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Ohio GOP lawmaker says questionnaire to higher ed trustees isn't "political litmus test"

The Ohio University Alumni Gateway against a bright blue sky
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Like colleges across Ohio, enrollment at Ohio University has declined over the past decade.

Potential university trustees in Ohio have been getting a questionnaire from the Republican senator who’s been leading the charge against what he has said is "leftist ideology that has a monopoly on most college campuses." But he is saying those surveys are just to help senators who advise and consent on those trustees' appointments learn what those candidates think about higher education.

A copy of the two-page questionnaire provided to the Statehouse News Bureau shows a list of nine questions with blank spaces for answers. Trustee candidates are asked if they are alumni or has kids at the institution to which they're being appointed as trustees, and for ideas they plan to propose on lowering tuition costs and thoughts on increasing graduation rates.

But the questionnaire also solicits input on some issues that Republicans have spoken about. Examples:

  • "What is your position on the First Amendment rights of faculty, staff, and students, and how will you balance this with promoting diversity of thought on campus?"
  • "What thoughts do you have on faculty tenure, post-tenure review, and annual faculty performance reviews?"
  • "In your view, who are you ultimately responsible to serve as a trustee of the institution you have been appointed to: the president, Board chairperson, or taxpayers of Ohio?"

Those specific issues were raised in Senate Bill 83, which would ban most mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training, prohibit faculty strikes, change the faculty evaluation process and ban ideological "litmus tests" in hiring and admissions. And it would require faculty to allow intellectual diversity to be expressed on specific "controversial issues” identified in the bill as "climate policies, electoral politics, foreign policy, diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, immigration policy, marriage, or abortion."

That bill was sponsored by Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), and the questionnaire to potential trustees came from his office.

“It really is to give us better information so that we can make judgments before we just rubber stamp an appointment. And there's no right or wrong answer," Cirino said in an interview for "The State of Ohio". “We're just trying to raise the awareness level for them and make sure that we have good information to base our consent on. It is not a political litmus test event at all.”

Senate Bill 83 passed the Senate in May, and senators put it into their version of the budget. But it was removed in conference committee. Cirino said some changes are coming to the bill as it moves through the House. Non-faculty would be exempt from the ban on strikes in the revised bill, which would also lower how much student evaluations would count for in faculty reviews and set up an appeals process for faculty who want to challenge their evaluations and post-tenure reviews.

Copyright 2023 The Statehouse News Bureau

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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