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My Bill Will Protect Freedom on Ohio Campuses

By Sen. Jerry Cirino
July 28, 2023
On The Record

Editor's Note: This originally appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on 4/4/2023 as “Ignore 'hysteria.' Freedoms attack on Ohio campuses. My bill will protect them.” (Our best guess is they meant to write: "Freedom is under attack on Ohio campuses.")

The purpose of Senate Bill 83 is quite simple: It ensures free expression on campus and in the classroom at Ohio’s public universities and colleges.

Those who say it promotes censorship have it exactly backwards. The Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act will allow students to exercise their right to free speech without threat of reprisal by professors or administrators.

I expected heated debate to follow my introduction of Senate Bill 83.

What I did not expect was the hysteria and hyperbolic screams of anguish in the Columbus Dispatch and other publications. Least of all did I expect the avalanche of misinformation and outright falsehoods about the bill.

Timothy Messer-Kruse, a professor of ethnic studies at Bowling Green State University, wrote, "I was informed by a friend with close connections to the Ohio legislature that a bill was about to be introduced that would effectively abolish my department."

It won't. The bill won't do anything like that.

Why is a university professor accepting hearsay at face value instead of doing a bare minimum of research? It makes you wonder what in the world he is teaching his students.

Ohio State University English Professor Pranav Jani claimed in a Dispatch guest column that my bill will cause the “elimination of academic freedom, and restrictions on/prohibitions of ethnic studies, gender studies curricula,” and “dictate what educators and students teach and learn in the classroom.”


Quite simply, all his wild claims are factually incorrect. The bill places NO restrictions or prohibitions on ANY curricula or classroom material.

The bill does the opposite of eliminating academic freedom: it ensures that freedom for students, as well as professors. Either Jani didn't read the bill or he is an English professor who doesn’t understand plain English.

Worse yet, Jani’s accusation that we would ban “Chinese and other students from classrooms” is a damnable lie.

It is a lie meant to stir up fear and hate mongering. Academics want to protect their woke fiefdom so they can continue to churn out like-minded and intolerant opponents of intellectual diversity.

Jani’s highly offensive assertion that my colleagues and I have a “racist, anti-feminist, anti-trans, homophobic, anti-union, anti-immigrant, fake free speech agenda,” is beneath contempt.

Ohio State University Professor of Geodesy and Geodynamics Michael Bevis was also wrong when he wrote in the Dispatch, “Senate Bill 83 seeks to ban university courses focused on 'politically controversial' topics, such as climate change.”

The bill does not ban ANY courses.

What it bans is any oath of allegiance to woke ideology on controversial topics. It bans “political and ideological litmus tests in all hiring, promotion, and admissions decisions, including diversity statements.”

That means applicants are not required to take a position on any “controversial belief or policy," such as “climate change, electoral politics, foreign policy, diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, immigration policy, marriage, or abortion.”

That simply means applicants don’t have to express university-approved positions in order to be eligible in all hiring, promotion, and admissions decisions.

Furthermore, the bill guarantees the university will “not endorse, oppose, comment, or take action, as an institution, on the public policy controversies of the day.” Universities should encourage freedom of expression and diversity of thought, and not be partisan political advocates.

Here’s what my bill is designed to do:

Ensure intellectual diversity in the classroom and among the faculty.
Provide free speech protections for students, faculty, and staff.
Eliminate requirements for diversity, equity, or inclusion (DEI) 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 faculty labor strikes, establishing post-tenure periodic review, and requiring full disclosure of any donations made by any affiliate of the People’s Republic of China.

Our First Amendment is under assault in academia. Senate Bill 83 will fix that.

Ohio State Senate Jerry C. Cirino (R-Kirtland) introduced Senate Bill 83, the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act.

Jerry Cirino represents Ohio Senate District 18