A year ago, Texas Republican Governor Dan Patrick promised.
Patrick said he would end up in office at the state’s public universities and rid them of faculty who teach the now-controversial academic framework known as critical race theory. His pledge was in response to a resolution by the University of Texas at Austin faculty council that affirmed the need for academic freedom and their right to teach critical race theory and gender justice.
Tenure, a lifetime appointment, generally ensures that faculty will not be fired except in extraordinary circumstances, such as when a professor commits a crime or the college experiences a financial crisis. It also means protecting scholars who engage in potentially unpopular research—such as critical race theory.
Critics, meanwhile, say tenure allows poorly performing professors to keep their jobs.
In the year since Patrick’s opening salvo, the campaign to abolish tenure in other states has snowballed. It is part of a larger conservative movement to take closer control of college operations, such as curricular decisions.
Below are five state anti-tenure propositions. Some plans have advanced into legislation, but details of others have yet to emerge.
A Texas tenure ban for public colleges was proposed Friday in the Texas Senate. The ability of public institutions to grant tenure to faculty hired after September would end.
Patrick said in November that cancellation of possession is one of his legislative priorities for this year.
Patrick’s role as governor means he presides over the Texas Senate, giving him major influence over which bills are voted on.
Critics of the potential tenure ban said it would make it harder to recruit top workers.
AND Bill from North Dakota drew not only the displeasure of local faculties but also national criticism for some of its more restrictive elements.
The proposed legislation, which passed the state House of Representatives last month and now heads to the Senate, would create a tenure-track pilot program at two public institutions, Bismarck State College and Dickinson State University.
It would be mandated that professors in these faculties teach and advise such a number of students as would correspond to the average workload of the faculty.
More controversially, however, the bill would give college presidents more power to terminate tenure. At any time, the president could request a review of faculty members and then decide not to renew professors’ contracts if they are not meeting job expectations.
Such controls could not include faculty or a faculty committee, which critics see as a slap in the face of shared governance. The fired professors could appeal the decision to an official of the State Board of Higher Education.
Still, the bill was changed from the original, more radical iteration. Lawmakers removed the requirement that faculty members generate more income than the cost of employing them. They also introduced a provision forcing faculty members to avoid using social media to disparage their institutions “so as not to inadvertently harm” the college.
Last year, a Louisiana Republican and tenure skeptic helped push a resolution through the state legislature to create a committee to study the issue.
State Sen. Stewart Cathey told Higher Ed Dive last year that he found it productive to study controversial issues — such as tenure limits — before acting on them. It could sweep away preconceptions about the issues, he said. Cathey would head the legislative committee himself.
Except it won’t be. Cathey recently confirmed will not convene a task force at all, but rather propose new tenure legislation.
Cathey will not disclose the purpose of the law, only claim local news that he consulted with university representatives.
In an interview with Higher Ed Dive last year, he said he believed some professors were abusing tenure and using it to “do and say whatever they want.” He hypothesized about a public college professor who calls Republicans racist and white supremacist on social media but faces no retaliation.
His attorney can’t put up campaign signs in her yard, while his supposed professor can — “but that’s unfair, they’re both paid with state tax dollars,” Cathey said.
“I feel like there’s a degradation of the college experience, and a lot of it has to do with the political activities of professors,” Cathey said.
Stricter tenure rules were proposed last month in the new Florida Higher Education Legislative Packagewhich would enact Gov. Ron DeSantis’ vision for public colleges into law.
The bill would allow Florida universities to evaluate tenured professors at any time after they have secured status. An institution would need a “case” to initiate a review, which the legislation does not define.
Florida’s university system will soon vote on a policy to institute similar tenure-track professor evaluations, but they could only take place every five years.
AND of the law on the termination of the term of office at three public colleges in Iowa recently made a stop in the Legislature.
However, the saga does not have to end there. Law sponsor he told local media he hopes institutional leaders know lawmakers are “paying attention” to issues, including free speech, on their campuses.
Similar defeat occurred in 2021 with a state bill that would abolish tenure.