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Ohio GOP lawmaker suggests changes at universities could mean anti-DEI bill isn't needed

State Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) speaks to reporters after the debate at Central State University
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) speaks to reporters after the U.S. Senate Republican debate at Central State University in April 2022.

The controversial Senate bill banning most diversity training at universities and requiring so-called intellectual diversity on electoral politics, marriage and other topics didn’t get a vote in the Ohio House this week. Its sponsor says it’s not dead. But a prominent Republican lawmaker says he thinks the bill may no longer be needed.  

Senate Bill 83 seeks to address what conservatives have called liberal bias at public universities. They've referred to it as a "free speech bill", though opponents have said it will have the opposite effect.

Senate Finance Committee chair Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said university presidents have told him that changes are already happening, so he said it’s time to discuss whether the bill needs to pass.

"We want to make sure the university presidents can run their campus in a fiscally responsible way, and also in an environment where everyone gets to feel free to give free speech, irrespective of whatever your positions are," Dolan said in an interview for "The State of Ohio". "I've talked to university presidents, and they have said, 'look, we are making the changes that we think are important to encourage for free speech.'"

Dolan said those presidents have said they want to invest in degrees that businesses and employers want and "maybe de-emphasize the degrees that maybe aren't producing for Ohioans."

“Sometimes if you draw attention to an issue, you get behavioral change too," Dolan said. "And I think that's what Senate Bill 83 has done. It has created behavioral change."

Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) has said if SB 83 doesn’t pass this session he will bring it back without his concessions, such as dropping the ban on faculty strikes. Hundreds of faculty members, students and other critics have said it will chill campus speech and lead professors and students to leave Ohio.

Those critics are still worried about the bill, seeing it as part of a nationwide, coordinated strategy among Republicans.

"This is going on across the country to try to really rein in the ability of students and professors to have free speech on campuses. I think we should be very concerned about that," said Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), also in an interview for "The State of Ohio".

Antonio added that she's frustrated by Cirino's statements signaling that he won't consider changes to the bill.

"I've got a word for Sen. Cirino: compromise," Antonio said. "It’s what our democracy was built on. It is a huge part of our job. We need to figure out how to go to the middle and compromise, because ultimately that end result is going to be the best for most people, and that's what we should be working towards."

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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