Proposed legislation would stop diversity, equity training at Ohio colleges, universities

(The Center Square) – A bill in the Ohio Legislature would stop diversity and equity training for faculty and students at state colleges and universities.

The Higher Education Enhancement Act, introduced earlier this week by Sen. Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland, would remove any requirements for diversity, equity or inclusion courses or training for students, staff or faculty. It would also create transparency for all assignments, as well required and recommended reading.

“I consulted with leadership at many of these institutions, and a variety of other experts, to make sure we have a plan that is both practical and ambitious, with the best interests of students as our top concern,” Cirino said. “This sweeping and exhaustively detailed legislation is meant to ensure students get what they pay for – a world-class education that will give them top value in the workforce and the tools needed to help them succeed in life.”

The bill, which has yet to be assigned a number or to a committee, would also require intellectual diversity in the classroom and among faculty and ensure no political or ideological “litmus tests” in all hiring, promotion and admission decisions.

“This bill will move us toward true academic freedom,” Cirino said. “We need students to be taught how to think not what to think. Now, more than ever, it is vital to preserve the credibility and confidence in our state universities, four-year colleges, and community colleges, by making sure they are not straying from their core mission of education.”

The bill would also require each state college or university to develop mission statements that include five concepts, including:

• It will educate students by means of free, open, and rigorous intellectual inquiry to seek the truth.

• Its duty is to equip students with the intellectual skills they need to reach their own, informed conclusions on matters of social and political importance.

• Its duty to ensure that no aspect of life, outside or within the classroom, requires, favors, disfavors, or prohibits speech or action to support any political, social, or religious belief.

• It is committed to create a community dedicated to an ethic of civil and free inquiry, which respects the autonomy of each member, supports individual capacities for growth, and tolerates the differences in opinion that naturally occur in higher education.

• Its duty is to treat all faculty, staff, and students as individuals, to hold them to equal standards, and to provide them equality of opportunity.

And the bill would require schools to disclose all donations made by the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army, or any other extension or affiliate of the People’s Republic of China.

Cirino’s student free speech bill that included free speech protections for students concerned that expressing their opinions in class might hurt their grades passed the last general assembly and was signed into law July 2022 by Gov. Mike DeWine.