(chimes ring) - [Mike] An Ohio Senate bill looks to overhaul higher education, and root out perceived liberal bias.
It's sure to draw a heated debate.
The effort to put an abortion rights amendment on the ballot now moves to the signature collection phase.
And Ohio has sued Norfolk Southern for unspecified damages from last month's Toxic train derailment.
Ideas is next.
(exciting music) Hello and welcome to Ideas.
I'm Mike McIntyre.
Thanks for joining us.
A bill dubbed by supporters, the Higher Education Enhancement Act, seeks to root out perceived liberal bias in higher education.
Critics say it's more hard line conservative ideology jammed into a bill that will have a chilling effect on education.
Get ready for heated debate.
The effort to protect abortion in the Ohio Constitution is in the signature phase after ballot language was approved.
As supporters gear up to collect more than 400,000 signatures, opposition gears up too.
Ohio filed suit against Norfolk Southern this week in an effort to ensure that the railroad pays for the cleanup and environmental damage caused by the toxic train derailment last month in East Palestine.
And soon, no more fishing in your car for coins to feed the meter in Cleveland.
The city's overhauling its downtown parking and switching to smart meters that can be fed with your phone.
We'll talk about those stories, and the rest of the week's news on the reporter's round table.
Joining us for the round table this week in studio reporter Gabriel Kramer from Idea Stream Public Media and Ken Schneck editor of the Buckeye Flame.
In Columbus State House News Bureau Chief Karen Kasler.
Let's get ready to round table.
A bill introduced this week in the Ohio Senate proposes overhauling higher education at the state's public universities and colleges to counteract perceived liberal bias.
Senate Bill 83 is called by its sponsors, the Higher Education Enhancement Act, and derided by critics as a far right wing attack on higher education.
It's sponsored by Kirtland Republican, Jerry Cirino, a former trustee at Lakeland Community College.
The bill includes such elements as, ending mandated diversity, equity, and inclusion training for employees and students.
Requiring a searchable course syllabus to be posted online.
And requiring all students to take and pass an American history course in order to graduate with the content dictated by the law.
Something critics say is essentially a gag order, and an attempt to whitewash the more difficult parts of our history.
The bill also would prevent unionized employees from striking and halt new contracts or partnerships with institutions and universities in China.
I wanna start with you, Karen.
Senator Cirino says, "His goal here is to course correct.
So Ohio's colleges and universities are focused on intellectual diversity and not social change."
That's a paraphrase, but basically using the phrase intellectual diversity.
- Yeah, and this feels like a catchall bill for a lot of different things.
I mean, you just went over some of what the bill does, but there are other things in there too.
All colleges and universities that get state funding, which could also include some private schools if there's state funding involved, have to sign a statement that affirms that they are committed to what is called intellectual diversity in the bill.
Committed to free speech for student, staff, and faculty.
Does not require diversity, equity, and inclusion training.
And also that the syllabus requirements, to have a syllabus that is searchable by keyword that also would include having professors bios on that syllabus.
So there's a lot in this bill, and I think the most obvious thing for a lot of people is the prohibition on striking.
Which Republicans have had some issues with unions in Ohio for a while, going back to Senate Bill 5.
The bill that would affect police officers and teachers and all that until it was overturned in 2011.
But this bill has a lot of things going on in it.
- Ken, when you read it, it's basically, to me it looks like they're saying that colleges are places where liberal ideology is indoctrinated into students.
Where when you talk about intellectual diversity, it's essentially saying conservative diversity is not being recognized.
And if I don't believe in whatever liberal point of view that they perceive the professor as pushing, then somehow I am being ostracized.
And so this is a way to protect those students.
When you look at all of the things that are in the bill, what would the impact be?
- You're not planning on covering other topics on this episode, are you?
Because I got a lot on this one.
So I should say officially, yes.
This is actually my academic research area.
I am a professor of public policy in higher education, and last night taught for two and a half hours in a course called Public Policy of Higher Education, where we talked about nothing but this bill.
So there is so much going on here, and I think one of the key pieces is what's motivating this bill.
And so Senator Cirino said that he heard from concerned constituents.
I spoke to a colleague last night who specializes in assessment and education.
And we had a great conversation about, is our anecdotes really what should be inspiring such a wide ranging overhaul of higher education with so many mandates.
When the assessment isn't actually there of actual concerns from, he said here, "conservative students who feel silenced on college campuses."
The impact is so wide ranging.
There are so many parts of this bill that we're not gonna get to talk about here, but it defines faculty workload.
Baldwin Wallace has a required diversity statement, that all tenure track faculty have to submit as part of their application for employment at BW.
This would ban that practice.
And then that required history course that you mentioned earlier.
There are so- I don't know how you could get to anything else.
There are six different requirements, and one of them is a minimum of five essays in their entirety from the Federalist papers.
And Hamilton was not short winded in his writing in the Federalist papers.
So yeah, there's a lot about not restricting intellectual freedom in the classroom while also prescribing exactly what is going to be taught in certain classrooms.
- Let me ask about that, that one particular provision, which is teaching history.
And we had a question or comment from Barbara who's listening, said, "Ohio already requires high school students to take American history and government or civic classes.
Why be redundant?
And what about the majority of students who do not go to college?"
And then she also says, "Also, anti-strike?"
So those are her thoughts.
But as she's talking about the history class, if you just say, we're going to require people learn about American history, that sounds on its face like a good thing.
But what's prescribed in that, the six points that you talked about, don't necessarily talk about the entirety of American history.
- No, very much no.
So the entire Gettysburg address, the entire letter from Birmingham Jail written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And also an assessment of student proficiency.
And that's the only phrase that we don't even know what that would necessarily mean.
And there's also some subjective statements that these courses not include anything.
One of the examples is, "An individual by virtue of the individual's race or sex bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex."
So you have all of the language that's reminiscent of conversations about critical race theory that isn't being taught in K through 12 in Ohio.
But to hear folks talking about it, you would think that it ia.
It's very confusing and very prescribed, and institutes a course without any funding that we're gonna have to add a lot of professors.
Now, the professors aren't necessarily going to have to do that much work, because it looks like the syllabus is already prescribed for them.
Which is also the exact opposite of what intellectual freedom means for professors.
- [Mike] Karen?
- I wanted to mention that I asked the exact question that Barbara, I think, was asking that when you graduate from high school, you have to have a history component there.
And one of the answers that Senator Cirino gave was, "We're not trying to design the actual courses or the curriculum here, but the intent is certainly that we want graduates to understand the fundamentals of this country and our founding and how the country works, the good, the bad, and the ugly."
Well, that's a real question here is, when you start talking about specific things that should be taught in class.
How should they be taught?
And what do you do with kids who have already learned that?
And they're paying for the privilege of getting a college education.
And I think that there might be some pushback from students who say, I tested out of that.
I graduated from high school.
I know that already.
But one of the other things that I think is really interesting to bring up here is some of the other issues with regard to professors and hiring and promotion.
The bill says that, "There should be no political or ideological litmus tests in hiring, promotion, or in admissions."
And it also sets up a procedure where there can be post-tenure review.
And that professors can also have student evaluations put into their evaluations, which student evaluations can be all over the place.
And especially students who are angry about the grades that they got.
- [Mike] Right so- - They may be yeah.
- [Mike] Right.
So rate my teacher now becomes.
- [Karen] Yeah.
- [Ken] With a required question.
There's a required question - [Karen] Yes.
- [Ken] That the bill prescribes for any and all teacher evaluation.
The question is, "Does the faculty member create a classroom atmosphere free of political, racial, gender, and religious bias?"
I don't even know what qualifies as that.
There's so many things that- Is my mentioning that I am an out gay male, does that create an atmosphere that stifles.
Does someone saying that they're canceling class next week, because they are attending some sort of Catholic mass?
Does that create, right?
Because this can work in both ways.
But that is the required question of all evaluations.
It is extraordinarily subjective, but the answers to that question can determine a professor's tenure status.
- Gabriel Kramer, can you recite the Gettysburg address for us?
- [Ken] In its entirety.
- In its entirety by memory?
- I can do the entire first few words.
I can do that like anyone else can.
- [Mike] Four score.
- But that's the thing I think about, you know, having these required elements.
You talk about these six things.
I mean Ken said, there's not enough time for anything else after you talk about these six things in a history course.
But when an institution says, here's what we're gonna prioritize, here's what is required.
It tells students that this is what's most important.
This is the stuff that, you know, we consider the fundamentals.
Everything else is extracurricular, everything else is not part of the American fabric.
Everything else like slavery.
I know they started with the Gettysburg address, but that's the end of this, right?
They're not talking about how this country was built on slavery beforehand.
So what it does is it suggests that everything else isn't as important as these six things that we suggested.
- So one of the other items is the entire emancipation proclamation again.
- [Gabriel] Right.
- Highlighting we're past this.
- [Gabriel] Right.
- [Ken] It's over.
- [Gabriel] Right.
Another thing, and I don't mean to take too much time, but Martin Luther King's letters from Birmingham jail is just a small part of who he is.
I mean, we're neglecting, you know, It's almost as if we're saying, well, we only like this part of Martin Luther King Jr. Not his entire history.
- [Ken] Yeah.
It has some of the most misquoted pieces of everything that Martin Luther King Jr. has ever said.
- And I wondered about that too.
Like when you say we're requiring a letter or a speech from Martin Luther King Jr. Then you'd say, okay, well that's very inclusive, but there's a reason why it's just that letter.
And it's often, there's a line that's often been quoted in that, Ken, that I think sort of fits with this narrative.
- [Ken] Yes.
And I was just looking through it and rereading it.
There are actually many lines that are often misquoted there.
So it's just kind of, I guess ironic, it's- There's so many pieces that, have these folks actually worked in higher education.
Because I don't know how you implement so many pieces of this.
The syllabus, my syllabi, are all organic documents.
They change all the time because different things happen in society that affect what it is that we're talking about.
Even in a history course, in the history of higher education, there are things that happen in higher education that change the syllabus.
So to require that all faculty post their syllabi, and as Karen said earlier, it's not just posting their syllabi online, but also with a biography on there of the professor, which that feels pretty loaded in itself.
And it has to be a keyword search so that anybody can access it.
I just don't even know how you operationalize something like that.
- What impact might this have on recruiting teachers, education experts, higher education professors when they see this kind of legislation?
Maybe Ohio and Florida are places they may wanna skip.
- Yeah, so one of the core tenets of teaching in higher education is intellectual freedom.
And it's not just a core tenant that is, that we hold in our ideology.
It's actually part of accreditation procedures.
In addition to my professor role, I am also a team chair for the Higher Learning Commission, which is the accreditation body for most Ohio colleges and universities.
And one of the core things that we look to when a university is accredited every 10 years is, is the university protecting intellectual freedom?
Do professors have control over the curriculum, and do they have full intellectual freedom in the way that they present information?
So I think that if you are a professor who's doing a job search and looking around for different institutions, if you look at a state that is in some way perceived as limiting intellectual freedom, that is not going to be a huge motivator to move to the state and work there.
- Karen, there's so many things in this bill that hit different types of constituencies who can get pretty loud and pretty active.
I'm thinking about unions.
So even if some of the other issues in that bill weren't things that would get them up, certainly the idea of not striking wood.
A number of other things too.
It would seem to me that the kind of opposition we'll see to this will be broad and varied.
- Yeah, and I think you're exactly right about the unions.
Certainly union groups are already looking at this, I can imagine.
But also some of the other things that are in this bill are similar to things that we've seen before when it talks about so-called divisive concepts and the teaching of that.
And also the whole idea of critical race theory, which is not taught in K through 12 schools, but can be taught at the graduate level.
And can be taught in colleges.
And so this whole language around what are divisive concepts.
And when you start talking about race and gender, is that going to be able to limit the factual information that is given about discriminatory practice, of redlining, about slavery, about the civil rights movement, about the women's movement.
And I think that there's some real concerns about this.
And when you talk about multiple bills that have been coming forward, I mean, we saw a couple in the last general assembly, this one now.
The groups that oppose those bills before are gonna be coming forward saying, not only are these vaguely defined, but also these could potentially impact the information that especially at this point, kids are signing up and paying for.
I mean, this is optional for students to go to college.
They're signing up and becoming part of a university, because they want to be in that environment.
And you're kind of getting into that.
(intense music) - Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a federal lawsuit this week against Norfolk Southern to ensure it pays for the cleanup of last month's train derailment and damages caused to the environment in East Palestine.
The state in its legal complaint says the derailment caused the release of over a million gallons of hazardous chemicals.
The suit seeks unspecified money from the railroad, but Yost described it as "Lots, maybe lots and lots."
Karen, lots and lots?
- Well, it does seek unspecified damages and Yost in this press conference, which was a virtual press conference.
So you had national reporters as well as local reporters in on it.
He talked about how there still are no defined costs here.
The costs are still adding up, "The meter is still running", as he said.
So you've got the state and also local governments who are keeping track of how much money is spent.
And the whole idea, he said, the lawsuit intends to hold Norfolk Southern responsible, because Norfolk Southern has been interesting in some of their comments that they've made.
They've talked about, they've apologized for the derailment and the release of the toxic chemicals and everything.
They've said they wanna do the right thing.
The CEO of Norfolk Southern, Allen Shaw, spoke before, testified before the Senate about this.
But when asked to really commit to financially taking care of all this and paying for everything, that hasn't happened.
And so I think this lawsuit is designed to try to make sure that whatever the cleanup costs are now and potentially in the future, which I don't even know how you track that I guess.
Norfolk Southern is gonna be on the hook for those things.
Before February 3rd, East Palestine was not a well-known village.
Now it's name is synonymous with the derailment.
That's impacting property values, forcing people to leave.
Those are some of the things they're talking about needing the money to correct.
It's not just the environmental stuff.
- Oh, absolutely.
I mean, if you're living in that area and you're wondering, you know, what's happening to my safety, what's happening to my health, you also have to worry about your pockets, right?
You don't know what's gonna happen to your home.
You don't know what's gonna happen to the value of your home.
If you wanna move, how can you sell it if it's- If you're moving away 'cause perhaps it's an area that you can no longer live because of your health.
How can you sell that to someone else who might want to come in there?
I mean, I understand people's concerns beyond just their health.
There's money to be lost.
- And this is part of the lawsuit as well.
Yost said that this is not just about the actual cleanup, but it's about long-term potential health effects and also economic damage.
And again, that's something that's interesting to watch how that will be measured.
But he said that's part of this.
And also damage to natural resources, because obviously there was some water damage and air damage.
Though the state has been careful in saying that the water and air are not reaching dangerous levels.
So people should not be afraid to, for instance, if you're on the city water, drink the city water.
But all of these things add up to- I mean we're talking about potentially what, billions of dollars when you start thinking about all of these things.
- [Mike] Right.
- This is a huge potential lawsuit.
And I think when Yost said lots, maybe lots and lots, that's kind of his expression for that maybe.
(intense music) - The coalition working to place a reproductive rights amendment in the Ohio constitution cleared another hurdle this week.
The state ballot board ruled unanimously that the proposed amendment contains only a single subject.
So voters have just one thing to vote on.
Karen, the ballot board is bipartisan, agreed unanimously, as I mentioned, on this issue.
But the partisan lines are still clearly visible.
There are some who thought there was- There should be a number of issues.
I mean, Senator Theresa Gavarone, a Republican from Bowling Green said she really didn't like the amendment at all, Right to life groups had been arguing for this to be split into two amendments, which makes it harder to pass amendments.
But yeah, the ballot board did approve this as a single amendment.
And as I understand it, the petition gathering and the signature gathering starts this weekend, because the timeline is really short.
I mean you've got until Jan- I'm sorry, July, July 5th to get this going here, get this, the deadline.
That's the deadline to file these petitions with the state.
And what you're also seeing now is a push from the right to life group- The right to life groups who oppose this almost doing a decline to sign campaign.
These ads that are coming out that say that the amendment will strip parents of their rights.
And say that there are things in this amendment that will allow for minors to have abortions, and even related to gender reassignment surgery for minors.
And so I think you're gonna see, like you saw with House Bill 6 and the nuclear power plant bailout attempt to repeal that.
This is the kind of thing that you're potentially gonna see, ads that suggest don't sign these petitions.
Don't put this on the ballot, because there are problems with the amendment.
Which of course the folks who are pushing the amendment say, this isn't even addressed in the amendment.
There's nothing in there about gender reassignment surgery.
And there are already legal protections when it comes to minors having abortions.
So this is gonna get an ugly, this is gonna get ugly.
- Are you ready for the onslaught of ads, Ken?
- That's such an interesting campaign, isn't it?
That decline to sign.
So it's not about voting no, it's about declining to sign.
You're almost trying to prove a negative in that way.
So no, I am not ready.
- [Karen] And they're not.
directly saying it.
- [Ken] Yeah.
- They're not directly saying it, but that's, I mean with an ads.
- [Ken] That's the message.
- With the ads already hitting the air, before this is even on the ballot.
I mean that seems to be the message to me that this is an effort to try to stop those who were gathering signatures to put this before voters that let's just not even do that at all.
That seems to be the message that the ads are sending.
- We had one listener who sent an email saying that she's interested in signing a petition, and she wants to know where to do that.
That's not our job is to tell you how to, you know, how to activate in that way.
But what is likely to be the places where folks would be circulating these petitions?
I would think the big cities, and the places that lean a little bit more liberal.
You might not see them, you know, in some of the more conservative areas of Ohio.
But what do you, what do you know about that Karen?
- Well, I mean the signatures have to be gathered from 44 of Ohio's 88 counties.
That is one of the things that could potentially change if a ballot issue comes forward that would require 60% voter approval for a constitutional amendment.
But right now it's 44 out of 88 counties.
You can pick the 44 you want, but there's still 413,000 signatures.
That's a lot.
Fortunately for the people who are gathering the signatures, we're going into the part of the year where there are festivals and street fairs and events where you get a lot of public attention and public traffic.
And so I think that's the kind of place that you would expect.
But as I understand it too, they're also going to be only professional or paid signature gatherers, which can potentially mean that the process will be a little bit more controlled.
'Cause quite often with volunteers you end up with a lot more signatures, and a lot of signatures that are not valid.
- Yeah, not just geographical, but as Karen just said, also event-based.
I mean there are prides, LGBTQ pride celebrations in the 44 of 88 counties.
So we're already hearing that there will be some organizing at all of those all throughout June.
(intense music) - Keep the change people, Cleveland selected vendors this week to overhaul its on street parking.
Out are coin operated meters.
They'll be replaced by a modern smart meter you can feed with your phone.
Gabe, this was something that Mayor Justin Bibb ran on.
He was, you know, a lot of younger, particularly younger, more tech savvy people that come down to Cleveland because they need to visit somewhere or they want to have dinner or something.
And they go, wait a minute, I need quarters in my pocket?
- [Gabriel] Right.
- We're like, what century is this?
- [Gabriel] Exactly.
- That's the tone.
And Justin Bibb took up that mantle?
- Oh he absolutely did.
And I mean I think he compared it to other cities, not just big cities.
But you can go to a lot of other cities in Cuyahoga County in Northeast Ohio, where these are normal practice.
And have been normal practice for more than a decade.
I mean, if I'm being honest with you, you find someone who visits town and they have to use one as parking meters.
It's kind of embarrassing to the fact that, you know, they're wondering like, I gotta carry quarters with me?
I mean we're far, we're more and more getting away from that.
And Cleveland is not just behind by a few years.
They're behind by a lot in terms of these parking meters.
- On the other hand, I have in my car at this very moment, a one pint Oikos yogurt container cleaned out, dried, and filled with quarters.
- [Ken] Really?
I mean I think I could buy something.
- [Gabriel] For this reason?
- Really good with it.
It's a lot- For that reason.
- [Gabriel] Yeah.
- I never want to be without a quarter for a parking meter, 'cause I know how it is in Cleveland.
So I've got a while to get through these quarters.
The question is, will you still also be able to use a quarter?
And I know in some places like Lakewood where it has a sticker that says you can use your phone, you can still also stick a quarter in there.
- [Gabriel] Yes.
And yes, that will be the plan to be able to do that moving forward.
You know, but I do think, you know, it's funny for me personally, when it's a thing- When it's, you have to download an app and I'm in a town where I have to download an app to use a park meter, that frustrates me.
So having the options certainly is beneficial, but having just one option and that option being archaic is a disappointment and a detractor for people wanting to come downtown and find a place to park.
- And the reason I use that variety is not just 'cause I have a bunch of quarters, but also there are gonna be some people that are left behind.
There are people that don't, perhaps older folks or folks without the technology, who won't, either won't or can't, don't know how to download an app or do those types of things in order to pay a parking bill.
- But I think there's also populations who, you know, may, you know, who are maybe more impoverished.
Or are people who don't have bank accounts and credit card accounts and, you know, and that's, you know, those are people that, you know, will often be neglected.
So for them, it might be, for some people, yes, it might be easier to find a few quarters than to set up a banking account in 2023.
And, you know, you gotta respect them.
- And I want to, my favorite tweet on this was, "Who Carries change anymore besides my Aldi quarter?"
And that of course- - [Gabriel] That one quarter.
That is of course from Abby Marshall here at IDS Dream.
I love that tweet.
- Fun fact, Aldi carts do take Canadian quarters.
I've tried it.
- [Ken] That is a very- - [Mike] So for those who don't shop there.
- [Ken] Exciting thing I just learned.
- You have to put in a quarter to get the cart.
And then you get your quarter back, right?
- [Gabriel] Yes.
- When you bring the cart back.
(intense music) Monday on the Sound of Ideas on WKSU, we'll talk with Anita Hill about her experience as a lawyer and educator.
You'll remember she testified in 1991 that then Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her.
Plus we'll examine the long strange trip that psychedelics have taken as they head to clinical trials here in Northeast Ohio.
I'm Mike McIntyre.
Thank you so much for watching and stay safe.