A bill that could end tenure for college professors in the state will be getting a hearing in the Texas House Higher Education Committee next week.
If enacted, Senate Bill 18 would prohibit higher education institutions from granting “an employee of the institution tenure or any type of permanent employment status” if they had not already been given that designation prior to September 1, 2023.
The bill, which has the support of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, was passed by the Texas Senate last month.
“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,” Patrick said in a press release.
As previously reported in The Dallas Express, State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) filed the bill and argued an economic case for its enactment.
“At a time when colleges and universities have unprecedented endowments, bloated administrative costs, and ballooning tuition, it is time for lawmakers to reevaluate an outdated practice that guarantees lifetime employment at taxpayer expense,” Creighton claimed.
Still, some college professors argue that banning tenure would negatively impact Texas’ ability to attract quality professors, emphasizing that tenure difficult to attain.
“It’s the equivalent of a seven-year-long job interview,” said Michael Harris, a Southern Methodist University education professor speaking with The Texas Tribune.
Harris claimed that the point of tenure is to minimize the responsiveness of faculty to the “political winds of the moment” so they can focus on serious, long-term, independent research.
“Tenure is, ‘I follow the data, I follow the research, and I teach the facts in reality.’ Tenure helps me make sure I can do that [without interference] from the Legislature, from the university administration, from my colleagues … [M]y research requires that kind of support. You just need that to be able to do the work we do,” Harris told The Texas Tribune.
Texas A&M business professor Adam Kolasinski, a self-identified conservative, also argued against the passage of SB 18, claiming that it would dissuade conservative researchers from taking jobs at Texas colleges.
“They’re just not going to come if they’re not assured tenure when they come. For some reason Republicans seem to think that only far left faculty are protected by tenure, but actually right of center faculty are protected by tenure as well. And in fact, that protection even matters more for us, given that we’re the minority on campus,” Kolasinski said, per KXAN.
“My belief is that if this bill passes, Texas A&M University will become a glorified community college. Because all productive researchers who can, will leave, and we will not be able to attract top researchers in any discipline. We will lose our status as a top research university,” Kolasinski alleged.
SB 18 is scheduled to be heard by the House Committee on Higher Education Monday, May 8.