Ohio must not micromanage its universities

It seems the attempt to control every detail of what students in Ohio will learn has made the leap from K-12 public schools to the Buckeye State’s public colleges and universities, as state Senate Bill 83 — the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act — includes a litany of attempts to take the reins from administrators and professors.

SB 83 would eliminate requirements for diversity, equity or inclusion training at public colleges and universities. It would require professors to undergo more rigorous evaluations that include whether they are providing a learning environment free of “political, racial, gender and religious bias.”

The bill would require syllabi to be posted online, with assignments and required reading viewable and accessible to the public. These posts also would include background on the person teaching the course.

Students would be required to pass an American government or history class to graduate — and that would come with a mandatory reading list: the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address and “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Astute readers will note the inclusion of the Federalist Papers, but not the Bill of Rights.

Noteworthy, but not a surprise from the bunch in Columbus.

State Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, D-Cleveland, is right to worry about the level of “micromanaging” of higher education this bill attempts; and who will be in charge of defining the biases listed.

With the exception of a few freshmen, college students are adults. Why on earth would we open them up to the kind of helicopter parenting that would take place if those adults’ parents had access to syllabi, reading lists and professors’ backgrounds? Is it because lawmakers don’t believe those adults are capable of making their own course choices, or navigating their own educational paths?

What is bill sponsor Sen. Jerry Cirino, R- Kirtland, hoping to accomplish with the “course correction” he proposes?

Students who have chosen to get an education beyond their K-12 studies have a range of choices. Should they have reason to believe a group of politicians has seen fit to take such control of Ohio’s public colleges and universities, they can choose to attend private institutions, or those in less authoritarian states.

And when those same politicians crow that student choice is limited by the institutions they can afford, they will reveal they are interested only in controlling the educations of those students who already are most vulnerable and dependent. Surely more intelligent, reasonable and less control-hungry lawmakers understand all of this, and will show this nauseating attempt the exit it deserves.



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