Priority legislation in the Texas Senate to end lifetime tenure contracts at state universities is receiving pushback from an unsurprising source: college professors.
As one of his top legislative priorities, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called for ending tenure for professors following the passage of a pro-critical race theory resolution by the University of Texas at Austin’s faculty Senate last year.
“They’ve gone too far,” said Patrick, vowing that the state would not pay for the indoctrination.
When he unveiled his 30 priority bills at the beginning of the legislative session, he included Senate Bill 18 by State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R–Conroe), the chair of the Senate’s Education Committee.
As filed, the bill would prohibit public institutions of higher education in Texas from granting any type of tenure or permanent employment status to new hires.
In his analysis of the bill, Creighton noted that current tenured professors could only be terminated for “justifiable cause or under extreme circumstances.”
Instead, the proposal allows for the governing boards of colleges and universities to establish “an alternate system of tiered employment status for faculty members provided that the system clearly defines each position and requires each faculty member to undergo an annual performance.”
Even this concession wasn’t enough, as college faculty showed up to testify against the bill, claiming it would lead to a mass exodus of professors from the state’s schools.
“If we take tenure away in higher education in the state of Texas … We’re not in a vacuum; it is going to be there at other places in other states and the private sector. And it’s going to be the best faculty who are going to leave. The worst faculty will have a harder time finding other jobs,” one professor told the committee, who noted that she receives employment offers from universities in other states.
State Sen. Phil King (R–Weatherford) pushed back, however, noting that tenure arrangements are unheard of outside of academia and traditional employment contracts should be able to suffice.
“That happens in the private sector, too. And then what happens is that employee goes back and says, ‘Hey, I got this great offer,’ and then you end up negotiating a better deal, or you leave,” said King.
The proposal was also opposed by the Texas Faculty Association; the Texas Community College Teacher Association; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who claimed ending tenure would impact minorities disproportionately.
The bill was left pending in the Higher Education Subcommittee.