New chancellor of higher education discusses policy with University Senate
The new leadership in the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) discussed the priorities of Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration and answered questions from students and faculty last week at the February University Senate meeting.
Randy Gardner, chancellor, and Mike Duffey, senior vice chancellor, of the Ohio Department of Higher Education discussed issues ranging from funding to mental health services to campus free speech for nearly an hour at the senate meeting in Drinko Hall.
“I do appreciate The Ohio State University is not just a Columbus institution or even a regional campus institution. It has impact on every county in the state,” Gardner said.
Gardner said the DeWine administration’s higher education priorities would be clearer when the state budget is released later this month. He said the new governor showed both a willingness to listen and to act with a sense of urgency.
“I believe we need to make education, particularly higher education, a higher priority,” Gardner said. “I’m hoping we can make a difference on that issue.”
William Sullivan, a student senator and public management, leadership, and policy major, asked about support from ODHE for mental health services.
Gardner said support for mental health services was one of the issues DeWine spoke about on the campaign trail. He said it is linked to student safety at the high school level and applies to higher education as well.
“One of the issues for high school security and safety is also support for mental health and counseling,” Gardner said. “We’re definitely thinking about that and considering that.”
“I would say in the budget you are going to see language relating to mental health. I don’t know that we want greater specificity than that, but it will relate to funding for mental health at the higher education level,” he said.
Mike Hogan, a faculty senator and associate professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Science, asked about bills regulating free speech on college campuses.
Duffey and Gardner noted the administration does not have an official opinion on bills currently in the legislature, but that would likely change as the bills progress in the General Assembly. Duffey said there are some core principles to consider in the free speech debate.
“I don’t think there should be freespeech zones in the state of Ohio. Whatever the law is for the Statehouse lawn, there should be parity with the university campuses,” he said. “We, of course, want to encourage the university community to foster that kind of free speech debate on both sides of the spectrum.”
Mathematics Professor Alan Loper asked how ODHE views the university’s mission to support the search for knowledge for the sake of greater understanding versus the need to invest in research that has a direct and practical application.
“I think you can simultaneously support both tracks,” Gardner said. “I think it’s an all-of-the-above approach. I don’t think we have to pick and choose. I think our universities are so valuable that we can be at both ends of the spectrum.”
Both Duffey and Gardner said they would be available and accessible to answer concerns or support improvement in the state’s higher education policy. Duffey said they want to make Ohio State and the universities in Ohio able to compete with the best in the country.
“This is another example of how important this institution is to helping us make the best policies possible,” Gardner said. “I look forward to the partnership. This doesn’t end today; this begins anew today.”