Ohio GOP supports college overhaul bills to create ‘safe space’ for conservatives

By: - May 19, 2023 4:50 am
College students

College students walk on campus. (Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images)

Ohio conservatives want “safe spaces” on college campuses, demonstrated by the passing and introduction of controversial legislation meant to overhaul the state’s higher education system.

After hours of hearings and hundreds of people giving testimony, Ohio Republican senators passed Senate Bill 83.

The bill focuses on what GOP calls “free speech,” banning public universities in Ohio from having “bias” in the classroom and limiting what “controversial topics” can and can’t be taught.

“Free from the pressure to agree with a single ideological perspective, which dominates our campuses today,” bill sponsor Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) said.

Ohio State University professor Dr. Pranav Jani says S.B. 83 is dangerous and insulting.

“We don’t simply tell them what to think and then program them,” Jani said. “That’s not how education works these days.”

This bill has everything to do with young people turning away rapidly from the Republican Party, the professor added.

“[The Republican lawmakers] want conservative and right-wing ideas to be far more prominent in the lives of young people than they are,” Jani said.

But state Rep. Josh Williams (R-Oregon) believes conservatives feel discriminated against on campus, citing his own experience in law school at the University of Toledo.

“If you had an opposing view, you would just call that individual a fascist, a Nazi, as a way of quashing their speech and making their comments and their positions irrelevant,” Williams told OCJ/WEWS.

This is why he is in support of this bill and S.B. 117, which would create learning centers on OSU and University of Toledo campuses, meant to specifically target “intellectual diversity”

“This could be seen as a safe space for conservatives?” we asked.

“I believe it will not only be a safe space for conservatives, but a safe space for individuals who see themselves as not conservative or liberal, but on college campuses to learn,” he responded.

But some advocates are calling out the irony in S.B. 83 and 117 – limiting free speech for educators if they are seen as too liberal but creating new spaces for conservatives.

Williams disagreed, telling opponents to “read the actual bill.”

“No part of the bill says it gives a safe haven to conservatives,” he said.

Jani assures the bills are hypocritical.

“It’s exactly the kind of top-down, 1984-style Big Brother government that I thought Republicans were opposed to,” the professor said.

Education advocates argue that conservatives have historically made fun of liberals for wanting “safe spaces,” but they are spending millions of dollars so they can have a place on campus where they aren’t ridiculed by the “liberal elite.”

The House will hear both bills in the coming weeks.

This article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.