|Opportunities to engage in pension issues|
If you are a member of the defined benefit State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) pension, there are a couple of ways that you can get more involved in pension issues to be an advocate for yourself and your peers.
Healthcare and Pension Advocates Coalition
For many years, Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum served as the AAUP member representative to the Healthcare and Pension Advocates (HPA) coalition. Because Dr. Fichtenbaum is now a member of the STRS Board, we need another AAUP member to serve as a representative to the coalition, attending meetings with OCAAUP Executive Director Sara Kilpatrick. Currently, the meetings are virtual, but at some point are likely to revert back to in-person ones at STRS headquarters in Columbus. Travel expenses are reimbursed by OCAAUP. If you are interested in serving in this capacity, please contact Sara Kilpatrick at email@example.com.
Run for the STRS Board
The best way that we can make changes at STRS for the better is to elect new people to the board who understand that the status quo is unacceptable. Retirees have been without a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for eight years, and active contributors to the system are paying in more than what the value of their pension will be upon retirement. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and we need more Board members who will support Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum and his efforts to improve STRS.
Whether you are an active professor or retired, there are positions on the STRS board that will be up for election. If you are interested either now or possibly for the future, contact Sara Kilpatrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legislature wrapping up 2021 session
As 2021 wanes, the Ohio General Assembly remains in session. However, both the House and Senate have stated that they do not expect to meet past December 9; although as with anything with the legislature, that is subject to change. Below are updates on HB 218, HB 327, and SB 135, all of which contain components that impact higher education.
House Bill 218
On November 18, the Ohio House passed House Bill 218. This piece of legislation had not been on our radar, because it was initially introduced as a bill to extend bar hours and exempt bars from the statewide curfew.
In the House Commerce and Labor Committee, a substitute version of the bill was adopted, which included the following new provisions, most of which will sunset in 2025:
- Prohibiting employers, schools or institutions of higher education from requiring vaccines, drugs or other products that use mRNA, DNA or other genetic technology that has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration;
- Providing exemptions for such mandates for medical contraindications, natural immunity and reasons of personal conscience;
- Specifying that an injury from a mandated COVID vaccine is eligible for workers’ compensation unless the person receives compensation from national vaccine injury programs;
- Barring entities from requiring people to show proof of vaccination to enter facilities or receive services;
- Allowing emergency medical technicians with proper training to conduct COVID tests; and
- Extending civil immunity provisions of prior legislation (HB 606, 133rd General Assembly) through June 30, 2023.
The full House approved the bill mostly along a party-line vote. We would prefer that the legislature stay out of matters on which institutions of higher education already have established their own policies, and this is what we had relayed in opponent testimony to the House Commerce and Labor Committee when they were considering similar provisions under HB 435.
The bill now moves onto the Ohio Senate. Senate President Matt Huffman had indicated that his chamber did not have much of an appetite for this kind of bill, but now that it is on his doorstep, we will see if the Senate decides to advance it to the governor.
House Bill 327
Known as the “divisive concepts” bill, which we have opposed because of the threats it poses to academic freedom, House Bill 327 still has been on pause. There has been no testimony on the bill since September 22. The only activity in the past month was the adoption of yet another substitute version of the bill on October 27.
We are hearing that there could be movement on this bill, or the other similar legislation, House Bill 322, in the two weeks of scheduled legislative session after the Thanksgiving break. While we also are opposed to HB 322 because of the limitations it would place on K-12 education, as well as the Ohio Department of Higher Education, our understanding is that the bill would not apply directly to state colleges and universities. As such, our focus has been on HB 327.
Senate Bill 135
Two hearings have been held on Senate Bill 135 in the House Higher Education Committee. At both hearings, bill sponsor Sen. Jerry Cirino answered questions by the committee, and there also was some invited proponent testimony.
We have been engaging with members of the committee regarding our concerns with the bill. The legislation would grant the chancellor power to establish policies to close low-enrollment programs and make decisions about new programs based on in-demand jobs. This could cause instability for programs and faculty.
Additionally, we are concerned with the provisions of the bill that would force state institutions to establish new bureaucracies for free speech complaints. Most of our institutions already have processes for all kinds of student complaints, and this has the potential to invite more issues than it would solve.
Moreover, we have pointed out that SB 135’s language promoting uninhibited free speech is in direct conflict with the provisions in HB 327 that restrain free speech. The legislature is going to have to reconcile whether it actually wants free speech on college campuses or whether it wants to restrict certain topics and the manner in which they are discussed.
We will provide further updates as these processes continue.
|President, Secretary, At-Large Position to be elected|
We are now seeking nominations for the 2022 Ohio Conference AAUP Board of Trustees’ elections. In accordance with our governing policies, nominees must have been a member for at least two years and current on dues to be eligible for a trustee position.
Nominations should be sent to Sara Kilpatrick, Executive Director, at email@example.com no later than January 15, 2022.
Below are the positions to be elected directly through the Conference elections next year. Those who are elected will serve a two-year term beginning September 1, 2022.
-At-Large Member: Private Institution (nominee must be a member at a private institution)
The President shall preside at Conference meetings and, with the approval of the Trustees, arrange for the Conference meetings and appoint Chairs of the standing committees; shall execute such matters as are referred to him or her at Conference meetings and by the Trustees; and, in consultation with the Trustees, shall take such other actions as are judged necessary to carry out the objectives of the Ohio Conference, and shall report at the next Conference meeting any actions taken by the Trustees during the time between meetings.
The Secretary shall keep the Ohio Conference records, including minutes of meetings of the trustees and of the Conference.
The At-Large position for private institutions is supposed to provide the Conference board with a perspective from private institution faculty and to communicate with private institution chapters to see how the Conference can best serve them.
The Conference Board has four Saturday meetings each academic year that trustees are expected to attend, one of which is the Annual Meeting. Traditionally, these have been in-person meetings, but in the last two years have been virtual on account of the pandemic. Trustees also oversee the executive director and provide direction for the organization.
Serving on the Board of Trustees is a rewarding way to engage in statewide AAUP issues and state government advocacy. If you have questions, or would like to submit a nomination, contact Sara Kilpatrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the 71st Annual Meeting of the Ohio Conference AAUP on November 6, members unanimously approved three resolutions.
Resolution 1: Education First
Whereas the primary mission of Ohio’s colleges and universities is to
educate students, a mission carried out by professors,
Whereas colleges and universities have increasingly and irresponsibly
devoted resources to endeavors peripheral to the academic mission, such
as athletics, administrative bloat, and lavish construction projects,
Whereas the aforementioned misplaced priorities have led to a reduction in
instructional spending and the number of full-time and tenured faculty,
Whereas the average spending on instructional salaries at universities is
particularly abysmal, accounting for just 20 percent of institutional budgets,
Be it resolved that the Ohio Conference AAUP encourages Ohio’s colleges
and universities to adopt an “Education First” approach to its priorities and
budgeting to ensure that high-quality instruction for students can be
guaranteed before allocations are made to enterprises and activities clearly
outside of our institutions’ core missions.
Resolution 2: Academic Freedom & Government Interference
Whereas the American Association of University Professors was founded
on the core principle of academic freedom – the idea that faculty are free to
teach, research, write, and otherwise engage in scholarly activity without
fear or retaliation or political interference;
Whereas faculty are bound by professional standards and expertise to
teach the most up-to-date and accurate information of their disciplines;
Whereas the Ohio Conference AAUP represents approximately 6,000
college and university faculty across the state;
Whereas college students deserve truth and honesty in education;
Whereas there is legislation pending in the Ohio General Assembly, which
would restrict academic freedom and create a dangerous precedent of
what can and cannot be taught at institutions of higher education;
Be it resolved that the Ohio Conference AAUP affirms its unwavering
commitment to promoting and defending academic freedom;
Be it further resolved that the Ohio Conference AAUP unequivocally
opposes any attempts by government to interfere with educational content
and academic freedom at Ohio’s colleges and universities.
Resolution 3: Support for New Deal for Higher Education
Whereas the American Association of University Professors has partnered
with the American Federation of Teachers on the “New Deal for Higher
Whereas the New Deal for Higher Education campaign promotes the
–Prioritizing teaching, research, and supporting student success;
–Allowing all students to access higher education regardless of their ability
–Ensuring job security, equitable pay, professional voice, and sustainable
careers for all faculty and staff;
–Creating academic environments free from racism, sexism, and other
bigotries that prevent learning, degrade research, and perpetuate
–Canceling student debt for borrowers who have unjustly shouldered the
burden of financing higher education the last forty years.
Be it resolved that the Ohio Conference AAUP supports the New Deal for
Higher Education and pledges to help advance the mission of the
Be it further resolved that the Ohio Conference AAUP encourages Ohio
AAUP chapters and members to engage in advocacy to help promote the
New Deal for Higher Education.
During the last week of October, HB 327 was a late addition to the Ohio House State and Local Government Committee agenda. After several weeks of no hearings, the committee adopted yet another substitute version of the bill.
Here are the highlights:
- Changes the word “teaching” to “promote” to indicate that “divisive concepts” can be taught in an impartial manner, but not promoted.
- Defines “promote” or “promotion” as:
- (1) Seeking to advance or encourage support of a partisan philosophy or religion by indoctrination, coercion, or furthering divisive concepts by teaching an individual or group of individuals to accept a set of beliefs in a one-sided, biased, and uncritical manner,
- (2) Seeking to advance or encourage support of a partisan philosophy or religion by indoctrination, coercion, or furthering divisive concepts by teaching an individual or group of individuals to accept a set of beliefs in a one-sided, biased, and uncritical manner.
- Forbids requiring students to complete any course that contains instruction on “divisive concepts” as a condition of a major in any undergraduate program.
- Establishes a complaint and appeals process for students to claim that their academic freedom was violated. If the institution determines that the student’s rights were not violated, the student can appeal the decision to the Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education. No mention of faculty academic freedom and potential violations of it.
- Requires the Chancellor to withhold SSI in proportion to the total number of students in the affected class, if the Chancellor overrules a determination made by the state institution.
- Specifies that institutions can have their SSI restored by complying with the bill’s provisions within 30 days, with “compliance” meaning that the student’s grade and transcript have been altered, and the student has been given a refund of the tuition for the course.
- Requires the chancellor to establish rules for the implementation and enforcement of the bill’s provisions.
- Removes mention that faculty employment should be negatively impacted if a faculty member violates the bill, but still requires boards of trustees to update tenure policies to reflect the bill’s provisions.
Obviously, there is still a great deal that is problematic with this legislation. We will continue to engage the sponsors of the bill to relay our concerns and make suggestions that will protect academic freedom and the integrity of our colleges and universities.
If you haven’t already, we encourage you to email your State Representative as well as the Representatives on the State and Local Government Committee through our Action Network page. It is quick and easy, and you will join the nearly 7,000(!) other people who have sent emails to State Representatives opposing these bills through that page.
We have been informed that committee hearings on HB 327 are likely to resume the week of November 8, and OCAAUP plans to testify as an opponent.
Below are links to the full text of the substitute bill, as well as the Legislative Service Commission’s comparison document, which outlines the changes from the bill’s previous versions to the latest one:
Substitute House Bill 327 Full Text
Legislative Service Commission Comparison Document
Senate Bill 135 Gets First Hearing in the HouseThis week, Senate Bill 135 received its first hearing for sponsor testimony in the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Committee. SB 135 passed the Ohio Senate in June by a vote of 31-2.
In his testimony, sponsor Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) emphasized that he had worked with many groups and had numerous conversations that led to the substitute version of the bill ultimately passed by the Senate. He also mentioned the provisions of the legislation that were folded into House Bill 110, the state budget bill, including allowing community colleges to offer nursing degrees.
Changes to the original bill included the removal of language that would have undermined the academic freedom of faculty in the classroom. We appreciated that Sen. Cirino and his office worked with us on this change, but we still are concerned about other pieces of the bill, especially the unnecessary “free speech” provisions. We are talking to members of the committee and plan to testify as an interested party when that opportunity arises.