Shorter terms for Ohio public university trustees in ‘free speech’ bill has DeWine concerned

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — The Republican bill designed to address conservatives’ concerns about free speech in higher education in Ohio includes a change in university governance about trustees that Gov. Mike DeWine, a fellow Republican, said he doesn’t like.

Ohio University's Cutler Hall on the first day of the semester.
Ohio University’s Cutler Hall on the first day of the semester. [Aaron Payne | Ohio Valley ReSource]
Along with requiring equal time for both sides in specific controversial topics and banning most mandatory diversity training and faculty strikes, Senate Bill 83 also shortens the terms of university trustees appointed by the governor from nine years to four years.

But DeWine said a trustee’s job is complex, and they need time.

” To shorten that period of time will simply mean that the bureaucracy of the state university system will have a lot more power. And it seems to me from talking to members of the General Assembly, that’s not what they want,” DeWine said. “I think it’s well-intended, but I think changing this to a four-year term instead of a nine-year term means that we’re turning over to the bureaucrats the power to run our universities when the university should be run by the trustees. So I think that that is a mistake.”

DeWine wouldn’t identify any other concerns he has about Senate Bill 83, saying only, “We’ll do one today.”

Senate Bill 83 passed the Senate on Wednesday with only Republicans voting for it. Three Republicans joined all seven Senate Democrats in opposing it. It’s now in the House.

State Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) has suggested the shorter trustee terms could end up in his chamber’s version of the state budget.

Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said she wants to find out more about the shorter trustee terms idea and how it would affect universities. But she said she has “put all of my policy staff on alert to look for elements of this bill in the budget; first, so we can identify them if they’re there, and second, to push back.”