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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

August 8, 2018

South Bend Tribune. August 1, 2018

A call for a hate crimes law in Indiana

Earlier this year, as hate crimes legislation failed yet again in Indiana, the failure was blamed by a Senate leader on a “matter of people’s opinions” and not being able to “come to consensus.”

In the wake of the anti-Semitic vandalism at a Carmel, Ind., synagogue last weekend, we can only hope that some opinions have changed and consensus can be reached on the need for a hate crimes law.

It certainly sounds as if Gov. Eric Holcomb is ready to tackle the status quo in Indiana, where leaders of the Republican-dominated Statehouse have consistently opposed hate crimes legislation.

“No law can stop evil, but we should be clear that our state stands with the victims and their voices will not be silenced,” Holcomb said in a statement Monday. “For that reason it is my intent that we get something done this next legislative session, so Indiana can be 1 of 46 states with hate crimes legislation — and not 1 of 5 states without it.”

Holcomb also said that he planned to meet with “lawmakers, legal minds, corporate leaders and citizens of all stripes” on the issue so that “we can move forward as a state.”

His statement came as police are investigating the anti-Semitic graffiti discovered over Saturday morning at a Hamilton County synagogue. The graffiti, which comprised a pair of Nazi flags and iron crosses, was spray painted on two walls of a brick shed that surrounds the property’s garbage bin. On the grass in front of one of the Nazi flags, there are apparent burn marks in two places, and a portion of the graffiti bears a black burn mark, too.

Supporters of hate crime legislation say that explicitly listing a hate crime as an aggravating factor would further discourage such crimes. According to an Indianapolis Star report, if the suspects in the Carmel vandalism are identified, they would likely be charged with vandalism; if the state had a hate crimes law in place, the penalty could be more severe.

Activists argue that creating a hate crimes law would create a “special class” of victims.

Last year, we urged lawmakers to take up hate crimes legislation, a basic but important step already taken by 45 states. We noted that any new law also should be accompanied by better reporting of hate crime statistics. Such a law would give police, prosecutors and judges another tool to address such crimes.

The bill that failed last session was sponsored by Republican Sue Glick, a former county prosecutor from LaGrange County. It would have specifically allowed a judge to take into account whether a crime was motivated by someone’s race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation or ethnicity. It would also require such crimes to be reported to the FBI.

Ending the dubious distinction of being one of five states without hate crimes legislation would do something else. It would send a message that Indiana values everyone and rejects hate.

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The Herald-Times. August 2, 2018

IU on its way to fulfilling a Grand promise

An update issued Tuesday indicates Indiana University’s Precision Health Initiative is well on its way to fulfilling its promises.

This is one of IU’s Grand Challenges, in which the university pledged an investment of up to $300 million to address some of the world’s most pressing problems. No problem was too immense for the university to tackle, so this one targeted nothing less than curing a type of cancer and a childhood disease, among other things.

Ambitious, yes. But why place limits on what the university can do for the state and society at large? Why not think big?

About $120 million has gone toward the Precision Health Initiative, which has pledged over a decade to cure one cancer and one childhood disease, as well as develop ways to prevent one chronic illness and one neurodegenerative disease.

In fact, IU is working on three cancers in all.

One of the curative therapies is for triple negative breast cancer and the other for multiple myeloma.

Triple negative breast cancers currently have no targeted therapies for this specific tumor, according to the American Cancer Society.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells, which are found in bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system.

The childhood disease targeted is pediatric sarcoma, another cancer in which malignant cells multiply in soft tissues of the body such as tendons and muscle.

The chronic illness under scrutiny is Type 2 diabetes, once called adult-onset diabetes. It’s a chronic condition that negatively affects the way your body uses sugar (glucose).

The neurodegenerative disease is Alzheimer’s, of which IU researchers hope to slow the progression.

Thirty-three new researchers have been recruited from across the country to work on these challenges.

For Hoosiers who don’t always consider the huge impact of high-level research on their lives, these selections should resonate. Each of these diseases is common, and it’s likely a majority of Hoosiers have been touched by one or more of them.

IU President Michael McRobbie said addressing prevalent health issues was chosen because of IU’s “deep research expertise in each of these diseases through the IU School of Medicine” and other health-related strengths on the Bloomington campus.

“It starts with the idea that we have the right expertise and some of the country’s top researchers in these diseases that we believe will help make these incredible goals a reality,” he said.

The two other Grand Challenges are related to similarly massive issues — preparing for environmental change and addressing the opioid epidemic. They, too, are issues affecting Indiana residents on a regular basis.

This is huge and important work, and well worth the effort and investment.

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Kokomo Tribune. August 2, 2018

Save money, finish on time

The college attainment rate of Hoosiers over the age of 25 is a woeful 42nd in the nation, according to estimates from the Census Bureau. But the percentage of adults with college degrees in Indiana is getting better.

There is an urgency to raise the completion rates of two-year and four-year college degrees, as well as workforce credentials. And in 2014, the state took significant steps to help more students graduate on time.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education launched an initiative to keep college students on track for graduation. Called “15 to Finish,” it encourages students to take at least 15 credit hours each semester.

To graduate on time, students need to complete a minimum of 30 credits per year, or 15 per semester. But just 33 percent of students attending Indiana’s public colleges were doing so at the time. At Indiana University Kokomo, that percentage was 14 percent.

Then-Gov. Mike Pence signed House Enrolled Act 1348 in 2014, as well. It requires students to complete at least 30 credit hours each year in order to renew their financial aid at the same level the following school year. The majority of state aid is distributed through the Frank O’Bannon education grant and the Evan Bayh 21st Century Scholars program.

Last month, the Commission for Higher Education reported more college students were on track for on-time graduation at the state’s publicly funded institutions. Today, 45 percent of all Hoosier students attending a four-year school graduate on time.

That’s a 10.9 percent increase in just five years.

Statewide, 30-credit-hour course-completion among 21st Century Scholars improved at a faster pace than any other student population. The Commission for Higher Education credits HEA 1348 for assisting in the 13.8 percent improvement in their on-time graduation rates.

Each additional year of college costs students $50,000 in tuition, lost wages and related costs, according to the commission. Worse, state financial aid runs out for students after four years, increasing the probability they will drop out.

Students, registration for the fall semester closes at IU Kokomo on Friday. Sign up for 15 credit hours each semester at college. You’ll be more likely to graduate and save money.

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Tribune-Star. August 1, 2018

Standing with victims of hate

Governor provides clear leadership on hate-crimes bill

Nearly two-thirds of Hoosiers support the passage of a hate crimes law in Indiana, according to the 2017 Hoosier Survey by Old National Bank and Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs.

Forty-five states already have such laws that increase penalties for crimes targeting victims because of their race, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. Indiana is not among those states.

For years, the Indiana General Assembly has steadfastly rebuffed attempts to enact a hate crimes law. It happened again last winter. A hate crimes bill by Sen. Susan Glick, a Republican from LaGrange, died without a public vote. The most socially conservative wing of her own party successfully derailed the proposal, arguing that it would add stiffer penalties only for groups of people chosen by liberals and the business community, meaning gay and transgender individuals.

Some reasonable leadership on this issue, long overdue in Indiana, emerged in the background of that legislative debate. When conservatives pushed an amended hate crimes bill without the individual characteristics listed, Gov. Eric Holcomb favored letting the diluted version fail. Holcomb had been working behind the scenes for a hate crimes law that would include provisions for sexual orientation and gender identity, the Indianapolis Star reported then. The governor preferred to wait yet another year and try again than to see the Legislature approve a hate crimes law that purposely avoided specific provisions for violence and intimidation aimed at gay and transgender people.

Yes, such a misstep would have subjected Indiana to another national controversy, reminiscent of Mike Pence’s governorship. And, yes, the state was one of 20 finalists competing to become the location of a new, massive headquarters for Amazon, and passage of a flawed law would not have bolstered Indiana’s chances.

Yet, in a nation of laws that strives to protect its most vulnerable residents, a full, strong hate crimes law in Indiana is simply the right thing to do. The governor made that clear Monday, when he restated his support for such legislation after vandals painted Nazi symbols on a shed at a Jewish synagogue in Carmel over the weekend.

“No law can stop evil,” Holcomb said Monday in a statement, “but we should be clear that our state stands with the victims, and their voices will not be silenced.”

The effect of a vile attack like the one in Carmel runs deeper than mere punkish, disrespectful graffiti. It can cause targeted groups of people to live in fear and intimidation in their own communities.

“The cowards responsible for these crimes always hide from public scrutiny precisely because they know their actions will be soundly rejected by their neighbors and are not consistent with who we are as a society,” Holcomb said.

He intends to push for a hate crimes law in the 2019 session of the General Assembly. That call by the Republican governor drew praise from Terry Goodin, minority leader of the few Democrats in the Indiana House. Goodin expressed skepticism that Holcomb could persuade fellow Republicans who dominate the Legislature to back the idea.

“The governor announcing his support is one thing,” Goodin said. “Getting the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate is another.”

Still, the governor’s stance is refreshing and promising. Such independence and leadership could make the difference this time.

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