Ohio State board passes guidelines affirming free speech and intellectual diversity

The OSU Board of Trustees voted in favor of a new pro-free speech campus policy and a resolution to encourage independent thinking.

The vote came just prior to the Ohio Senate’s passing of the GOP-led S.B. 83, a bill intended to overhaul the state’s higher educational system.

On May 18, The Ohio State University’s (OSU) Board of Trustees voted to adopt a new campus free speech policy and a resolution affirming the school’s commitment to preserving intellectual diversity. 

The free speech policy is an updated version of one that OSU passed last August and creates a system through which students can submit complaints of free speech infringements, a requirement set forth under Ohio’s S.B. 135.

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Key principles under the new guidelines include that “[s]tudents have a fundamental constitutional right to free speech,” and that the “proper role of the university is not to attempt to shield individuals from free speech, including ideas and opinions they find offensive.”

Similarly, the OSU Board of Trustees recently enacted a resolution affirming that “assuring intellectual diversity and promoting open dialogue are fundamental educational responsibilities of the university and its faculty to our students.”

Both policies came on the heels of a May 16 statement released by the board unanimously opposing S.B. 83. Passed by the Ohio Senate on May 17, S.B. 83 includes provisions that would implement an American history course requirement for college students, reduce board of trustee terms from nine years to four, and ensure that Ohio universities receive the permission of the state’s Chancellor of Higher Education to establish new programs with China.

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“We acknowledge the issues raised by this proposal but believe there are alternative solutions that will not undermine the shared governance model of universities, risk weakened academic rigor, or impose extensive and expensive new reporting mandates,” the board wrote.

“Trustees will seek to continue to engage with the members of the legislature to address the fundamental flaws in this current version that diminish Ohio State’s ability to fulfill its educational and research missions and negatively impact the state’s economic future,” the statement continued.

Last September, Campus Reform reported on a similar policy passed at Ohio University that recognized students’ free speech rights in order to comply with S.B. 135. 

In January, Campus Reform covered how MIT adopted a “Free Expression Statement,” which is the school’s version of the popular University of Chicago free speech policy that has been incorporated at more than 80 schools.

OSU has been contacted for comment by Campus Reform. This article will be updated accordingly.

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