News Topic

Action Alerts, AHA Announcements, Employment & Tenure

In April, the AHA sent a letter to members of the Ohio Senate registering “strong objection” to Ohio Senate Bill 83, which would “undermine the integrity of education in Ohio’s public universities.” The AHA urges members in Ohio to submit testimony to the Senate Workforce and Higher Education committee regarding SB 83. The bill will be heard, with a possible vote, on May 17 at 9:30 AM.

The following information was adapted from information provided by the office of Ohio Senator Catherine D. Ingram.

On May 8th, Senator Cirino introduced the Sub Bill of SB 83 in an attempt to amend some of the unclear parts of this legislation. Unfortunately, the changes made did not improve or address the overarching concerns of the bill. The sub version of the bill is what will be up for vote this upcoming week in the Senate Workforce and Higher Education committee. As indicated on the committee notice, the chair will only be accepting written testimony. However, you are still welcome to attend the hearing, which will be taking place at 9:30am on Wednesday, May 17 in the North Hearing Room.

Senate Bill 83 will be heard, with a possible vote, in the Workforce and Higher Education Committee this upcoming week (5/17/2023) at 9:30am.

Substitute Senate Bill 83 (“Sub. SB 83”)

On May 8, a substitute version of Senate Bill 83 was released by sponsor Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland). May 9, the “sub bill” was formally adopted by the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee, of which Sen. Cirino is chair.

What changed?

  • The bill no longer applies to private institutions of higher education.
  • The section banning required diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) was revised to allow for certain exemptions. Exemptions must be approved by the chancellor and be required for compliance with federal law, licensure, accreditation, grants, or cooperative agreements.
  • The requirement for syllabi to contain biographical information about faculty was changed to require “professional qualifications” of faculty.
  • The bill now clarifies that Chinese students can attend and pay tuition and fees to Ohio institutions. Ohio institutions also can have academic relationships with Chinese institutions; however, specified “safeguard requirements” have to be met and relationships must have approval from the Chancellor in consultation with the Attorney General.
  • The substitute bill revokes the language mandating intellectual diversity rubrics for classes, and clarifies that the bill is not meant to prohibit faculty or students from classroom instruction, discussion or debate, so long as faculty are committed to expressing and allowing the expression of intellectual diversity. However, the bill still requires institutions to develop a range of disciplinary measures against faculty and staff who interfere with “intellectual diversity rights.”
  • The new version revises language to clarify that prohibitions on policies designed to segregate based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression apply only to credit-earning classroom settings, formal orientation ceremonies, and formal graduation ceremonies. While this still is problematic and leaves aspects open to interpretation regarding certain courses that deal with the aforementioned subjects, it does remove the concern that the bill’s language would have applied to student organizations and athletic teams.

What is new?

  • New language was added to require boards of trustees to develop policies on tenure and retrenchment and to update those policies every five years. The bill goes further to specify that tenure, retrenchment, faculty evaluations, and workload are not appropriate subjects for collective bargaining for future contracts, and that the policies developed by boards of trustees would prevail over any conflicting provision of a collective bargaining agreement.
  • The substitute bill includes new language in regards to endowments and donor intent. This is similar language to what Sen. Cirino attempted to include in a bill he sponsored during the previous legislative session (SB 135).
  • The new version of the bill would reduce trustee terms from nine years to four years.

What stayed the same?

  • As mentioned above, the bill still requires institutions to discipline faculty and staff for interference with intellectual diversity rights. It also still contains language that faculty shall not seek to “inculcate” students. It still fails to provide any detail about process for anyone accused of interfering with intellectual diversity rights or inculcation.
  • Ban on required DEI outside of the abovementioned exemptions.
  • Ban on strikes by faculty and unionized campus employees
  • Specific syllabi requirements and making syllabi public and searchable.
  • The language establishing a minimum faculty workload based on a 30-credit hour formula. Workload is neither defined as teaching load nor workload as a whole.
  • Annual faculty evaluations for all faculty, which weight student evaluations as 50% of the teaching assessment.
  • Post-tenure review (PTR), which gives broad authority to administrative officials to call for PTR, which may lead to termination. Under the bill, a tenured faculty member’s academic freedom is only protected in terms of “allowable expression” under Ohio law, meaning if SB 83 becomes law, accusations of inculcation or lack of intellectual diversity could result in PTR and termination. This renders tenure meaningless and academic freedom unprotected.
  • Prohibition on using diversity statements in hiring and promotion decisions.
  • Various unfunded reporting mandates that will require resources, but will add no value to higher education.

This new version, in some respects, is worse than the original draft, particularly as it pertains to proposing new constraints on collective bargaining. Sub Bill SB 83 undermines academic freedom, workers’ rights, and institutional autonomy.

Below you will see all the actions you can take as well as details for how to submit your testimony to the chairs office. Testimony for this hearing is written only. Note that all testimony must be submitted 24 hours before the hearing of the bill. However I encourage you to still submit your testimony to the chairs office and plan to attend committee tomorrow if you are able to. The chair will sometimes ask if there are any additional people there to testify.

How to make your voice heard in the Ohio Senate on SB 83: