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Ohio Educators Concerned About Impact of DEI Legislation

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Friday, July 21, 2023   

By Nya Brunson / Broadcast version by Nadia Ramlagan reporting for the Central State-Ohio News Connection Collaboration.

Higher education institutions across the United States are getting an increase in attention. In Ohio and many other states across the country, there has been an increase in restrictions on higher education and what can be taught in these institutions. Significant pieces of legislation have been passed or are being passed to ban or limit Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies and regulations, also known as DEI.

In the Ohio Senate, two bills were introduced. The first one is Senate Bill 83, first introduced by Senator Jerry Cirino on March 14, 2023. The bill addresses many topics, including but not limited to banning mandatory DEI programs and training; prohibiting higher education faculty and staff from striking; requiring syllabi and biographical information on professors to be publicly displayed online; and prohibiting partnerships with Chinese institutions.

Senator Cirino introduced the bill to ensure the freedom of speech at Ohio's higher education institutions. One main goal was to protect the rights of students and professors alike by removing barriers during the hiring process, such as mandatory DEI litmus tests. Diversity statements would not be required from job candidates.
The second one, House Bill 151, is nearly identical. This bill was sponsored by Representatives Steve Demetriou and Josh Williams.

A revised substitute version of Senate Bill 83 was introduced that allows exceptions for mandatory DEI programs and training. The bill only requires "professional qualifications" and syllabi from professors, and partnerships with Chinese institutions are not banned. However, the bill also aims to protect the intellectual property of Ohio institutions must be protected.

"Because of the ways that the bills are written, there's sort of vague language that's used around things like controversial topics, and obviously different people have different understandings of what that means, and I could foresee professors being cautious and less willing to talk about various topics because some might see them as controversial whether or not they are," says Dr. John Shaw, a Gender and Sexualities professor at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.

The Ohio Senate passed the substitute bill on May 17, 2023.

These bills will affect all who attend a higher education institution in Ohio.

Alijah Mason, a junior at Central State University, says this about the situation: "It matters because diversity and inclusion don't leave anyone out. Everyone should be able to have a safe space everywhere they go, such as schools, workplaces, government offices, grocery stores, etc."

As of June 30, 2023, Senate Bill 83 has not been included in the state budget, known as House Bill 33, that was signed by Governor DeWine.

This collaboration is produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.


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