Ohio’s Public Higher Education System: Changes in Due Process and Free Speech Law
In 2022, Ohio lawmakers passed SB 135, a new law that brought about significant changes to public higher education within the state. Two of the major components of this law include modifications to due process rights for students and adjustments to free speech rights for faculty and students.
Due Process Rights
The new law, implemented in July 2022, imposes specific provisions regarding how disciplinary action should be communicated by colleges and universities to their students. This rule applies to all public institutions for higher learning within Ohio State. Private institutions are not under obligation to follow these regulations.
Although the legislature did not explicitly require schools to publicize the newly established policies, Ohio University (OU), the oldest publicly chartered university in Ohio, provides a good illustration of how an institution may choose to integrate these laws into its guidelines. The university includes standards for notification on student discipline as part of its Code of Conduct covering not only individual students but also organizations facing allegations of misconduct.
A mandatory community standards conference is held initially before proceeding with either an administrative or university hearing board depending on the offenses gravity. During such cases, written notification must be given concerning:
– Summary of Complaint
– Rights & Responsibilities
– Warning for more serious violations resulting in suspension or expulsion
Regarding administrative hearings or university hearing board processes, they must take place promptly based on “a reasonable period” after the initial conference with notifications on:
– Date & Location of Hearing
– Statement of Charges
– Rights & Responsibilities
– Name(s) Of Hearing Officer(s) In An Administrative Hearing
Right To Appeal
As required by AB 135 legislation for Ohio University’s Code of Conduct, information on a student’s right to appeal is provided. Notably, sexual misconduct charges have their section set apart from other different types.
Other Forms Of Appeals must be made within five working days in writing to explain why the applicant does not agree with the original hearing’s outcome beyond mere disposition, such as imbalanced sanctions or new-found information that was unavailable earlier on or during the hearing. The institution must give timely results of the appeal.
Overall, whether other public learning institutions will adjust some specifics and where they will publish these details may differ. Ohio University provides a good example of how Ohio State schools intend to incorporate these recent changes based on existing policies.
Amendments To Free Speech Rights
AB 135 also made changes to policies around faculty and student free speech rights. In August 2022, following closely after new state laws were established, Ohio State University (OSU)’s Board of Trustees created a provisional free speech policy for OSU whose amendment match that of private institutions.
The law confirms that colleges and public universities are now allowed to adopt any restrictions on free speech other than those contained within their guidelines under First Amendment protection. Several examples are given of limitations schools can implement; two include:
– Teachers may impose content limits reasonably linked to their instructional purposes.
– The rule cannot be interpreted as allowing a student’s right to disrupt pre-arranged or reserved activities in traditional public forums
While it remains unclear if schools will use any of these suggestions or not, OSU has temporarily put into action one policy solely designed towards meeting legislation requirements. The improved edition is likely to detail how staff handles claims alleging violations concerning freedom of expression.
New Complaint Process
Now legally required in Ohio, all public higher educational institutions must set up framework for community members’ disclosure mechanism in cases where employees violate free-speech law statutes. Such offenses include subjecting students to lower grades due solely to their expressed opinions disregarding scholarly performance standards and relevance.
Each respective college or university should undertake investigations regarding every raised complaint followed by hearings through which any concluded offenses arising out of such complaints then proceed before an individual institution’s board trustees who will determine sanctions to mitigate against future reoccurrences.
Finally, public colleges and universities in Ohio must provide an annual report to the state’s Department of Higher Education documenting all submitted complaints that each institution investigated during a particular year while detailing how they were handled from the onset of investigation throughout the resolution process.
Concerns About AB 135
During hearings and debate, some groups raised objections over specific clauses within the new law. In terms of student speech rights, some potential shortcomings include:
– Students have no protection against harassing speech.
– The absence of regulations limiting colleges from punishing students for speech made outside school in their capacity as private individuals
In addition, Faculty and staff’s inclusion together with students raised issues regarding power balances between two sets of persons with different expectations. Inevitably addressing free speech concerns may lead to disciplinary action consequences far-reaching into academic institutions potentially not previously seen.
Understanding The New Law
A consensus on how this new law will impact Ohio students, faculty members, and administrative staff still isn’t clear since academic institutions are still trying to adjust fully their policies to adhere to these new laws heading into the 2022-2023 academic year. Clarity is expected due to a formalized notification procedure prescribed for it concerning disciplinaries.
However, rules guiding free speech territories remain ambiguous until longer studies reveal its full implications. Engaging a qualified nationwide legal advisor defending academic staff or student rights within higher learning institutions is critical at this point.
If you currently face any disciplinary processes emanating from charges under Ohio’s new laws affecting your education service delivery or employment status; engage proficient educational attorneys at Spodek Law Group (212-300-5196) or online immediately!