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Indiana U. Pres.: Legislative Attack on Kinsey Institute a Attack on Academic Freedom

The decision to ban state funding for Indiana University at Bloomington’s famed sex-research institute threatens academic freedom and sets a “troubling precedent” for legislative interference in research nationwide, the university’s president, Pamela Whitten, said in a recent public statement. The ban, included in the state budget after a heated debate, was inspired by a conservative lawmaker’s unproven claims, based on decades of circulated rumors, that the Kinsey Institute’s founder had promoted pedophilia and that the institute endangered children.

The state doesn’t allocate any money directly for the institute, which receives the vast majority of its funding from grants and outside philanthropy, so the impact of this specific prohibition will be mostly administrative and symbolic. The state simply gives money to the university, which until now, it could spend on the institute.

The institute was founded in 1947 at the Bloomington campus as the Institute for Sex Research. Its founder, Alfred C. Kinsey, was an American biologist and professor of entomology and zoology who had been teaching a college course on marriage and was surprised by how little his students knew about sexuality. After founding the institute, he and his team collected and studied thousands of sexual histories. Kinsey, who died in 1956, rose to national prominence after the publication of his books Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948 and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953.

In the former, he argued that human sexuality existed on a continuum from heterosexual to homosexual, and that people didn’t neatly fit one or the other. Because Kinsey’s research included extensive interviews with at least one pedophile, his fiercest critics accused him of encouraging sexual deviancy. Others questioned his research methods and data.

In the second book, Kinsey examined the sex life of American women, which outraged many 1950s readers with its findings about the frequency of premarital sex and masturbation. Congressional critics accused the Rockefeller Foundation of contributing to the nation’s moral decay by funding the research. It stopped doing so in 1954, two years before Kinsey’s death.

Among the contemporary topics the institute studies are issues related to reproductive health, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy, and sexual abuse. It also delves into relationships and dating. Researchers should be protected from interference with such work, the university’s president wrote in a prepared statement last month.

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education