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Ohio bill to ban mandatory DEI, support intellectual diversity stalls in House

Republican leader: Not enough lawmakers support passage

An Ohio bill that would outlaw mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion trainings and require intellectual diversity in higher education is in limbo after state House Speaker Jason Stephens spoke out against it.

Stephens, a Republican, said last week that he will not push for a vote on Senate Bill 83 because too few House lawmakers support it, The Columbus Dispatch reports.

“I think there are a lot of concerns with that bill from both sides of the aisle, frankly,” Stephens said. “Understanding what’s being attempted, but sometimes that language can go either direction. I think it’s important that we look at that before it’s passed.”

His comment came ahead of a House Higher Education Committee hearing Nov. 29. There, lawmakers listened to testimony from supporters and opponents but did not take action on the bill.

Sen. Jerry Cirino, the lead sponsor of the bill, told News 5 Cleveland that Stephens’ comment surprised him.

“I think there is tremendous support in the House,” Cirino said. “I honestly don’t believe that the speaker has much personal knowledge of what’s in this bill.”

Senate President Matt Huffman also responded to the speaker by saying he and Cirino will keep fighting to pass the legislation, according to the Ohio Capital Journal. The bill passed the Senate earlier this year.

Cirino had expressed high hopes for Senate Bill 83 in November when talking with The College Fix. His office did not respond to requests in the past week for an update.

Noting Republican supermajorities in both houses, Cirino told The Fix last month that he and other lawmakers have been “working the bill with our heart and soul.”

The legislation, which has faced criticism from university leaders and professors, seeks to reform problems plaguing the state’s 14 public universities and 23 community colleges. It would require schools to publish the syllabi for all its undergraduate courses and force universities to roll out a post-tenure review policy.

The legislation also would require boards of trustees to adopt a policy that prohibits “any mandatory orientation or training course regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion” and affirms “intellectual diversity.”

Other parts of the bill would require faculty and staff to “encourage students to reach their own conclusions about all controversial beliefs or policies” and mandate public colleges and universities demonstrate intellectual diversity for course approvals, general education requirements, guest speaker programs and common reading programs.

The institutions also would be forbidden from endorsing or opposing most controversial beliefs or policies, and banned from using political and ideological litmus tests in hiring, promotion, and admissions decisions, including diversity statements.

“Nothing in this section prohibits faculty or students from classroom instruction, discussion, or debate, so long as faculty members remain committed to expressing intellectual diversity and allowing intellectual diversity to be expressed,” the bill states.

The proposal also would require universities to develop a history course that, starting in 2029, requires students to read: the Constitution; Declaration of Independence; five essays from the Federalist Papers; the Emancipation Proclamation; the Gettysburg Address; and the Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Opponents of the bill have accused conservatives of trying to push right-wing ideas on college campuses and shelter students from opposing views.

Ohio State University Professor Pranav Jani told the Ohio Capital Journal in May that Republican lawmakers “want conservative and right-wing ideas to be far more prominent in the lives of young people than they are.”

MORE: Ohio State University prioritized DEI over merit in hiring, documents show

IMAGE: Jerry Cirino/OhioSenate.gov

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.