Harping on recent Republican legislation from Florida, Oklahoma and Texas, Ohio is the latest state to propose a bill that spurns DEI initiatives and chips away at the stability of tenured faculty who lawmakers believe inhibit campus intellectual diversity.
The Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act will have broad implications across the state’s 14 public universities and 23 colleges, as well as private schools that request federal aid. Senate Bill 83, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Cirino, reflected similar proposals drafted by other states, along with some unique ones.
“Let’s just say there are a lot of things on my mind about higher education, and I decided to put them all together here,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland, according to The Colombus Dispatch. “I believe these are inherently the right things to do for enhancing the credibility of higher education and the effectiveness of higher education.”
Let’s examine some of the bill’s unique proposals and those that mirror other state legislation.
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Stance against China, publicizing course syllabi
One of the more distinctive aspects of this bill is its proposal to ban all formal relationships between Ohio’s public higher education system and China’s academic institutions. This extends to school funding and study abroad initiatives. However, this bill doesn’t affect the state’s admissions process: Chinese applicants can apply without any added barriers. Cirino defended this provision by comparing Russia’s Ukraine invasion and “Communist China,” considering the latter’s actions around the world “far more egregious.”
Additionally, the bill also takes a unique stance targeting professors’ course syllabi. SB 83 proposes that all syllabi must be publicized with the professor’s name, a short biography, a list of required or recommended readings and a general description of the course’s subject matter. Cirino wants this information to be searchable by related keywords, but he nor the bill specified how resources will go toward creating such systems.
Faculty evaluations, mandatory civics courses, banning diversity training
In many other ways, this bill indicates that Ohio’s Republican representatives are falling in line with their colleagues in other states. For example, Cirino’s proposal that requires Ohio higher education students to complete readings of the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers and other historical works falls right in line with similar provisions in Florida’s House Bill 999. Cirino also stated the college and university faculty should encourage students to “reach their own conclusions about all controversial matters and shall not seek to inculcate any social, political, or religious point of view.” He took that language directly from a line in Florida’s House Bill 7 that proposed to ban diversity training programs, which Ohio’s bill also aims to strip.
Senate Bill 83 also aims to implement shrewder faculty evaluations for both tenured and nontenured faculty to ensure an environment free of “political, racial, gender, and religious bias.” This closer eye on tenured faculty mirrors Texas’ recent bill which aims to strip tenured faculty entirely, so they can be more readily reprimanded for similar transgressions.