A bill that would establish “intellectual diversity” centers at Ohio State University and the University of Toledo passed by a 4-1 party line vote in the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee Wednesday.
Senate Bill 117 would create the Salmon P. Chase Center for Civics, Culture, and Society at Ohio State University and the Institute of American Constitutional Thought and Leadership at the University of Toledo’s College of Law. The bill now awaits further consideration in the Senate.
Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, and Sen. Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland, who is also the head of the committee, introduced the bill in May, arguing that university faculty are predominantly liberal.
“This causes a single ideological perspective to dominate academia,” Cirino said during his sponsor testimony less than a month ago. “With the passage of this legislation, we are giving students and their parents’ options within the market to choose an education that is best suited for them.”
Cirino also introduced a gigantic higher education bill that would overhaul college campuses that recently passed in the Senate and is in House committee.
SB 117 would give UT $1 million in fiscal year 2024 and $2 million in fiscal year 2025 for the Institute, and Ohio State $5 million in fiscal years 2024 and 2025 for the Center. UT Law Professor Lee Strang first got the idea for the institute in 2019.
A substitute bill was passed during Wednesday’s committee that would put the Chase Center in Ohio State’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs.
Nearly a dozen students and faculty at both institutions have spoken out against the bill.
Before taking a vote on SB 117, the committee heard opponent testimony from three people and 17 people submitted written opponent testimony.
Maria Vitória de Rezende Grisi, a second year Ph.D. student at Ohio State University, questioned the meaning of the phrase “intellectual diversity.”
“Everybody has been asking this question and it still goes unanswered,” she said. “We demand a clarification, this bill needs to specify what is intellectual diversity, and at least show studies that prove this is missing in the University of Toledo and OSU.”
Wahinya Njau, a graduate of Ohio State and incoming graduate student at Kent State University, supports having more historical studies, civics education and more civil discourse, but doesn’t like the way the bill is structured.
“My worry regarding the proposed legislation is the continued slow encroachment of the state micro-managing the experience of higher education in Ohio,” he said.
He worries the centers would lack internal support from the universities.
“A center such as this would forever have an air of illegitimacy compared to the already existing centers on OSU’s campus that were homegrown through the engagement of both faculty and students,” Njau said.
Instead of creating new centers, he suggests legislators work with the universities to strengthen their already existing centers, like Ohio State’s more than 70 centers.
“Utilizing the power of the General Assembly to force a state government-mandated center into a public university is inappropriate,” Njau said.
This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.