The National Association of Scholars and the Civics Alliance are delighted that Ohio State Senator Jerry Cirino has introduced Senate Bill 83, the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act. 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 enthusiastically endorse SB 83 and hope that it will swiftly become law.
We are delighted and we are proud, because SB 83 takes some of its language and its concerns from different bills in the Civics Alliance’s Model Higher Education Code, drafted by the National Association of Scholars. We intended for these bills to inspire state legislators to craft their own legislation, adapted to meet their political circumstances. It is an honor that Senator Cirino has considered that our model language could be useful for Ohio. The adaptations he has made to our model language have turned our suggestions into practicable legislation, which we will be delighted to publicize throughout the nation. Senator Cirino also has added further reforms, which were not in the Model Higher Education Code—but soon may be, because they too should be models for legislators in other states.
SB 83 offers wonderfully comprehensive improvement of Ohio’s higher education. Its catalogue of reforms includes:
- Requirements that colleges and universities receiving state funds commit themselves to free speech and intellectual diversity, and to prohibiting both “diversity statements” and the inculcation of discriminatory concepts such as “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
- Improved training programs for new members of boards of trustees.
- Syllabus transparency requirements for state institutions of higher education.
- Requirements that state institutions of higher education adopt mission statements that commit them to inquiry into the truth, institutional neutrality, tolerance, equal standards, and equality of opportunity.
- Further commitments to intellectual diversity and institutional neutrality by state institutions of higher education, to be achieved by means such as intellectual diversity rubrics, prohibitions of political bias in hiring and tenuring, and prohibitions of mandatory programs or training courses regarding “diversity, equity, or inclusion.”
- Requirements for intellectual diversity among invited speakers and transparency about speaker fees.
- Establishment at state institutions of higher education of an undergraduate General Education Requirement in American government or American history, for a course that will include documents of American liberty including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.
- Reform of faculty workload policy at state institutions of higher education.
- The use of student evaluations that determine whether faculty succeed in creating unbiased classroom atmospheres, as a component of faculty evaluations.
- The establishment of post-tenure review of faculty, with the possibility of termination of employment.
- Prohibition of financial support of state institutions of higher education via Confucius Institutes, or any other component or intermediary of the government of the People’s Republic of China.
- Detailed budgetary transparency for each state institution of higher education.
- Requirements of nondiscrimination by race, sex, or other group identity at state institutions of higher education.
- Prohibition of explicitly segregating policies at state institutions of higher education.
- Requirements that universities annually report how well they have fulfilled these requirements, and requirements that universities institute sanctions for noncompliance.
- Prohibition of strikes by any public employees, within and without universities.
SB 83 overall is excellent and would surely vastly improve Ohio’s system of public higher education. We anticipate that the forthcoming debate itself will bring to light the many advantages to the bill’s comprehensive approach. Education reform has proven to be difficult to achieve in many states because higher education has so many moving parts, many of which have grown dysfunctional and are in need of serious repair. The great advantage of SB 83 over piecemeal approaches to higher education reform is that it embodies a compelling vision of how public higher education can best serve the needs of the public as a whole.
The National Association of Scholars and the Civics Alliance heartily endorse SB 83, and we urge Ohio’s legislators to pass this bill and Governor DeWine to sign it.