When Asked about Holocaust Deniers, Ohio Sen. Cirino Said Colleges 'Should be About Accepting Even Views That are Uncomfortable'

“No one should be shouted down, as ridiculous as their views might be and as wrong as they might be. That’s now what our universities are about," Cirino said.

May 26, 2023 at 9:52 am
click to enlarge State Sen. Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland, speaks in favor of SB21 during the Ohio Senate session, Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. - Photo: Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal
Photo: Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal
State Sen. Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland, speaks in favor of SB21 during the Ohio Senate session, Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.

Ohio state Sen. Jerry Cirino, R-Kirtland, danced around a question about college professors interacting with a student with “a dissenting view” of the Holocaust on May 24 during the House Higher Education Committee Meeting. 

State Rep. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, asked Cirino, “If a student had a dissenting view about the Holocaust, which there is a very active denial group out there, would the professor be obliged to agree with the student and could the professor take a side on the Holocaust?”

According to a 2020 study of millennial and Gen Z adults from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), 23% of those who responded believed the Holocaust was a myth, had been exaggerated or weren’t sure.

Cirino said he has received this question many times since introducing Senate Bill 83, a massive higher education bill that would have wide-ranging impacts on college campuses.

“I think Holocaust deniers are off the charts,” Cirino said before proceeding to answer what he would do as a college professor in that situation. 

“I would expect the professor to not shout that person down and throw him out of the classroom or embarrass them in front of their other students. I would expect the professor to come down on the side of what is history,” he said. 

He said professors should lay the facts out clearly. 

“No one should be shouted down, as ridiculous as their views might be and as wrong as they might be. That’s now what our universities are about. Our universities should be about accepting even views that are uncomfortable.”

Weinstein, who is Jewish, has had protestors previously show up to his house carrying a flag that read “kneel for the cross.”

“If there’s a professor who doesn’t (believe the Holocaust happened) I think it’s an incredibly slippery slope that you are setting for our universities and I think it’s incredibly dangerous,” he said. “I think it’s a shame that you couldn’t unequivocally say here that ‘No, we should not have Holocaust denial being allowed as part of a legitimate debate in a classroom which is what you just described.”

SB 83, which passed the Senate last week, would, among other things, affirm higher education institutions have full intellectual diversity and have intellectual diversity protections. It would also require college students to take certain American history courses, professor tenure would be based around “bias,” Board of Trustees terms would be reduced from nine years down to four, and university staff and employees would be banned from striking.

This story was originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.


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