© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Miami University students protest Ohio Senate Bill 83

people stand in a row holding protest signs
Tana Weingartner
Miami University students protest Ohio Senate Bill 83 on campus on April 24, 2023.

Miami University students chanted and held signs outside the Armstrong Student Center on campus Monday to protest Ohio Senate Bill 83.

The bill would ban universities from requiring diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training. It would also prohibit universities from making public statements on controversial issues, boycotting, affirmative action practices, and partnerships with Chinese institutions.

RELATED: Opponents pack marathon hearing on bill to make huge changes in higher education in Ohio

Olivia Gallo is a first-year student from Denver double majoring in social justice and organizational leadership. She helped organize the protest.

"SB 83 is trying to cut DEI out of all higher education and that affects all of our degrees individually in different ways," she says, adding, "I'm a social justice major; obviously, that will totally demolish my degree."

As Statehouse News Bureau Chief Karen Kasler reports, "The bill, titled the 'Higher Education Enhancement Act,' would also ban the hiring of faculty based on 'ideological litmus tests,' and would prohibit faculty members from striking. Tenured faculty could have to go through performance reviews which could include student evaluations. Universities would have to submit a four-point statement when requesting state funding that states the institution's commitment to intellectual diversity and free speech, that it doesn't require DEI training, and that course outlines or syllabi are published online."

Gallo says she was drawn to Miami for its social justice program and would likely leave the university — and the state — if SB 83 becomes law. Her co-organizer and fellow first-year social justice major, Ashley Reynolds of Chicago, said she would do the same.

Gallo argues SB 83 would cut DEI learning that business are particularly interested in and encourage their employees to participate in. She says Monday's protest was designed to show a front against the bill.

"We have been gathering testimonies and letters and sending those to the senators, but we're just trying to give a show for them so that they can see that we all stand against this. We want a student presence so they really can see, because not everyone could submit testimonies. We're still doing our schoolwork while we're trying to fight this," she says.

RELATED: Republican senators propose changes at Ohio public universities aimed at "cancel culture"

During a hearing on the bill last week, co-sponsor Rep. Josh Williams (R-Oregon) argued the bill would address "a de facto censorship regime" on college campuses.

"This bill reverses these policies and opens new avenues for transparency and accountability," Williams said. "Senate Bill 83 addresses the issue fundamentally by requiring institutions of higher learning to reorient their values to support open intellectual inquiry."

Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirkland) is the bill's primary sponsor and chairs the committee that held last week's hearing. He told opponents that amendments on the bill are coming that would make some clarifications and eliminate "some unintended consequences," but he said he couldn't get into the specifics.

When asked what Gallo would say to those who support the bill, she says she would encourage them to talk with students.

"I think that you need to sit down with the students and see how this would affect them personally because you're not in classrooms anymore, and they don't have the experiences that we have in classrooms. My education has been changed by diverse education so much more ... My education would be so limited if this passed.

"I think they're not hearing the voices of students," she concludes.

Statehouse New Bureau Chief Karen Kasler contributed to this reporting.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.