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Push begins to guarantee free speech on Ohio college campuses

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(The Center Square) – An Ohio lawmaker believes the state’s current political climate creates a negative environment for some speech on college campuses and wants to make sure staff and students are protected.

Rep. Adam Holmes, R-Nashport, said legislation prohibiting colleges and universities from requiring support of specific ideas or political movements is becoming increasingly necessary.

“To remain consistent with fundamental American values and the purpose of higher education, Ohio’s higher education institutions must be forums for open expression, new ideas, and diverse opinions and experiences,” Holmes said during his sponsor testimony.

Holmes also said House Bill 394 protects students, employees and job applicants by:

Prohibiting public higher education institutions from requiring employees, students, or job applicants to support specific ideologies or political movements;Providing specific protection for general discussion of political movements, ideologies, and social action inside the classroom;Ensuring specific protection for free speech rights of public higher education employees, students, and job applicants; andAllowing for public access to all higher education policy and instructional materials concerning political movements, ideology, or social action.

In 2022, Gov. Mike DeWine signed a law that required each state college and university to adopt a policy that affirms principles of free speech on campuses and establish a process that allows students, student groups or faculty members to file a complaint.

The House also continues to consider Senate Bill 83, which passed the Senate and would eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion training at Ohio colleges and universities.

It narrowly passed the House Workforce and Higher Education Committee on an 8-7 vote, despite objections from teacher organizations, the NAACP, the ACLU, physicians and social workers.

The bill would also ban what it calls “controversial beliefs or policies,” including issues like climate change, electoral politics, foreign policy, immigration policy, marriage or abortion.”

The full House has yet to take up the bill.

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