Adverse Effects of HB 327 on Higher Education
Based on a document written by Professor John Huss, Vice President, Akron-AAUP
HB 322 and HB 327 are under consideration by the Ohio State Assembly.
The table below describes the provisions of each bill and what educational institutions and agencies will be affected if the bill is passed into law.
From Children’s Defense Fund Ohio https://cdfohio.org/cdf_oh_blog/expose-the-boil-house-bills-322-and-327/
As the above table points out, HB327 would apply to Ohio’s higher education institutions. It would prohibit teaching “divisive concepts” on college and university campuses, including concepts related to race, sex, nationality, and ethnicity. Violations would result in the loss of state funding. Chapter leadership is in regular communication with the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors (OC-AAUP), and the University Administration regarding this legislation.
Below are several ways in which this legislation undercuts its own stated goals and the educational goals of the state.
Teaching critical thinking and writing skills. The bill prohibits instructors from “promoting” “divisive” concepts and prohibits requiring students to “advocate” for a given idea. Among the important skills taught at universities is “informed argument development” and “presenting and defending arguments from many perspectives.” An important aspect of higher education is teaching students to be able to differentiate between opinion, data, science, and journalism. To do this, we must be able to present data and viewpoints; these are the tools that students require to think critically, solve complex problems, work in diverse teams and environments, work with people from different backgrounds, and make their own informed judgments.
Creating an inclusive environment. Banning “divisive” content would prohibit students from sharing their experiences in class, in writing, and online. The college classroom is where students come together from all walks of life. Prohibiting open discussion of differences and societal challenges harms our students by preventing them from learning about social problems and coming together to find solutions to those problems. It prevents the inclusion of diverse perspectives. Forbidding certain topics would alienate students by keeping them from discovering one another, understanding where they come from, and building community.
Encouraging students to explore critical issues. The bill would have a direct negative impact on the ability of instructors to broach issues such as “Eugenics,” “natural selection,” “Intelligent Design,” or “Critical Race Theory”(CRT) because a student might find the concept or topic divisive. For example, Critical Race Theory calls on us to critically analyze society and its institutions. The proponents of this theory recognize that many of our laws and institutions were developed when slavery and other forms of blatant discrimination were legal and socially acceptable. CRT calls on us to examine an entire system of laws and institutions to see whether they perpetuate unequal outcomes. CRT, like any theory, is a lens through which we may identify problems within the world we inhabit and propose solutions to them. This bill would severely limit this process of resolution, even as a classroom exercise across a full range of courses and disciplines.
Presenting research findings. The bill suggests instructors might teach that some groups are “inherently inclined” to oppress others and thus seeks to prevent this unfounded presupposition. No one is suggesting that there is an “oppression gene” carried by some ethnic or racial groups, though it is true that throughout history oppression has occurred. It’s important to teach research findings that enable students to understand discrimination and its impact. The bill would disallow the teaching, “advocating,” and “promoting” of many conclusions of mainstream social science findings. For example, the bill would outlaw teaching that unconscious bias (i.e., implicit bias) is an empirically supported phenomenon. Far from arguing that a group has an “inherent” tendency toward bias, research on implicit bias suggests that biases are learned behavior that can also be unlearned.
Developing new approaches to improve outcomes. Mainstream social science produces important ideas that can be helpful for improving American life. Examples include ethnic and racial health disparity research; social-class-based determinants of health; racial and gender inequities in criminal justice; studies of the “disparate impact” of various policies on different races. These areas of teaching and scholarship are of heightened concern given the pandemic we are all living through and its disproportionate impact on various elements of U.S. society.
Understanding history’s impact on the present day. This bill also seems to presuppose that whatever bias, discrimination, or oppression has existed in the United States is in the past and no longer of concern. There are two problems with this. First, what happened in the past does exert an influence on the present day, and it’s important to examine that. Secondly, in several disciplines—criminal justice, law, anthropology, sociology, political science, social psychology, political and social philosophy, biomedical ethics, public policy, medicine, economics—it is essential to leave open to faculty and researchers the possibility of investigating whether bias, discrimination, or oppression currently exists and for faculty to teach their findings, the findings of other researchers, and possible policy recommendations to students. Ohio students would be at a distinct disadvantage if they were barred from learning about material based on a dubious definition of “divisive.” Such “advocacy” or even “teaching” of science, law, or policy would be barred under House Bill 327.
Maintaining free speech on campus. This bill, if enacted, would place severe and undue constraints not only on what but on how a faculty member conducts class. It expressly prohibits a faculty member from advocating for a position in a debate. It is common in the course of academic discussion for a faculty member to make the argument for a counterintuitive idea–counterintuitive because it runs against common, unexamined views. In fact, in many fields that is the entire reason for the existence of the field of study and the content of the classes. Several topics in the humanities, social sciences, business, education, criminal justice, social work, and law have this characteristic. Moreover, experiential and internship opportunities would have to be severely limited because aspects of these experiences might well be at odds with a student’s belief system.
Creating a constructive learning environment. This bill encourages whistle-blower culture and would create a chilling effect in the classroom. If the bill passes, it will enable anyone to report perceived violations to the administration, who are then required to present a report to the state assembly. How can a professor teach a class of 10, 30, 100, or 200 students without possibly raising an issue that might be considered divisive to at least a few? The consequences of violations are financially severe. What sort of environment would that create? The most obvious outcome is that higher education institutions will discourage faculty from addressing social topics that stand in greatest need of discussion. As in the Soviet Union, provisions that call on students, parents, colleagues, or community members to report violations would create a climate of fear and hesitancy rather than the culture of openness and the free exchange of ideas that should exist in a college classroom.
Protecting students against discrimination. The legislation also purports to protect students from discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, and other protected classes. We agree that students need protection from discrimination. There are, however, existing laws and university policies that prohibit these forms of discrimination. The purpose of the bill is clearly censorship, not the protection of any individual or group. Far from bringing about a climate that encourages the free exchange of ideas, this legislation would have a debilitating effect on campus speech and deprive students of the education to which they are entitled.
Preparing students to work and live in diverse communities. Part of the purpose of a college education is to prepare students for life. In order to be good citizens, productive employees, entrepreneurs, and well-adjusted individuals, college students must learn about diversity in every segment of life. They learn this through their campus experiences, their coursework, and their experiential learning activities (internships, field placements, co-ops, etc.). Programs with discipline-specific accreditations often require some focus on diversity, and internship placements are often diverse workplaces that may interact with communities that are unlike the ones they grew up in. This legislation, if enacted, would make it difficult or impossible for universities to provide the experiences, in and out of the classroom, that would prepare students for life.
What can we do?
The open exchange of ideas is the lifeblood of not only higher education but democracy as well and must be protected. Here’s how you can help.
- Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you believe that your program’s accreditation would be in jeopardy if this bill passes in its current form.
- Sign OC-AAUP’s call to action. Even if we aren’t able to stop this legislation from being passed, we can have some influence over the final version.
- Contact your legislator as a taxpayer (whose taxes help support education) or parent who’s concerned about this legislation. Be sure to find the representative for your district. In your communications, focus on issues of common concern such as enrollment, educational quality, potential loss of accreditation (of programs and the University), and the ability of students to engage in experiential learning (e.g., internships and co-ops). Unfortunately, the opinions of college professors are not particularly influential with Ohio legislators, so focus on your other roles in the community when you write or make phone calls. Here are more pointsyou could touch on if you decide to contact your legislator or write an op-ed.
- The Ohio League of Women Voters has helpful information and suggestions for how you can influence this legislation.
Read more public statements in opposition to this legislation.
The American Association of University Professors, the American Historical Association, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, and PEN America issued a joint statement co-signed by:
Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
ACPA-College Student Educators International
African American Intellectual History Society
African Studies Association
Agricultural History Society
Alcohol and Drugs History Society
American Academy of Religion
American Anthropological Association
American Association for State and Local History
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
American Association of Community Colleges
American Association of Geographers
American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education
American Catholic Historical Association
American Classical League
American Council of Learned Societies
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
American Counseling Association
American Educational Research Association
American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
American Folklore Society
American Humor Studies Association
American Library Association
American Philosophical Association
American Political Science Association
American Psychoanalytic Association
American Society for Environmental History
American Society for Theatre Research
American Society of Criminology Executive Board
American Sociological Association
American Studies Association
Association for Ancient Historians
Association for Asian American Studies
Association for Asian Studies
Association for Counselor Education and Supervision
Association for Documentary Editing
Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies
Association for the Study of African American Life and History
Association for the Study of Higher Education
Association for the Study of Literature and Environment
Association for Theatre in Higher Education
Association of Academic Museums and Galleries
Association of African American Museums
Association of College and Research Libraries
Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning
Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges
Association of Research Libraries
Association of University Presses
Association of Writers & Writing Programs
The Authors Guild
Berkshire Conference of Women Historians
Business History Conference
Center for Research Libraries
Central European History Society
Chinese Historians in the United States
Coalition of Urban & Metropolitan Universities (CUMU)
College Art Association
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender History
Comparative and International Education Society
Conference on Asian History
Conference on Faith and History
Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes
Contemporary Freudian Society
Coordinating Council for Women in History
Council on Social Work Education
Czechoslovak Studies Association
Dance Studies Association
Executive Committee of the American Comparative Literature Association
Forum on Early-Modern Empires and Global Interactions
Freedom to Read Foundation
French Colonial Historical Society
German Studies Association
Higher Learning Commission
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
Historians for Peace and Democracy
Historical Society of Twentieth Century China
Immigration Ethnic History Society
International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation
Italian American Studies Association
John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education
Keats-Shelley Association of America
Labor and Working-Class History Association
Middle East Studies Association
Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Midwestern History Association
Modern Language Association
NAFSA: Association of International Educators
NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
National Association for College Admission Counseling
National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education
National Association of Dean and Directors Schools of Social Work
National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education
National Association of Graduate-Professional Students
National Association of Social Workers
National Coalition for History
National Council for the Social Studies
National Council of Teachers of English
National Council on Public History
National Education Association
National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives
National Women’s Studies Association
Network for Public Education
New England Commission of Higher Education
North American Conference on British Studies
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Ohio Academy of History
Organization of American Historians
Pacific Coast Branch-American Historical Association
Peace History Society
Phi Beta Kappa Society
Popular Culture Association
Radical History Review
Rhetoric Society of America
Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
Scholars at Risk
Shakespeare Association of America
Society for Austrian and Habsburg History
Society for Classical Studies
Society for Community Research and Action
Society for Ethnomusicology
Society for French Historical Studies
Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations
Society for Historians of the Early American Republic
Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
Society for Historical Archaeology
Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender
Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States
Society for the Study of Social Problems
Society for US Intellectual History
Society of American Historians
Society of Architectural Historians
Society of Civil War Historians
Society of Transnational Academic Researchers (STAR Scholars Network)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Southern Historical Association
United Faculty of Florida – University of Florida, NEA/AFT/FEA, AFL-CIO
University Film and Video Association
Urban History Association
WASC Senior College and University Commission
Western History Association
Western Society for French History
World History Association