Ball State University (BSU) is investigating complaints that Assistant Professor Eric Hedin crossed a line when he encouraged classroom discussion that included multiple views of life’s origins.
The investigation into Hedin’s teaching began when the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) heard rumors of classroom discussions considering topics outside of evolution. The FFRF jumped on the case, sending a warning letter to BSU president Jo Ann Gora. The five page letter told her to address “disturbing reports of a Ball State professor proselytizing in the classroom.”
Since the accusations began, support for Hedin has grown. Indiana state Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, recently called on Gora to defend Hedin and his teaching. Sen. Kruse, chairman of the Senate education committee, told the Star Press: “I come from a Christian perspective and a conservative perspective. I’m under the impression academic freedom should be for everybody.”
Students at BSU also voiced support. One wrote in a class evaluation, “Never once did I personally hear any complaints from my fellow students; on the contrary, the mood was always positive—we enjoyed stretching our minds.” Students commented on ratemyprofessor.com that Hedin is helpful and open to ideas and opinions. One student called him a “great professor. Fair grading, explains things clearly, and will answer any questions you have.” Another acknowledged the variety of views discussed in his class: “Many of his views do not quite jive with those of mainstream science.”
Even some critics hostile to intelligent design support Hedin, including popular blogger and biologist PZ Myers, and Laurence A. Moran, professor of biochemistry at the University of Toronto. Moran said he defends “the right of a tenured professor to teach whatever he/she believes to be true no matter how stupid it seems to the rest of us."
BSU Spokeswoman Joan Todd said the university takes the FFRF’s concerns “very seriously.” According to the university process, a four member panel “will consider carefully all the course materials and speak with Dr. Hedin. They will then render a decision on the academic integrity of the course.”
One of Hedin’s colleagues, BSU science professor Ronald Kaitchuck, told The Indianapolis Star he suspects Hedin is “asking people to think a little broader, outside the box, which causes controversy. It’s funny.”