Ban on faculty strikes removed from Republican-backed Ohio higher ed bill, but concerns remain
The bill that seeks to address what conservatives see as “cancel culture” and indoctrination at Ohio’s public colleges and universities is getting another makeover.
It's the second big set of changes for Senate Bill 83. Earlier this year the higher ed bill’s ban on mandatory diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) training was altered because some federal grants require DEI training.
Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) said he's made a compromise to move SB 83 forward, taking out the ban on faculty strikes at the request of the House, "although I still believe strongly that we should not put the students at risk in terms of getting the instruction that they paid for upfront. But I also know that in trying to get the legislation done, sometimes you have to make accommodations for the greater good of getting a policy policy change."
But he doesn’t expect to win the support of faculty members who’ve loudly opposed it.
“I think academia has created a lot of the problems that this bill is attempting to solve, or at least begin to solve," Cirino said. "And so I have low expectations that faculty are going to suddenly decide to embrace this bill just because of the changes we've made.”
Trustees' terms in the bill have been changed from four to six years. Current law sets them at nine years. Gov. Mike DeWine, who appoints trustees, has said he thinks shortening the terms to four years would be "a mistake."
The removal of the ban on faculty strikes isn't winning over Ohio's professors.
“The bill is still fundamentally flawed and the changes that have been made, while some of them are steps in the right direction, we have a myriad of concerns that remain," said Sara Kilpatrick, executive director of the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors.
For instance, Kilpatrick said the bill still bans certain things that faculty can bargain over.
"And those subjects are fundamental to the terms and conditions of faculty employment, if this bill were to pass. Faculty will leave Ohio. Faculty will be hard pressed to come to Ohio because it essentially would remove any sense of job security for these faculty positions."
Most student groups at public universities are standing behind the faculty.
"My experience as a student here is that all professors, by and large, are here to facilitate conversation among students, and have students bring their whole selves into the classroom and bring their experiences to connecting that course material and to have fruitful, productive discussion," said Clovis Westlund, an Ohio State University student and organizer with Honesty In Education, which strongly opposes SB 83. "I feel that kind of perspective of universities being kind of this place of indoctrination couldn't be farther from the reality of college campuses nowadays.
SB 83 still bans most mandatory DEI training and requires what’s called “intellectual diversity” on topics spelled out in the legislation: "climate policies; electoral politics; foreign policy; diversity, equity, and inclusion programs; immigration policy; marriage; or abortion."
The bill also prohibits universities from taking public positions on controversial topics, though they can lobby lawmakers on issues. And it includes a ban on financial partnerships with China, but that doesn’t include tuition from Chinese students.
SB 83 passed the Senate mostly along party lines in May, with Sens. Lou Blessing (R-Colerain Township), Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester) joining all Democrats in voting against it. Republicans added it to the Senate's version of the two-year state budget, but it was removed in conference committee.