As we reported to you at the end of August, Senate Bill 83 sponsor, State Senator Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) has been working with State Representative Tom Young (R-Washington Twp.), Chair of the House Higher Education Committee, to push SB 83 over the finish line after it failed to pass as part of the state budget bill.
Recently, the “-8” (“dash eight”–in other words, the eighth version of the bill) of SB 83 was unveiled. You can view the full bill text, as well as the comparison document. Unfortunately, this version works off of the Senate-passed version of the legislation, which is reflected in the comparison document and not the “-7” version that some House Republicans had worked on–a version that took out many of the teeth in the bill.
This “-8” draft has not been formally adopted, but the expectation is that it will be formally accepted by the House Higher Education Committee when it resumes meetings in October. The committee was supposed to meet much sooner, but House Speaker Jason Stephens revised the House’s session calendar, significantly constricting the number of House business days through the end of the calendar year.
Here is a summary of what the -8 version changes from the Senate-passed bill:
-Removes staff unions from the no-strike provision, leaving only faculty unions without the ability to strike.
-Specifies that the prohibitions on bargaining subjects for faculty unions (workload, retrenchment, tenure, evaluations) would take effect immediately upon the bill taking effect, instead of having a delayed effective date.
-Provides a broad definition of “retrenchment,” which would make it much easier for administrations to terminate academic programs and faculty positions.
-Adds an appeal process for final faculty evaluations.
-Reduces from 50% to 25% the weight that student evaluations are given in the teaching portion of annual faculty evaluations.
-Allows community colleges to supply a “general syllabus” to satisfy the public syllabi component of the bill.
-Removes the requirement that institutions have to change their mission statements to include certain language, and, instead, requires that language to be included into a “statement of commitment.”
-Removes “gender identity” from the list of “specified concepts.”
-Requires institutions to establish complaint processes for perceived violations of the policies on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, “intellectual diversity,” and “specified concepts.”
-Removes references to “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” or “gender expression” in the sections that require institutions to provide equality of opportunity and prohibit any type of “segregation,” leaving only “race,” “ethnicity,” and “sex” in those sections. Also requires institutions to develop a complaint process for perceived violations.
-Clarifies that the prohibitions on DEI training don’t preclude institutions from providing continuing education to public safety officers, but creates some confusion as to whether DEI-related concepts can be part of that continuing education.
-Reduces trustee terms from nine years to six years.
-Makes changes to the section creating new endowment rules.
SB 83 remains a sweeping piece of legislation that proposes an unprecedented level of political interference and micromanagement into the affairs of Ohio’s public colleges and universities.
Throughout its multiple iterations, the bill has been a series of contradictions on freedom of speech, claiming to promote “intellectual diversity” while simultaneously dictating the manner in which certain topics can be discussed and eliminating other topics from any discussion. Serious concerns about academic freedom and tenure remain.
The untenable mandates in SB 83 would shift money, time, and attention from student learning to bloated bureaucracy. It would make it more difficult to attract students and faculty to Ohio institutions; in the long run, Ohio will become even less competitive economically.
What actions can members and allies take?
1) Sign on to the We Are Ohio union coalition’s letter opposing SB 83. We are Ohio sent this letter–signed by more than 70 Ohio unions–to State Representatives on September 11, but the sign-on version is an opportunity for individuals and other organizations to add their names and show even greater and more unified opposition. Feel free to share!
2) Use this form to contact House members. There is a form letter provided, but we encourage you to personalize the message. You can share this, too!
3) Talk to your colleagues, write op-eds, and show your opposition in any other manner that is personally meaningful and professional.
Due to the fact that the House Higher Education Committee is unlikely to meet until October, now is our opportunity to fill the vacuum and continue voicing our opposition. We do not believe this new version of the bill contains the kinds of significant changes needed to garner more support among House Republicans, but we can better ensure that is the case by once again building a groundswell of opposition.
Thank you for your continued activism! It has undoubtedly made a difference in this fight!