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Students and faculty are under attack; SB 117 will limit educational freedoms

Staff Editorial

College campuses have become a new political battleground for the right, and educational freedom is under attack. The Ohio Senate recently approved funding for “intellectual diversity” centers on various college campuses, including Miami University’s.

Critics have called these centers havens for conservative ideology, meant to combat the non-existent threat of liberal colleges and universities. What’s worse is that Miami didn’t even ask for this funding and was not included in the legislation paving the way for it.

Senate Bill 117 is yet another in a series of bills passed by Senate Republicans aimed at restricting genuine freedom on college campuses in the name of an anti-woke agenda, a concept that has lost all meaning.

The bill initially applied only to the University of Toledo and The Ohio State University: the only two schools that had the chance to consider the bill and offer testimony for or against it. Then, three hours before the Senate was set to vote on the bill on June 28, Senator Jerry Cirino, who has proven himself an inept public servant, added Miami, the University of Cincinnati and Cleveland State University to the bill in an amendment. 

With the bill’s apparent focus on the Constitution and promoting democracy, you’d assume its sponsors would care about respecting the democratic process of engaging with constituents.

They do not.

Students and faculty at the three added universities were given no opportunity to respond to the amendment before the Senate passed it. In the just three hours between the amendment’s introduction and its passage, the bill had to be corrected because it stated that UC’s center would be housed in the Levin School of Urban Affairs — a branch of Cleveland State.

The bill’s cosponsor and Senate Majority Leader, Rob McColley, seemed to imply during the June 28 session that this wouldn’t undermine an opportunity for feedback because it still had to pass in the house if the amendment didn’t get included in the budget. But two days later, it was in the budget, and now unless Governor Mike DeWine raises an issue with it before signing, this new center is law.

Had these Senators done their due diligence — listened to faculty and staff at each institution or at least engaged in some basic level of research — they would have realized that Miami already has a center devoted to democracy and the promotion of a wide breadth of ideals. The Menard Family Center for Democracy has sponsored many events with speakers of many walks of life and careers to speak to our student body in the name of free speech and progress.

These “intellectual diversity” centers call for a staff of at least 10 faculty members in addition to a seven-member academic council, who will serve two- and four-year terms but whose only specified role is to appoint the director. 

The Menard Center has a staff of three. Total.

This center would legally require a new department that staffs nearly as many people as the Political Science department. Fully fleshed out, it would do little different than our current Menard Center and Janus Forum. However, it would be governed by a board made up almost entirely of non-Miami personnel.

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This is just the latest in a legislative power grab by uncaring state senators, led often by Cirino, in an attempt to put a chokehold on educational freedoms. The bill, which includes language eerily similar to the contentious S.B. 83, might not have the worst goal of all legislation in recent months, but it is another attempt at stealing power from faculty members and giving it to state-appointed, ignorant puppet officials in order to promulgate conservatism. 

“Intellectual diversity” is not defined in the bill, but needless to say these centers aim to promote an ideal that already exists on all college campuses. Freedom of thought and expression, the free exchange of ideas are the crux of higher education. It already exists.

The editorial board is unanimous in its diagnosis that this bill is fostering a fantasy. This is government overreach led by a first-term senator who has little knowledge of the systems in play within colleges and universities and with the explicit approval of the majority leader.

Miami did not want this funding, nor this center, because it is mandating indoctrination rather than genuinely promoting democratic values. 

We do not believe a board of directors that does not report to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences should play any part in our education at Miami. If lawmakers truly want to promote the values they claim this bill would foster, they should put their money where their mouth is and commit to adequate funding for the Menard Center and other resources already in place at Miami.

Senate Republicans have been waging war on higher education to promote their beliefs, rather than truths, and they have engaged in systematic attempts to limit faculty freedoms.

So, to the Senators that have been pathologically trying to destroy free education: Leave our schools out of your political games and do your jobs.

The Student’s Editorial Board is comprised of the following members with a rotating seat used depending on the topic of discussion and at the discretion of the core board members. Those members are the following: Editor-in-Chief Sean Scott, Managing Editor Luke Macy, Senior C&C Editor Alice Momany, C&C Editor Reagan Rude, Opinion Editor Devin Ankeney and Sports Editor Jack Schmelzinger.