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My bill will help ensure a quality education and free speech on campus

By Jerry C. Cirino
September 1, 2023
On The Record

Editor's Note: This originally appeared in the Dayton Daily News on April 3, 2023.

The purpose of Senate Bill 83 is quite simple: It is to help provide the very best education possible for all students in Ohio’s institutions of higher learning. These students deserve the best preparation available for rewarding careers in exchange for their tuition dollars. It is truly all about the students.

I have worked hard to lower costs and expand opportunities for Ohio’s college and university students by sponsoring Senate Bill 135, which became law one year ago. But, I have found there is still a major impediment to ensuring a quality education on too many of our campuses. Our First Amendment is under assault in academia.

Senate Bill 83 is simply designed to ensure free expression on campus and in the classroom. Critics say my bill promotes censorship. They have it exactly backwards. This bill will allow students to exercise their right to free speech without threat of reprisal by professors or administrators. It will permit the marketplace of ideas to flourish, which is the ideal environment for any educational institution.

Senate Bill 83 will:

·         Ensure intellectual diversity in the classroom and among the faculty.

·         Provide free speech protections for students, faculty, and staff.

·         Allow an education of free, open, and rigorous intellectual inquiry to seek the truth.

·         Eliminate requirements for diversity, equity, or inclusion courses or training for students, staff or faculty.

·         Require full syllabus transparency.

·         Ban political and ideological litmus tests in all hiring, promotion, and admissions decisions.

·         Install a number of other worthwhile provisions including eliminating labor strikes by any university or community college staff, establishing post-tenure periodic review, and requiring full disclosure of any donations made by any affiliate of the People’s Republic of China.

I expected my bill to generate controversy – those who currently control an ideological monopoly on campus do not want to see their privileged status threatened. What I did not expect was the critics to unleash such a torrent of misinformation and outright falsehoods.

Fact and fiction – Senate Bill 83 will:

True: Ensure free speech and prevent censorship.
False: Censor professors and ban certain subjects.

True: Prevent professors from censoring or punishing opposing views expressed by students.
False: Prevent professors from teaching or discussing certain views or topics, and punish those who do.

True: Ban mandatory DEI courses and training for both staff and students. 
False: Ban DEI from the classroom as a topic of study or discussion.

True: Ensure professors can teach whatever they want.
False: Prohibit professors from endorsing or commenting on any controversial belief or policy, including climate change, electoral and foreign politics, DEI, marriage and gender identity.

True: Ensure class syllabi and reading assignments are posted publicly.
False: Prevent professors from assigning certain materials.

True: Enhance academic freedom and ensure students are not exposed to only a monolithic ideology (one point of view) by establishing post-tenure review for professors.
False: Limit academic freedom by establishing post-tenure review for professors.

True: Not tell universities what they must do, but what they cannot do: indoctrinate students with woke ideology and censor opposing views.
False: Micromanage universities.

Critics say there is only a “perceived bias” against those who push back against woke ideology on campus, and that is not really happening. Scholarly studies, such as a report from the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology (CSPI), show they are wrong.

Conservatives are political minorities on woke campuses. They are treated unequally and can face punishing censorship. Just like racial discrimination, this is unfair and irrational. It robs students of their equal rights. A uniformly leftist agenda on campus also replaces education with politically correct indoctrination.

Our Founders treasured diversity of thought so highly they made free speech our very first guaranteed right. It’s time to bring that right back to campus.