Republicans set their sights on control of higher education in Ohio

91.7 WVXU | By Howard Wilkinson

Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly are an odd bunch.


Long ago, most of us were taught in high school civics classes that the Republicans were the party of limited government interference with people’s lives; the “hands off” party, as opposed to the “hands on” Democratic Party.

We have since been made aware that was a load of hooey.

Such Republicans do not exist in the Ohio Statehouse, at least.

With their veto-proof “supermajority” in both the House and Senate, they can pretty much do as they please. Who’s going to stop them? The governor? Yeah, right. That’s a joke, friends. Bazinga, as Dr. Sheldon Cooper would say.

Within the last few years, Republicans in the legislature have done power grabs with legislation to take over how elections in Ohio are conducted; take away reproductive rightscreate district maps that allow legislators to choose their own voters instead of the other way around; do the bidding of gun lobbyists; and strip the state board of education of any control over K-12 education and giving it to the governor.

And apparently, they’re not done yet.

Along comes State Sen. Jerry Cirino with his Senate Bill 83, a set of sweeping do’s and don’ts for Ohio’s universities and colleges, including some private ones, which he calls “a course correction” from what he sees as a slippery slope to a “woke-based” higher education system in Ohio.

ANALYSIS: Ohio GOP launches a power grab over public education. They’re likely to succeed

Opponents of Cirino’s bill call it an “over-reach” that would do “irreparable harm” to a fully functioning and well-respected system of higher education in Ohio.

“This is a solution in search of a problem,” said Sara Kilpatrick, executive director of the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP Ohio). “I really don’t know why the senator is trying to pick this fight.”

Cirino is an amiable fellow who grew up in Cleveland’s Little Italy but has made a home for himself and his family in Lake County, a comfortable suburban community just east of Cleveland.

jerry c cirino

“I was the first in my family to go to college,” Cirino told me. “I have personally seen what it has done for my family. Higher education has always been my top priority.”

Senate Bill 83, he said, “is about quality education. I hear a lot of talk about indoctrination in some of our college courses. The idea that you have to think certain things and certain ways. Students may have to attest to certain beliefs in order to succeed.

“What I am interested in is intellectual diversity.”

So what does Cirino — along with the seven fellow Republicans who co-sponsored his bill — want to do?

A lot.

He made it clear to me that he could have split this into several separate bills but decided to “shoot the moon” with the whole package.

Here are some of the things Senate Bill 83 would ban:

  • requiring diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) training for students and faculty. Cirino says Ohio State University has 99 people running DEI programs. “I don’t know why we need this,” Cirino said. “What is this training for?”
  • strikes by employees, including the faculty.
  • “bias” in classrooms, with no hint of what the state would consider “bias.”
  • forbidding programs that partnered with the People’s Republic of China, “our enemy.”

Here’s what the bill would require:

  • That every student take an American history course, with a syllabus set out in the bill
  • Public syllabuses and teacher information online
  • Professors would face tenure evaluations based on if the educator showed bias or taught with bias — including student evaluations
  • That educators teach so students can reach their “own conclusions.”

The banning of DEI training is particularly hard to explain.

When pressed on whether or not DEI training is a requirement for graduation in any Ohio college or university, Cirino admitted that it is not.

ANALYSIS: Love it or loathe it, you need to get familiar with Ohio’s new voter ID law now

“There are apparently some medical schools around the country who have that requirement,” Cirino said.

But not in Ohio.

One of his objections to DEI training is that “it can pit one race against another.”

On a personal note, I have had DEI training at my place of employment. In my experience, it brought people together rather than push them apart.

From the point of view of AAUP Ohio, the most egregious part of Senate Bill 83 is the ban on strikes by unions at universities.

“Students pay up front for a semester in college,” Cirino said. “Why should students be used as pawns in union negotiations?”

The AAUP’s Kilpatrick believes that shows a complete lack of understanding of how labor negotiations work.

“The collective bargaining process works,” Kilpatrick said. “Strikes at universities are very rare.”

When it does happen, though, Kilpatrick said, there is no reason to blame the unions.

“When a strike happens, that is a failure of management to bargain in good faith,” Kilpatrick said. “That’s not the fault of the workers.”

Given the track record of the GOP supermajority in the legislature, Cirino believes he can get this bill through the Senate and the House and signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine.

“I think there is broad support for this,” Cirino said. “I’ve had some people tell me they want to go further. I’ve never thought of myself as a moderate.”

COMMENTARY: Accuracy in Media pulls a stunt in Ohio to muddy the waters on Critical Race Theory

He said he hopes some Democrats in the legislature sign on to this bill. If I were him, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen. And the fact is, he doesn’t need them.

“This bill has a lot of things that are going to inflame the opposition,” Cirino said.

Inflaming the opposition has never stopped statehouse Republicans before. Hard to imagine it will now.

Save the date!

AAUP-UC will be hosting a SUDS and SOLIDARITY! There will be free drinks, a taco bar, live entertainment, and more! Attend and bring a UC faculty member with you! The event will be at the Fermentorium at Nine Giants (6111 Ridge Avenue, 45213 in Pleasant Ridge) from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on April 27th!

Click here to RSVP:

Our Colleagues at Miami University Need Our Help

Our colleagues at Miami University are deep into the process of organizing their faculty and librarians with the goal of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). They currently have a very active advocacy Chapter, but this a CBA would be an important step for them and for higher education collective bargaining in general.

The Miami administration is opposed to their efforts and is using unscrupulous tactics to block their organizing campaign. Their latest effort is to argue that librarians should not be part of the bargaining unit. Librarians would not be able to vote for a CBA or enjoy its benefits. This is a feeble argument. Note that the Librarians at UC have always been part of the bargaining unit.


Here is a request from the Faculty Alliance at Miami. Please take a moment to read and participate:


I hope this finds you well! I am writing with an update on Faculty Alliance of Miami’s efforts and a request. We are grateful for your ongoing support and solidarity. We are now in the run-up to a hearing that will determine our bargaining unit. Although a supermajority of workers signed union cards, Miami University leadership has decided to delay the election and contest who should be in the unit, excluding NTT faculty and librarians. Ally support could make a big difference right now. We are asking local and national allies to sign this petition calling on Miami University leadership to let us vote and to listen to Miami’s faculty, librarians and teaching/research staff on who should be in the union.

Right now we are hoping to collect some preliminary signatures before making a big push on social media the week of December 5th. We would love to have your individual signature as an ally, and we’d also welcome your help in seeking signatures from the UC AAUP chapter and any other networks you are able to reach out to. If you have a moment to sign now and share internally, we would really appreciate it. And, if you are willing to help us share the petition on social media on December 5th, please let us know and we will be sure to send you a reminder and some sample language to use.

In solidarity, Cathy

Faculty Alliance of Miami

Be Watchful, Be Present, Be Active:

Lessons from UC Students about the Impact of Hate on a Campus Community


At Monday’s Executive Council meeting, we had a long and meaningful conversation about the November 4 News Record article titled “Racist letter sparks conversations about hate crimes at UC,” where Logan Johnson, the graduate student trustee for the UC Board of Trustees, spoke out through her social media about the anonymous letter her doctoral advisor received in early October—ostensibly in response to an article he had published in Inside Higher Ed about how “discourses and policies around academic integrity are not race-neutral” (para. 10). The anonymous letter he received months later expressed “vehemently racist and genocidal views” (TNR, para. 1), which is putting it mildly.

Logan’s is an honest and rightfully upsetting account. She posted: “I’ve struggled with what it means to be a Black scholar. The pursuit of knowledge is valuable,” she writes, “yet Black scholars and thus their scholarly work are rarely protected. […] Now, I watch as my advisor endures the same treatment with the same type of follow-through from the institution. […] Institutions send emails condemning the behavior,” Logan observes, “which does nothing for Black scholars” (para. 3).

It is not lost on the readers of this News Record article that as of November 4, the date of its publication, the only group to respond with a public statement about this incident was UC’s Student Government … on Instagram.

I’ve heard that President Pinto addressed this issue at the last Faculty Senate meeting, and I know that both Provost Ferme and VP Marshall have posted letters on the Office of the Provost’s webpage and the Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Impact’s webpage, respectively, on or about November 5. I know, too, that the Provost’s letter ended with an invitation: “We are in the process,” he writes, “of developing a guide for dealing with hate mail. If you would like to contribute to its creation, please sign up by November 14 and we will notify you of the meeting date.”

I signed up.

My point here is not to bash. The words, either written or spoken, from the President, from the Provost, from VP of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Impact matter. And I appreciate their words quite sincerely, as I’m betting others in our campus community do as well.

They hit all the right notes—condemning the racist actions of the anonymous letter-writer; affirming the values of our campus community: inclusion, tolerance, mutual respect; and expressing support for all those affected by this outrageous hateful incident.

Again, my point here is not to bash.

My point here is to notice. Which is, in part, what I think Logan is asking me to do. To stand alongside her watching while she watches, disappointedly and again, how not to support Black scholars.

As I was piecing together information about what happened, I came across this clip from WLWT news. I’d like to take a few minutes to show it here if the technology cooperates.

What I noticed after watching this news clip, which aired on November 10—and what I’m sure you all noticed, too—was the stark contrast between the administration’s response to this racist letter and the impact it’s having on our UC community and the students’ response to this same incident, and this same impact.

Plainly put, while the administration is talking, students are organizing.

They’re rallying.

They’re acting.

And, of course, they’re watching. They’re watching to see what we do.

The Executive Council is holding a retreat on December 2 and this issue will be on our agenda. Colleges and universities across this country have been experiencing an uptick in hate crimes for at least the past 5 years. No campus is immune. All institutions of higher education need leaders who will protect faculty, protect students, protect staff from racist, sexist, xenophobic or any manner of other hate-driven attacks. The AAUP has long encouraged administrators to support, in concrete ways, all those who use their voices and their talents to speak out against injustice, exclusion, and inequity, especially those who are harassed as a result of their efforts to address these problems.

Be watchful, be present, be active. These are the lessons I take from those UC students who rallied last week and from Logan who spoke out the week before.

As the students have shown us, we have work to do.

In solidarity,

Connie Kendall Theado

President, AAUP-UC


Works Cited


Pope, Z. (November 4, 2022). Racist letter sparks conversations about hate crimes at UC.


Tichavakunda, A. (June 30, 2022). Let’s talk about race and academic integrity.



Did you receive your new AFT ID Card? Check out your new AFT Affiliate benefits!

As you know from earlier reports, American Federation of Teachers and AAUP convention delegates voted this past summer to approve an affiliate agreement – a formal partnership that will help secure new organizing on campuses across the United States. It also means that individual AAUP members now have access to many AFT benefits!

Click here to view the brochure which provides easy-to-read overviews of many of the available services and discounts.

In order to review the details and access these new benefits, you need your AFT affiliate member number and the Chapter’s affiliate local number, both of which are printed on your new affiliate ID card.

By now you should have received a packet at home via U.S.P.S. from the AFT that includes a flyer and that new AFT affiliate member ID card. The numbers will look like this:

Local # 6796


Read more