The Ohio House of Representatives unanimously passed Senate Bill 135 on April 6. Therefore, she must defeat House Bill 327.
Senate Bill 135, if signed by Governor Mike DeWine, will enshrine free speech rights in law for all members of the university and college campus communities.
It will also force higher education institutions to create bureaucracies to deal with alleged free speech violations.
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The language approved in Senate Bill 135 could not be clearer: it is not the role of a public institution of higher education to attempt to protect individuals from free speech, including ideas and opinions that they find offensive, reckless, immoral, indecent, distasteful. , conservative, liberal, traditional, radical or insane.
Coupled with Senate Bill 40 – the so-called “FORUM Act” from the previous General Assembly – which prevents colleges from barring any potential lecturer on campus, the Statehouse’s message was explicitly in favor of a unhindered freedom of expression.
House Bill 327, on the other hand, amounts to an educational gag and a violation of the First Amendment.
It would do exactly what Senate Bill 135 and Senate Bill 40 prescribe against. House Bill 327 attempts to protect individuals from what the sponsors of the bills view as “divisive concepts” – matters dealing with race, color, sex, national origin and ethnicity. ethnicity.
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Curiously, House Bill 327 sponsors Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur and Diane Grendell, along with other co-sponsors, voted in favor of Senate Bill 135.
This surprising inconsistency raises some questions.
Does the Republican majority want to promote and guarantee freedom of expression, or does it want to dictate what topics can be discussed and how they can be discussed?
Or could it be that some lawmakers try to promote speech they favor and censor speech they find objectionable or disturbing?
In other words, are they trying to impose their own political views on the students of Ohio?
If House Bill 327 becomes law, it would open the door for General Assembly legislation on how any subject can be offered and taught on college campuses.
Not only does this political interference violate the principle of academic freedom – one of the fundamental principles of American higher education – but it also puts colleges and universities at risk of losing their accreditation.
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The operation and integrity of our educational institutions should not be subject to the whims of current or future legislators who, it should be emphasized, may very well have diametrically different positions on these or other contentious issues.
As the giant of the Supreme Court, Justice Louis Brandeis, wrote in 1927: “If there is time to expose by discussion the lies and sophisms, to avoid evil by the methods of education, the remedy to be applied is more the spoken word, not an imposed silence.
Judge Brandeis was right.
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More speech, more education is the solution to our differences, without trying to silence our teachers and professors.
There are real problems in education – and in higher education in particular – which need to be solved, and the General Assembly could focus just as intensely on at least some of these issues instead of stoking flames of the culture wars.
Martin Kich is Professor of English at Wright State University and President of the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors.