Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
Colleges must fight racism, COVID-19 and hazing
On campuses throughout Ohio and across the country, “back to school” this fall promises to be as fraught as it ever has been, and with good reason.
Keeping students safe from exposure to coronavirus will be a big focus. The virus is, after all, what closed campuses prematurely in the spring and denied most graduates the traditional pomp around receiving their long-anticipated diplomas and certificates.
Eradicating racism also must be an ongoing top priority. The horrifying awareness raised by the May 25 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer cannot and should not be forgotten. From afar, students are petitioning for change on their campuses.
Accordingly, the job of preparing students to accept the mantle of adult responsibilities and future leadership would not be complete without teaching them, whatever their chosen fields of study, to build a more inclusive culture that nurtures the potential of all citizens and does not discriminate on the shamefully shallow basis of skin color.
And some institutions of higher education will be involved in all that goes into welcoming a new leader — Kristina M. Johnson as the 16th president of Ohio State University and David L. Kaufman as interim president of Capital University.
There is yet another priority that colleges and universities must address, and that is the very real danger that also threatens students’ well-being and their very lives.
That is the threat of harm from hazing.
We hope that the cases still working their way through the criminal justice system in Athens will help keep the danger of hazing a top concern with Ohio University administrators and faculty — and for all college and university administrators everywhere.
The fourth of nine people charged in connection with the hazing incident that resulted in the death of Collin Wiant pleaded guilty in May. It was a painful but necessary reminder that a freshman from Dublin headed off to college full of hope and high expectations for fall semester in 2018 but was dead by Nov. 12 after collapsing in an off-campus house associated with the fraternity he was pledging, Sigma Pi.
An autopsy found that Wiant died of asphyxiation due to nitrous oxide ingestion after he inhaled a canister of the gas, known as a whippit. Various drug and other criminal charges were brought against fraternity members and their associates after The Dispatch published a six-part investigation, “Broken Pledge,” that detailed the hazing and death of Wiant.
Other colleges and universities in Ohio and across the country are not immune from hazing, and it is not exclusive to Greek organizations. It continues to be revealed also in the cultures of athletics and marching bands — or anywhere that individuals perceive themselves to be entitled and somehow above others who might seek inclusion.
In that way, it is wise for colleges and universities, as they focus on the coronavirus pandemic, to also crack down on cruel behaviors rooted in the cultural cancers of racism and hazing.
All deserve attention from university authorities working to keep students safe — on campus and off.
Relief from unexpected medical bills
Ohio consumers could see the end of those nasty surprise medical bills under the terms of a bill moving through the General Assembly.
This is a good plan, particularly as many Ohioans will face medical expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the burden of unexpected, often hefty, medical bills was an issue that lawmakers needed to solve.
More and more consumers complain that they have received a bill for medical treatment that they had thought was covered by their insurance. In some cases, the bills amount to thousands of dollars that patients can’t afford.
In many instances, these bills stem from cases in which patients end up unwittingly going out of their approved insurance network.
While no federal legislation addresses the issue, states have taken on unexpected medical expenses with at least 28 of them passing laws to regulate surprise medical bills.
The Ohio House of Representatives has approved a new version of a bill aimed at curbing unexpected medical bills that is expected to get the support from Gov. Mike DeWine that a previous version lacked.
House Bill 388 calls for out-of-network providers to send bills to patients’ insurance companies.
After getting a bill from an out-of-network provider for one of their insured patients, the insurance companies can then negotiate by offering a different amount. The provider seeking payment can accept the insurance company’s offer or negotiate further. If the bargaining fails, the matter can be resolved with arbitration.
Governor DeWine vetoed a previous version of the plan, which was included in the two-year state budget. The governor said he had concerns it would be a hardship for health providers who might not get paid or that insurance companies would shift the expenses to other customers.
The new version, which spells out the negotiating process between providers and insurers, is expected to get more support from the governor and from insurance and health care companies.
What matters most, however, is whether the bill will put a stop to the sticker shock of medical bills for patients who weren’t expecting them. Ohio consumers have waited long enough for relief and the state Senate and Governor DeWine should embrace this compromise solution.
Time to take steps to weed out bad cops
The majority of law enforcement officers and deputies are good men and women who use force only when there is no alternative. They take “protect and serve” seriously. They should not have to serve alongside bullies who view badges as licenses to harm other people — and sometimes kill them.
Ohio legislators, some admitting they should have done something about bad cops years ago, finally have a package of ideas. It was put together by two lawmakers with expertise — state Reps. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, who worked as a Cincinnati police officer; and Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, who served as a county sheriff for 10 years.
“It breaks our hearts that good officers are out there on the front lines, defending the actions of bad officers,” Plummer said. Among their ideas are hiring more minority officers, requiring psychological testing for new law enforcement personnel, creating a state database of officers who commit violent offenses, and taking the disciplinary process out of law enforcement agencies’ hands. Instead, arbitrators or judges would handle the task.
The two legislators said their plan is to “weed out the bad actors.”
Good. The Abrams-Plummer plan should be considered immediately by Ohio legislators.
The sooner safeguards are put in place, the better.
Ohio lawmakers should consider police reform plan
The Warren Tribune Chronicle
People like Derek Chauvin need to be kept out of law enforcement. When they manage to elude safeguards with that as a goal, they need to be identified and booted out of the profession.
And when law enforcement brutality does occur, it simply must be punished swiftly and severely.
All that is as obvious to the overwhelming majority of police officers, sheriffs’ deputies and others involved in law enforcement as it is to other Americans. That overwhelming majority in law enforcement are good men and women who use force only when there is no alternative.
They should not have to serve alongside brutes who view badges as licenses to harm other people — and sometimes kill them.
Chauvin, of course, is the ex-Minneapolis officer who has been charged with murdering George Floyd. Three other former members of the Minneapolis force have been charged with lesser offenses because they did not stop Chauvin from killing Floyd.
Chauvin’s callous, almost casual viciousness, seen on a widely circulated video, has united Americans to an extent seen very, very rarely. Shock, outrage, burning anger and a demand that something be done about people like Chauvin are common reactions to the video.
Now what? This is not the first time there have been calls for law enforcement reforms. And, though there have been some attempts at that, they have not been adequate.
Some city councils already have taken action such as banning use of choke-holds by law enforcement officers. Legislators in many states have discussed more sweeping reforms.
Here in Ohio, two lawmakers whose careers included stints in law enforcement are introducing a package of measures. Those legislators are Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, who worked as a Cincinnati police officer; and Phil Plummer, R-Dayton, who served as a county sheriff for 10 years.
Among their ideas are hiring more minority officers, requiring psychological testing for new law enforcement personnel, creating a state database of officers who commit violent offenses, and taking the disciplinary process out of law enforcement agencies’ hands. Instead, arbitrators or judges would handle the task.
The two legislators said their plan is to “weed out the bad actors.”
Similar ideas are being considered in many other states.
Good. The Abrams-Plummer plan should be considered immediately by Ohio legislators. The sooner safeguards are put in place, the better.
Let’s stay safe during the coronavirus summer in Licking County
The Newark Advocate
The first 90 degree day of the year this past week put summer on the forefront of our minds.
The Black Lives Matter protests and the reopening of most Ohio businesses has almost made the ongoing coronavirus pandemic an afterthought.
But while the virus may be forgotten by many, it is not gone. New cases and new deaths are still being reported across the state and nation.
One of the biggest concerns is the lack of good information on how the novel virus spreads, and even the misinformation being spread about it.
Just this past week headlines across the globe announced that a World Health Organization official said the spread of the virus from asymptomatic carriers was “very rare.” That good news was quickly snuffed as the WHO the next day retracted that statement, saying it is too early to know exactly how the virus spreads.
As of Wednesday in Licking County, there were 285 known cases of the virus, which included 39 hospitalizations and 10 deaths. Of those cases, 127 people were classified as recovered.
We aren’t advocating people abandon all fun this summer, but we ask you enjoy these warm months with open eyes to the dangers of the disease. Take the precautions you feel are appropriate. Wear a mask when possible if going around large groups of people and have honest conversations with your friends about what type of activities are within your level of comfort.
It may be that coronavirus cases plummet or plateau during the summer and then begin to reemerge when the weather again turns cold, or something completely unexpected might happen. Unfortunately there is still frustratingly little known about the disease that has caused so many deaths and so much disruption to lives.
Of course, staying safe this summer goes beyond taking precautions against infection from the coronavirus. With the shutdown of numerous venues and cancellation of events across the community, there is the high possibility that people will take marking the summer into their own hands. We ask that you do it safely.
As people are forced to remain at home, sales of ATVs, kayaks and other recreational vehicles have increased. Such purchases can definitely add to summer fun, but should be done safely.
The closure of pools could lead to adults or children looking for anyplace to swim, including creeks and rivers. Four drownings were reported in the span of a few days in southwest Ohio.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has already noted that state parks and other outdoor places are experiencing higher than normal visits. They offered this sage advice: If you’re trying something outside for the first time, it’s important to do your research.
And the cancellation of local firework shows will undoubtedly lead to more Ohioans purchasing fireworks for their own shows. While this activity is technically illegal - we would be naive to think that is going to prevent people from doing so. At a minimum, be sure to read and follow the safety instructions.
The summer of 2020 will unquestionably be different than any we have experienced, but by taking some small steps, we can ensure it remains a safe and enjoyable one.