OXFORD — A proposed Ohio bill now in the state senate drew a public protest by Miami University students on campus who claim the legislation would smother free speech, school inclusion efforts and more at state colleges.
Dozens of Miami students rallied against Ohio Senate Bill 83 on Monday in front the school’s Armstrong Student Center on the university’s main Oxford campus.
The protest, which saw nearly three dozen students and others, included signs calling for the defeat of the proposed bill and participants also passed out fliers criticizing the proposal.
The Journal-News was at the scene; there were no injuries or arrests and no-counter protesters.
“Senate Bill 83 seeks to dismantle higher education,” said Ashley Reynolds, a freshman majoring in social justice at Miami who joined the protest.
“Not only do they (bill’s sponsors) want to take away these controversial topics but would directly (impact) our major … and all these progressive things Miami provides,” said Reynolds.
Miami Spokeswoman Alecia Lipton said campus police reported no injuries or arrests.
“Miami University affirms the right of our students and members of our community to speak out about issues with which they disagree, provided they do so in a manner that is respectful and does not violate the rights of others,” said Lipton.
“Miami University is reviewing the legislation and working with legislators and the Inter-University Council of Ohio — an association that includes Ohio’s 14 public universities — to determine how Senate Bill No. 83 and House Bill No. 151 would affect the university and those that we serve,” she said.
The bill, if eventually approved by Senate and the Ohio House and signed by the governor, would bring fundamental changes not only to Miami University, but Ohio’s 13 other public universities and 24 public community colleges.
Some the sweeping changes currently proposed in the bill would include blocking unions at state-funded universities and colleges from striking, severing ties to Chinese government programs and requiring course syllabus to be posted online in a searchable database.
State-funded universities, like Miami University, would have to submit a statement to the Ohio Department of Higher Education committing to academic freedom and agree to not require diversity and inclusion courses for students and faculty.
And beginning in 2026-2027 school year, students would be required to take a class in American history that included reading the Constitution, some of the Federalist Papers, the Gettysburg Address, Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.
And an overall faculty evaluation for each professor would be public online.
Much of the bill addresses the ability of students to express their views and opinions without fearing retaliation.
The bill specifically says faculty and students should form their own opinions on controversial topics. Mandatory classes on diversity and inclusion would be banned.
Some of the “controversial” topics specifically named in the bill are climate change, electoral politics, foreign policy, diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, immigration policy, marriage, or abortion.
Also among the protesters was Miami student and former Ohio House candidate Sam Lawrence, a sophomore at the school, who described the public event an idea “that will absolutely decimate higher education in Ohio.”
He said the size of the protest fluctuated during the afternoon and claimed as many as 60 students were participating at one time.
Lawrence said the bill’s approval would impact some students “who would have to start their education over” because their academic areas of study could be eliminated.
“We’re out here to raise awareness,” he said.