Section: News

Ohio Senate bill targets public universities

On March 14, Republican State Senator Jerry Cirino introduced Senate Bill 83 (SB83), known as the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act, which would prohibit employees at public universities from participating in labor strikes. The bill also includes restrictions on material taught in universities, with efforts aimed at prohibiting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs. SB83 would impact 14 public universities and 23 community colleges statewide. The bill, which has garnered support from conservative politicians, has faced backlash from Ohio universities and labor unions. 

Cirino, the chairman of the Ohio Senate’s Workforce and Higher Education Committee, claims the bill will increase intellectual diversity in state universities by reducing political and ideological bias. It includes mandates on how employees at universities are trained or evaluated, with sections of the bill preventing education on critical race theory and prohibiting DEI training courses. The bill contains disciplinary sanctions for employees or administrators who violate these guidelines. 

The bill further requires all students (beginning with those graduating in the 2026-2027 academic year) to take three credit hours in American government or history. Institutions would be required to withhold associate or bachelor’s degrees from students who do not complete these credit hours. Other sections prevent public universities from accepting any donations or contributions from the People’s Republic of China, including Chinese international students and their family members. 

In particular, Sec. 4117.14 of the bill governs disputes regarding the termination, modification or negotiation of collective bargaining agreements between employers and employees. This section would prohibit campus workers or other employees at public universities from striking for any reason. 

SB83 is similar to Senate Bill 5 (SB5), which was intended to limit collective bargaining and negotiations as well. SB5 faced strong backlash from Ohio employees and labor unions and was repealed in the 2011 election via veto referendum. While SB83 is still in the early stages of legislation, organizations such as the Ohio chapter of the American Association of University Professors and the We Are Ohio coalition of labor unions are hopeful that a similar process will occur for the bill if it becomes law. 

As of March 22, SB83 has been referred to the Workforce and Higher Education Committee and awaits its first hearing. Ohio residents can follow the bill’s progress and read the complete bill on the Ohio Legislature website

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