophomore who organized a protest on Saturday outside of the Monroe County Courthouse, separate from the larger protest underway that day in Indianapolis. At the protest, the crowd chanted, according to the paper, “Civil rights are everyone’s rights.”

On Sunday, Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie issued a statement, part of which read:

"While Indiana University hopes that the controversy of the past few days will move the state government to reconsider this unnecessary legislation, the damage already done to Indiana’s reputation is such that all public officials and public institutions in our state need to reaffirm our absolute commitment to the Hoosier values of fair treatment and non-discrimination. For its part, Indiana University remains steadfast in our longstanding commitment to value and respect the benefits of a diverse society.”

Purdue Seal

Purdue University (West Lafayette)

Purdue's Office of the President released this statement on Monday:

"Purdue works hard every day to be an open and welcoming institution, and we stand by our university-wide policy on nondiscrimination, which prohibits 'discrimination against any member of the University community on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, genetic information, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, or status as a veteran.' We will continue our proactive and persistent efforts to ensure that all members of the University community feel welcome and supported. While a longstanding Board of Trustees policy precludes Purdue taking institutional positions on matters such as the current controversy, we wish to take this opportunity to affirm our unwavering commitment to our principles and our opposition to any governmental measure that would interfere with their practice on our campuses."

Notably, Purdue's president, Mitch Daniels, was once Indiana's Republican governor.

Sarah Elliott Szczypinski, a self-proclaimed Purdue University graduate, wrote on the university's public Facebook page that the university's seemingly bland response to the RFRA was a "stunning lukewarm sentiment," adding, "I would have hoped for a little stronger support for students who pay a lot of money to attend a good school. My husband and I are proud alumni, but it's difficult to swallow this 'middle of the road' stance. I grew up in Bloomington and I have to say, this is the first time I thought, 'IU did it better.'"

Valparaiso University

Valparaiso University (Valparaiso)

Valparaiso President Mark A. Heckler issued a statement on Monday that said in part: “As an independent Lutheran University, we will continue to welcome people of all faiths, cultures, and walks of life to join us in this community of dialogue across difference under our distinctive Lutheran model of education. And we will continue this commitment even when our elected leaders make decisions, like the RFRA, that operate in contradiction to our values. We will seek to model for our state and nation what it can be like to live in a community of love and mutual respect.”

Ball State

Ball State University (Muncie)

The Ball State Daily covered Saturday’s protest in Indianapolis and spoke to Ryan Walstrom, a freshman at Ball State.

“A rally like this really shows strong opposition,” Wallstrom told Ball State Daily. “This is a backwards step in social views.”

Ball State President Paul W. Ferguson emailed a statement to campus on Monday in which he said: “In the context of the current state and national conversation related to Indiana’s recent legislation, it is important to reaffirm that Ball State University has long been committed to a vibrant and diverse community and will not tolerate discrimination.”

Indiana State Seal

Indiana State University (Terre Haute)

Johnny Vaughn, a columnist for the Indiana Statesman, ISU’s newspaper, wrote on Monday that RFRA “is nothing to get worked up over,” citing the 19 other states with RFRA laws on the books, as well as the federal RFRA law passed in 1993.  

“When I hear of businesses and people boycotting Indiana due to Indiana’s newest law,” wrote Vaughn, “my only reaction is they should boycott the other 19 states with the same law as well as cease all business and interaction with the government.” 

DePauw Seal

DePauw University (Greencastle)

DePauw University President Brian W. Casey also issued a statement on Sunday. His statement reads, in part: “I join with other Indiana corporations, leaders in industry, and institutions of higher education and urge the Governor and the legislature to take all steps necessary to address the harm this legislation has caused.  We must affirm that the State of Indiana is a place that welcomes and respects all citizens and visitors regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation.”

Laura Donovan contributed to this report.