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Cirino Introduces Higher Education Enhancement Act

March 15, 2023
Jerry C. Cirino News

COLUMBUS - State Senator Jerry C. Cirino (R-Kirtland) introduced legislation today to guarantee Ohio’s university and college students get the outstanding education they deserve.

This watershed bill is designed to do nothing less than protect the integrity of Ohio’s institutions of higher learning for generations to come. The bill’s primary purpose is to ensure Ohio’s students are educated by means of free, open, and rigorous intellectual inquiry to seek the truth.
“I consulted with leadership at many of these institutions, and a variety of other experts, to make sure we have a plan that is both practical and ambitious, with the best interests of students as our top concern,” said Senator Cirino. “This sweeping and exhaustively detailed legislation is meant to ensure students get what they pay for – a world-class education that will give them top value in the workforce and the tools needed to help them succeed in life.”
Cirino’s bill does this in a variety of ways. It requires Ohio’s universities and colleges to guarantee:

  • Intellectual diversity in the classroom and among the faculty.
  • Free speech protections for students, faculty, and staff.
  • No requirements for diversity, equity, or inclusion courses or training for students, staff or faculty.
  • Full syllabus transparency, including all assignments, and required and recommended reading.
  • No political and ideological litmus tests in all hiring, promotion, and admissions decisions; including diversity statements and any other requirement that applicants describe their commitment to any such ideology or concept.

This legislation will ensure the highest possible standards in faculty members by requiring a post-tenure periodic review, critical to maintaining the highest professional standards, as is the practice in all other highly skilled professions. Trustees will also receive continuing training to ensure they have the best tools and knowledge to guide their institutions by the highest standards.

The bill eliminates the possibility of labor strikes that only serve to break the contract the state has extended to students to provide them a valuable education in return for their prepaid tuition dollars. The bill makes sure the state legislature is heard when it comes to shaping the policies and practices adopted by these educational institutions.
Each state institution of higher education will be required incorporate these concepts into a mission statement:

  • It will educate students by means of free, open, and rigorous intellectual inquiry to seek the truth.
  • Its duty is to equip students with the intellectual skills they need to reach their own, informed conclusions on matters of social and political importance.
  • Its duty to ensure that no aspect of life, outside or within the classroom, requires, favors, disfavors, or prohibits speech or action to support any political, social, or religious belief.
  • It is committed to create a community dedicated to an ethic of civil and free inquiry, which respects the autonomy of each member, supports individual capacities for growth, and tolerates the differences in opinion that naturally occur in higher education.
  • Its duty is to treat all faculty, staff, and students as individuals, to hold them to equal standards, and to provide them equality of opportunity.

Additionally, Ohio institutions of higher education will be required to disclose all donations made by the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army, or any other extension or affiliate of the People’s Republic of China.“

"This bill will move us toward true academic freedom," said Senator Cirino. "We need students to be taught how to think not what to think. Now, more than ever, it is vital to preserve the credibility and confidence in our state universities, four-year colleges, and community colleges, by making sure they are not straying from their core mission of education."

This legislation builds upon Cirino's Senate Bill 135 that passed in the House 87-0 and 31-1 in the Senate last year, and was signed into law by the governor in July. That sweeping higher education reform bill included free speech protections for students concerned that expressing their opinions in class might hurt their grades. The bill also focused on accountability of higher education institutions and began the Second Chance Grant Program.