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Anti-Censorship Bill Called "Extreme" and "Dangerous"

State Media Scares Students With Fake News on Higher Education Reform Bill
By Jerry C. Cirino
April 5, 2024
On The Record

I would like to commend OSU graduate student Christine Fite on the guest column she wrote for Columbus Dispatch titled, “Integrity of Ohio’s universities in jeopardy. Extreme bill a dangerous (sic) to future.”

She writes well and seems bright, caring, and well-intentioned. I applaud Ms. Fite for her civic-mindedness and concern for the state of higher education in Ohio, even though I disagree with her conclusions.

I would like to take the opportunity to set the record straight, so that she and her fellow students across Ohio can rest at ease, knowing this bill will, in fact, improve our state’s higher education system.

Fite makes number of assertions that are simply not true.

But I don’t blame her for that.

She undoubtedly got her information from our state media, which has been woefully and willfully misrepresenting the facts about Senate Bill 83 since the day I introduced it.

Let’s look at her key criticisms and compare them with what is actually in SB 83, the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act.

Fite writes, “SB 83 seeks to prohibit the discussion of ‘fault, blame, or bias because of their race’ and ‘meritocracy or traits such as hard work ethic are racist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.’”

That is incorrect.

She is referencing lines on pages 46 and 47 of the bill, which state:

(C) No state institution of higher education shall provide or require training for any administrator, teacher, staff member, or employee that advocates or promotes any of the following concepts:  

(9) Fault, blame, or bias should be assigned to a race or sex, or to members of a race or sex because of their race or sex.

(8) Meritocracy or traits such as hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.

You will notice nothing “prohibits the discussion” of these topics, as opposed to what Fite maintains. What the bill says is these concepts may not be advocated or promoted in any mandatory “training for any administrator, teacher, staff member, or employee.”

Which leads us to Fite’s key mistaken assumption:

“This language prohibits instructors from discussing important concepts such as structural racism, systemic racism, and systemic racial inequality in the classroom.”

That is also incorrect.

This is what the bill states on page 30:

(E) Nothing in this section prohibits faculty or students from classroom instruction, discussion, or debate, so long as faculty members remain committed to expressing intellectual diversity and allowing intellectual diversity to be expressed.

Senate Bill 83 does not prohibit the discussion of any topic in the classroom.

(Additionally, the phrases “structural racism, systemic racism, and systemic racial inequality” do not appear anywhere in the bill.)

The bill does state certain issues are controversial but nothing in it prohibits these topics from being taught. The bill merely ensures professors must allow students to form their own conclusion on these issues without fear of reprisal or punishment.

Fite writes, “The censorship of such topics from course content is extremely harmful to students of color as it prevents them from discussing the ways in which systemic injustices impact their daily lives.”

As shown above, that is mistaken because, as the bill states, “Nothing in this section prohibits faculty or students from classroom instruction, discussion, or debate...

This is not a pro-censorship bill.

Just the opposite.

It is an anti-censorship bill.

For that same reason, Fite is also wide of the mark when she asserts “the bill places a gag order on many political and social concepts that contribute to our understanding of contemporary American society.”

It does no such thing.

Just the opposite.

It allows students to exercise their First Amendment right to express their opinions in the classroom or anywhere else.

It is my sincere hope that all concerned students in Ohio educate themselves about what SB 83 truly aims to achieve.

They can read the text of the actual bill here.

And they can search the PDF for any key words, in order to answer any particular questions they may have.

I sincerely hope Ms. Fite can now rest assured this bill is meant to guarantee the First Amendment rights of all students in Ohio.

And I hope she can see the bill’s intent is to substantially improve the quality of education all students receive at our state’s public colleges and universities.

If she has any lingering doubts or questions, Ms. Fite is welcome to contact me through my office, and I would be most glad to discuss any concerns or questions she still may have.