The bill is SB 24:
It is a law that seems innocuous enough in its title: The "Academic Bill of Rights for Higher Education." And yet when you begin reading the provisions of the bill, you see that one of its express intentions is to muzzle freedom of inquiry on the part of "liberal" professors in the higher education institutions of Ohio. McCarthyism redux. (more...)
Protect young minds from what, exactly? Here are some excerpts from this bill, so that you might get a sense of what these rethuglican proponents are trying to stifle, in the name of protecting Ohio's youth:
"C) Faculty and instructors shall not infringe the academic freedom and quality of education of their students by persistently introducing controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to their subject of study and that serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose."
----not introducing controversial matter? Has no relation to the subject of study? Serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose? Who is to define these things? Who says what is or is not legitimate? The Ohio senate, in all its infinite wisdom? Or the professors and teachers and researchers who are responsible for wrestling with controversial matter, so as to make discoveries and clarify problems?
[As a side note, and off the record for a moment, I just want to underscore my own personal alarm here at the "serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose" language of this section. I teach a gender studies course in my department (a language department) at the graduate level; it is a course that is always well-enrolled and I get great reviews and students tell me they learn a lot and love the new ideas they get from the course. And yet, a couple of years ago, a former Chair of my department, who was very conservative and didn't like this course, put a statement in my file at my annual review stating that he thought this course "did not support the academic mission of the department". Students then wrote letters to the chair, explaining how the course had helped them in their research and their work in thinking about their areas of study. He refused to put their letters in my file. So when I see language like this about to be written into law, I get very, very upset. This sort of language is material for someone to ruin someone else's career solely on the basis of their personal political caprices.]
And here's another spot of language that is extremely worrisome, in this section: "the academic freedom of their students." WTF? The academic freedom of their students to....what, exactly? Not hear an idea they disagree with? Not have a professor say something they don't like? Not have to read a book whose ideas they don't support? What the hell does this language seem to be legitimating?
"(F) Faculty and instructors shall be free to pursue and discuss their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, but they shall make their students aware of serious scholarly viewpoints other than their own through classroom discussion or dissemination of written materials, and they shall encourage intellectual honesty, civil debate, and the critical analysis of ideas in the pursuit of knowledge and truth."
-----Okay people, this is very dangerous when you begin to think about it. "They shall make their students aware of serious scholarly viewpoints other than their own." Does this mean that a professor teaching a course on Darwin is to be required to make students aware of creationism and bring it in for "serious" discussion at the college level? Don't laugh, this is entirely a possible implication of this language in this section.
There are some good provisions in this bill, but some VERY, VERY BAD provisions that are clearly intended to make it possible for conservatives legally to harrass and discriminate against viewpoints they don't agree with in the academy.
We need to speak out against the bad provisions and explain politely and clearly why they are bad, so that those debating and considering this bill might understand.
As the bill is about to be debated by the university senate at the state's flagship institution of higher learning, it might be a good place to start to contact key members of the university senate, the secretary of the Board of Trustees of the university, and the university President, to help them understand exactly why this is a very bad bill with some bad provisions in it.
I want to stress that all letters should be polite and non-confrontational and should present oppositional points of view in the best possible light in terms of not being offensive or insulting to the people one is writing to. The point is to give the people one is writing to, ammunition to bolster whatever opposition they might make to this senate bill. And to educate them, with compassion, about what is wrong with the bill.
Here are key contact names on the Faculty Senate:
Susan L. Huntington, Dean of the Graduate School
Jacqueline J. Royster, Dean of Humanities Administration
John W. Roberts, Dean of the College of Humanities
Barbara Snyder, Executive Vice President and Provost
Nancy H. Rogers, Dean of the School of Law
Karen A. Bell, Dean of the College of the Arts
David W. Andrews, Dean of the College of Human Ecology
Joseph A. Alutto, Dean of the College of Business
President of the University, Karen A. Holbrook. (Please note that Holbrook about half a year ago approved granting same-sex [and opposite-sex] domestic partners health benefits at OSU. She truly wants to favor progressive policies that will help the university and make it a better place.)
To write to the OSU senate by snail mail, send a letter to:
Office of the University Senate
Ohio State University
119 Independence Hall
1923 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
To send snail mail to the board of trustees, write to:
David O. Frantz, Secretary
Board of Trustees
Ohio State University
210 Bricker Hall
190 N. Oval Mall
Columbus, OH 43210
Please spread the word about this to your friends and family members who live in Ohio, and urge them to write to the state senate sponsors who have entered this bill into consideration in the senate.
Here is the contact information for the four conservative republican sponsoring senators of this senate bill 24:
snailmail: Senator Gary Cates, Rm #042, Ground Floor, Senate Building, Columbus, OH 43215
snailmail: Senator Jim Jordan, Rm #128, First Floor, Senate Building, Columbus, OH 43215
snailmail: Senator Larry Mumper, Rm #222, Second Floor, Senate Building, Columbus, OH 43215
Lynn Wachtmann [note: it's a he]
snailmail: Senator Lynn Wachtmann, Rm #040, Ground Floor, Senate Building, Columbus, OH 43215