News & Blog

11.01.21

Legislative Updates: HB 327 & SB 135

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 ourĀ 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.

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