Ohio Higher Education Bill Would End Diversity Mandates, Sever China Ties

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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An Ohio state lawmaker introduced a bill to reform higher education by increasing course transparency, ending diversity mandates and cutting ties with Chinese institutions, according to its text.

Republican Ohio state Sen. Jerry Cirino introduced the Higher Education Enhancement Act on Wednesday. The bill includes a slew of systemic reforms on campus to bolster free speech protections, end mandatory Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) trainings and statements, publicize course syllabi and sever academic and financial ties to China. (RELATED: Yet Another Red State Could Be Set To Ban CRT In Public Schools)

“I believe it’s important to keep Ohio’s higher education institutions from going off on a tangent, which they’ve already started to do … in losing their focus on what their mission ought to be, and that is true diversity of thought being taught on campuses and actual freedom of speech and academic freedoms for everybody to have on all sides of issues,” Cirino told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The bill orders the Chancellor of Higher Education to withhold state funding from universities that do not promise not to mandate DEI training for faculty and students or utilize a “political and ideological litmus test” in admissions or hiring. It also requires universities to commit to protecting freedom of speech and intellectual diversity.

Additionally, universities would not be permitted to have a financial or academic partnership with any Chinese-based institution, according to the bill. This would include ending any agreement with Chinese-influenced institutions, including Confucius Institutes, after agreements expire, and refraining from accepting any “gifts, donations, or contributions” from a Chinese-affiliated “organization or individual who may be acting on behalf of the People’s Republic of China.”

“We have Communist China that are engaging in activities that are contrary to the interests of the United States, both economically and strategically, and the way they run their country from a standpoint of individual freedoms, I do not see us as wanting to cooperate with that with state taxpayer money through our institutions,” Cirino explained to the DCNF.

The bill requires universities make every undergraduate course syllabus publicly available on its website and would establish post-tenure review, according to its text. It also prohibits college and university employees from striking.

“Students pre-pay for their tuition and they deserve to get the instruction they need without interruption,” he said. “I’m not against organized labor or against unions in our universities, but we are taking striking off the table. They can negotiate their contracts through other means that are available to them and not use the students as pawns.”

The Higher Education Enhancement Act builds on top of Senate Bill 135, which was introduced by Cirino and signed into law by Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in July 2022.

“I think the bill is long overdue. I think it deals with the quality that we would like to see and that our students deserve,” Cirino told the DCNF.

This article has been updated with comment from Ohio state Sen. Jerry Cirino.

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