The ACLU of Ohio opposes this legislation and urges the Ohio General Assembly to cease consideration given its numerous problems.  

The ACLU of Ohio is primarily concerned with the following provisions in categories of Senate Bill 83, an extremely controversial and overly broad “campus free speech bill.” The ACLU of Ohio opposes this legislation and urges the Ohio General Assembly to cease consideration given its numerous problems. 

1. Elimination of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Training

The bill explicitly states, “No DEI or related training of any kind.” 

While there are perhaps countless reasons why such a ban is unwise policy, the ACLU of Ohio notes that this prohibition prevents not only proactive training, but also training that is reactive to demonstrated, systemic and/or widespread problems in a university or college.  

For example: Let’s say there is solid data showing that a university police department stops and/or arrests more Black students than white. The chief recognizes this and proactively seeks to address problems within the department by, in part, using DEI training. As written, SB 83 outlaws this.  

The problems with this provision extend WAY beyond policing or proactive solutions. SB 83’s ban extends to any thoughtful or thorough examination into and response to faculty representation, graduation rates, admission rates, classroom participation, financial aid, or whatever else. All DEI training, lessons, and so on – for any reason – would be eliminated under SB 83.

2. Contrived Definitions of “Segregation” and “Non-Discrimination” 

SB 83 contains broad language in several places prohibiting universities and colleges from all types of segregation. On its surface, much or some of this language can be seen as a positive thing. Who could support segregation of any type? Or treating students differently?  

This language is all found in a section of SB 83 requiring colleges and universities to “affirm” and “guarantee” how they operate. They must: Treat all faculty, staff, and students as individuals, hold every individual to equal standards, and provide every individual with equality of opportunity, and the institution shall not treat, advantage, disadvantage, or segregate any faculty, staff, or students by membership in groups defined by characteristics such as race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  

Additional language of this type is used in a related section about penalties, enforcement, and reporting: Each state institution shall prohibit all policies designed explicitly to segregate faculty, staff, or students by group identities such as race, sex, gender identity, or gender expression, including in orientations, majors, financial awards, residential housing, administrative employment, faculty employment, student training, extracurricular activities, and graduations.

Practical examples of what this may impact: ​​​​​​

  • Dormitory living (students of same sex required to live together)
  • Certain extracurricular groups, organizations, or activities 
    • Using Ohio State University as an example, these would no longer be recognized or funded by OSU – using those that just start with the letter “A”
      • African American Voices Gospel Choir 
      • American Muslim Student Association
      • Armenian Students Association
      • Asian American InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
      • Association of Latino Professionals for America
      • Association of Native American Medical Students 
      • Association for Women in Mathematics Student Chapter 
      • Association of Women Dentists 
  • No formal recognition of sororities and fraternities split by sex; 
  • No single-sex sports teams; 
  • No literature, presentations, trainings, etc., aimed at distinct student demographics on such topics as preventing and/or coping with sexual assault, human trafficking, birth control, LGBTQ issues and concerns;  
  • No majors or courses of study on such topics as women’s studies, Pan-African studies, queer studies, etc.

All of the above, and surely much more, would be illegal as these examples can be interpreted as providing “advantage” (funding or official recognition, in this case), or endorsing or facilitating “segregation” by “membership in groups defined by characteristics such as race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

3. Banning “Controversial Beliefs or Policies”

Aimed squarely at the idea that colleges and universities are centers of ‘indoctrination,’ SB 83 contains various language provisions meant to prevent that assumption. To get everyone on the same page, this section of SB 83 offers definitions: “Controversial belief or policy’ means any belief or policy that is the subject of political controversy, including issues such as climate change, electoral politics, foreign policy, diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, immigration policy, marriage, or abortion.” 

Essentially all topics in today’s society are capable of being the subject of some “political controversy.” What if a university wants to generally encourage students to vote? Some people think 18 is too young, or that women should not be allowed. What if a university wants to acknowledge or celebrate Gay Pride Month? Not under SB 83.

4. Application to Private Schools 

Finally, SB 83 applies part of its provisions and ideas to private colleges and universities. As a condition of ongoing and future state funding for “institutional purposes” (not including needs-based financial grants), the private schools must submit standardized documentation affirming: 

  • The institution is committed to intellectual diversity; 
  • The institution is committed to free speech protection for students, staff, and faculty; and 
  • The institution does not require diversity, equity, and inclusion courses or training for students, staff, or faculty. 

All that is needed for all state funding to be revoked is for the chancellor of higher education to receive “credible information” of a violation, after which the chancellor will notify the college or university in writing. The college or university must then return state funding. SB 83 does not contain any appeals process or formal investigation requirements, only the receipt of “credibly information” before funding is seized back.