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Senate Passes Cirino's Historic Higher Education Reform Bill

May 17, 2023
Jerry C. Cirino News

COLUMBUS - The State Senate today overwhelmingly passed Senator Jerry C. Cirino's (R-Kirtland) Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act, a historic move to return the focus to education rather than indoctrination at our public colleges and universities. Senate Bill 83 is designed to ensure freedom of speech, diversity of thought and opinion, and academic integrity at Ohio's state institutions of higher education.

Cirino said the best way to preserve the First Amendment at Ohio's public universities and colleges is to put an end to a monolithic ideology on our campuses. 

"No student should ever be ostracized, cancelled, or have to worry about a failing grade for merely daring to have a difference of opinion with classmates or a professor," said Cirino. "It is essential for students to learn how to think rather than what to think, and how to listen to opposing views with a respectful but critical ear."

The bill bans mandatory Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) courses and training for both students and staff, unless required to comply with requirements for accreditation, professional licensure, or to secure grants. Cirino said SB 83 protects the free speech rights of professors, as well as students, by eliminating mandatory DEI litmus tests in the hiring process. The bill does not, he emphasized, prohibit the teaching of any courses or the discussion of any subjects, but it will stop colleges from requiring diversity statements from job candidates.
Senator Cirino spent more than two years consulting with academic leaders and experts to draft the bill. He then listened to more than seven hours of live testimony and read more than 300 written testimonies about SB 83. As a result, the bill was modified to address particular concerns expressed by constituents and to ensure Ohio's colleges and universities graduate competent, qualified, critical thinkers who are focused on results.

Here's what distinguished scholars with impeccable credentials are saying about the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act:

Peter W. Wood 
President, National Association of Scholars

SB 83 is absolutely necessary. As president of NAS for the last fifteen years, and a professor and university administrator for the previous twenty years, I have seen intellectual freedom dwindle nationwide, until it is an empty shell on most college campuses.
SB 83 will do an extraordinary amount to depoliticize Ohio’s public higher education system, strengthen intellectual diversity, and restore its accountability to Ohio policymakers and citizens. We hope that it will swiftly become law.

The National Association of Scholars enthusiastically endorses Senate Bill 83, the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act.

Hal R. Arkes, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of Psychology at The Ohio State University

Teaching factual history, including such troubling facts as Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, would not be prohibited. What would be prohibited is a current requirement of a program in the OSU College of Education and Human Ecology that all participants in the program must acknowledge White privilege. In my opinion, this political view or any political view should not be required in order to participate in any Ohio University official program. Senate Bill 83 prohibits this type of political litmus test.

The lopsided preponderance of liberal faculty does have an effect on faculty hiring. Many opponents of Senate Bill 83 claim that it would diminish the willingness of potential faculty members to come to Ohio. I question this hypothesis. However, the data show that the current situation certainly diminishes the ability of conservative faculty to come to Ohio, because they never would be offered a faculty position.

George Dent 
Professor of Law Emeritus at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland 
Member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Scholars
President of Ohio affiliate of the National Association of Scholars

There are many severe problems today in higher education in America, including Ohio’s public colleges and universities. Senate Bill 83 is an excellent effort to address and remedy those problems. Most of the bad ideas that now plague our country began in our universities and have now spread to other organizations, such as the growing number of woke corporations.

Several provisions of the bill are designed to promote intellectual diversity on campus. This, too, is badly needed. Surveys have repeatedly shown that faculties are overwhelmingly on the political left, especially in the liberal arts and humanities. This does a great disservice to students. They typically learn that their country’s history and dominant culture and institutions are evil. Most Americans disagree. And how can students learn critical thinking when they are taught only a narrow range of left-wing views and intimidated from expressing contrary opinions? 

With no intellectual competition, scholars become lazy and sloppy in developing their ideas. The result is teaching and scholarship that seem not only off base but bizarre to most Americans. The introduction of intellectual diversity will force scholars on the left to improve their scholarship by refining and defending their views.

Michael Poliakoff
President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) 
Founded and chaired the Department of Classics at Hillsdale College 
Professor of Latin, Greek, and Classical Civilization at Wellesley College, Georgetown University, George Washington University, and George Mason University 
Former Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of Education, Director of Education programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research at the University of Colorado

ACTA has advocated on behalf of high academic standards, accountability, and the free exchange of ideas at America’s colleges and universities. We are pleased to offer our support today to SB 83, the Enact Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act ... we enthusiastically commend this legislation’s visionary boldness at a time when American higher education is in urgent need of a course correction.

What SB 83 seeks to redress is the power of bureaucratic offices, commonly known as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), which, despite their fair-sounding name, do more to obstruct the intellectual diversity that is the very lifeblood of higher education and American progress rather than improve it.  

Richard Vedder
Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus at Ohio University
Served on the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education 
Board Member of the National Association of Scholars

Universities have gone amuck. They are too expensive, teach too little useful knowledge, and, worst of all, are becoming contemptuous of free expression of ideas –the heart of what is necessary both to creating knowledge and aiding in its dissemination. 

I think the existence of an aggressive DEI bureaucracy has jeopardized a wonderful program promoting excellence in academic research at Ohio University.