Marking the passage of yet another legislative priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Texas Senate advanced legislation that would end the practice of awarding tenure to professors in state-funded colleges and universities.
Senate Bill 18 by State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe) passed the upper chamber in a bipartisan 18-11 vote Thursday, with Democrat César Blanco (El Paso) joining Republicans in support of the measure.
While the legislation would bar public schools from awarding tenure going forward, it would not strip tenure from those who have already received it.
“1, 2, 3, 4!”
The bill is part of a legislative package that aims to address concerns about social engineering and political indoctrination in the state’s institutions of higher education. On Friday, Patrick issued a statement praising the Senate for passing “the strongest pushback on woke policies in higher education nationwide.”
— Office of the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (@LtGovTX) April 21, 2023
For far too long, academia has been poisoned by woke policies and faculty seeking to indoctrinate our students. Professors did not believe we would push back on their advances, but they were wrong. Students should be taught how to think critically, not what to think.
The Texas Senate has now drawn a line in the sand and stated loud and clear that these woke policies will not be tolerated in Texas. I look forward to the swift passage of these bills through the Texas House.
Senate Bill 15 by State Sen. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston) would prohibit biological males attending a public college or university from participating in an athletic competition against women. Notably, the ban does not apply to private institutions.
House Bill 23 by State Rep. Valoree Swanson (R–Spring) is a similar measure filed in the Texas House. Despite having the support of 82 members, it has yet to receive a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee, which is chaired by former Democrat State Rep. Todd Hunter (R–Corpus Christi).
Senate Bill 16 by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola) would ban the teaching of critical race theory at state-funded institutions of higher education, and Senate Bill 17 by Creighton would prohibit them from implementing DEI hiring practices.
Each of the three bills passed solely with Republican support.
Senate Bill 18
When Senate Bill 18 came up for a vote, Creighton argued that the reputation of the state’s public colleges has suffered in recent years due to “the actions of a few vocal fringe tenured faculty.” He also suggested tenured faculty members don’t always pull their weight in terms of teaching time, adding, “What we’re trying to achieve is to make sure that productivity is maximized.”
State Sen. José Menéndez (D–San Antonio) asked Creighton if ending tenure would put Texas colleges and universities at a “competitive disadvantage” when it comes to attracting the best talent. Creighton responded that the move would actually provide more opportunities for “the best and the brightest” candidates, many of whom—including “some of our most diverse faculty”—are currently “bottlenecked out” from receiving lucrative contracts.
“What we’re talking about here is scarcity of higher education institution dollars that are publicly funded and spreading those dollars out to benefit more of the best and brightest professors, not just a select few,” Creighton explained.
He also pointed out that Cambridge, Oxford, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center don’t offer tenure but are among the most prestigious higher education institutions in the world.
Democrat Sens. Judith Zaffirini (Laredo) and Sarah Eckhardt (Austin), however, claimed the legislation would stifle academic freedom, and Eckhardt said the recently approved package of higher education bills would usher in an “era of intellectual isolationism in Texas that will erode the standing of our universities in the nation and in the world.”
Democrat César Blanco (El Paso), on the other hand, said he would support the measure because he believes it would create more career opportunities for minorities.
Upon the bill’s passage, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick denounced the entitlement exhibited by some tenured professors within the past year. He specifically cited a resolution adopted by the University of Texas Faculty Council in February 2022, which stated that they rejected any attempts to “restrict or dictate the content of university curriculum on any matter, including matters related to racial and social justice,” and that they would “stand firm against any and all encroachment on faculty authority including by the legislature or the Board of Regents.”
Tenured university professors are the only people in our society that have the guarantee of a job. Over the past year, it has become abundantly clear that some tenured faculty at Texas universities feel immune to oversight from the legislature and their respective board of regents. These professors claim ‘academic freedom’ and hide behind their tenure to continue blatantly advancing their agenda of societal division.
It is shocking that these professors, who live inside a bubble, genuinely believe they are not accountable to anyone. That is not how the real world works. Of course they are accountable to the Texas Legislature and their board of regents. This behavior must not be tolerated.
At the time of publishing, only Senate Bill 15 had been referred to a House committee. The legislative session ends May 29.