On May 17, the Ohio Senate passed the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act, also known as Senate Bill 83 (S.B. 83) in a 21-10 vote. The bill will be voted on in the Ohio House of Representatives and then, if passed, it will head to Governor Mike DeWine to sign into law.
S.B. 83 outlines new guidance for both public and private higher education in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), publicly accessible syllabi, affirmative action, relations with the People’s Republic of China, faculty workload, tenure, Board of Trustees appointments, campus speakers and public opinion on controversial issues.
The bill aims to “rescue higher education” according to Ohio Senator Jerry Cirino, a republican from Kirtland, who sponsored the bill. S.B. 83 is not unique to Ohio, as both Florida and Texas have introduced similar legislation for their education systems.
If passed by DeWine, the law would also create new curriculum requirements which would directly impact students in the classroom.
For example, a class on American history would be mandatory beginning with the class of 2027. Some of the required readings include the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Declaration of Independence, a minimum of five essays from the Federalist Papers, the U.S. Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King Jr. 's Letter from the Birmingham Jail.
On May 18, Miami University’s President Gregory Crawford sent an email to all Miami faculty and staff regarding the university’s stance on the bill. In the email, he references the response the Inter-University Council of Ohio (IUC) wrote to Cirino. The IUC is made up of Ohio’s 14 public universities.
“As the bill moves to the House, we will continue to advocate for free speech in the classroom, diversity of thought, acceptance for all, and supporting faculty,” Crawford wrote in the email.
The IUC states its areas of concern are government overreach into education, cost of implementation, vagueness in the bill’s language, lack of DEI and its effects on students, endowment provisions and the impact on Ohio’s economy.
According to Crawford’s email, in the 2021-2022 school year, Ohio universities contributed $68.9 billion to the state’s economy, nearly 9% of total gross state product.
The IUC letter to Cirino states that Ohio universities plan to continue to address the stated concerns in S.B. 83 as it moves through state legislation with its parallel legislation, House Bill 151.
“We will continue to work with our IUC partners and state legislators to resolve concerns about Senate Bill 83,” Crawford wrote. “As this work continues, Miami remains committed to the success and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff, and we will always advocate for, support, and care for our community.”
Randi Thomas, the vice president for ASPIRE at Miami, did not respond to a request for comment.