Senate Bill Could End Professor Tenure in TX

Texas State Capitol is the capitol building and seat of government of Texas in downtown Austin, Texas, USA | Image by Wangkun Jia, Shutterstock

Tenure for college and university professors could be coming to an end in Texas if State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) gets his way following his filing of a bill that would do away with “any type of permanent employment status” at higher education institutions.

SB 18, if enacted, would end a roughly 80-year-old practice in the Lone Star State intended to “safeguard academic freedom,” according to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

“When faculty members can lose their positions because of their speech, publications, or research findings, they cannot properly fulfill their core responsibilities to advance and transmit knowledge,” reads the trade association’s website.

Creighton criticized the practice in a press release back in March when he first filed the bill:

“SB 18 eliminates the costly, unnecessary and antiquated burden of tenure at Texas public colleges and universities … [O]ver the years, the practice has devolved into a costly perk that is detrimental to innovative research and quality instruction and if abused, used as an attack against the brand of the university itself.

“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unprecedented endowments, bloated administrative costs and ballooning tuition it is time for lawmakers to reevaluate an outdated practice that guarantees lifetime employment at taxpayer expense.”

Texas is not the only state where lawmakers are considering reforming tenure practices or banning them outright. Florida, Louisiana, and Ohio have all either enacted laws or are considering legislation to institute post-tenure reviews, which allow for the firing of professors who are deemed “unsatisfactory” in their performance, USA Today reported.

An analysis of SB 18 by the AAUP argued that the legislation was a bid by Republicans in the state to squelch, stating, “[T]his can be seen as the latest development in a decades-long effort by the right to assert control over higher education. Efforts to end tenure are also efforts to eliminate academic freedom and therefore represent a threat not only to higher education but to democratic society.”

Some of this sentiment was echoed by Andrea Gore, a neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas at Austin. In an opinion piece authored for the Houston Chronicle, she wrote:

“Without tenure, and with restrictions on what content is or is not allowed to be taught and discussed on our campuses, the best and the brightest faculty — the research groundbreakers — will go to other states. Is that what we want for research in our state, and for Texas’s students?”

It is unclear whether SB 18 has enough support at the Capitol to become law, but other bills have also been filed that would transform or eliminate tenure, signaling the appetite for some in Austin to reform the state’s higher education system.

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  1. Concerned Voter

    I’m 100% in support of this bill. Maybe place a carve out in the bill that professors in formal science and natural science fields can hold tenure. Those in liberal arts programs such as social sciences and humanities cannot be protected by tenure.

    • Pap

      Why would tenure be important even in formal and natural sciences? If they’re good at their jobs, no one is going to fire them, and tenure doesn’t keep them from voluntarily leaving.

  2. RSW

    Tenure is an outdated artifact of the past which no longer works.

  3. Robert Egan

    Just another step down the road to where people who don’t conform to the religious view of the Texas government are expelled to other states. Be prepared for a brain drain of both so-called “good” Conservative and “bad” Liberal professors to other states. Why stay in TX when you can get tenure elsewhere?

  4. Pat

    What other industry provides a perk that when tenure is achieved one has a life time job? Let’s face the fact that this is just a job and nothing else. I have been in the communications field all my life, never worked in any other industry. I have worked along side PHDs and have been let go as the current project has co cluded. So if PHDed engineers can be fired so can a professor! I understand a professor passes along information and teaches new students on a given subject. But a professor normally does not build or contribute anything of substance to the world. They are like lawyers that preform a service. Tenure allows a teacher to go rogue and develop a god like syndrome, where they think they can do nothing wrong!!

  5. RiverKing

    The headline calls this a “House Bill” but the article talks about SB 18 (Senate Bill).

    Last I heard from another online source, SB 18 had been passed by the Senate and sent to the House. Might want to check with sources in the legislature before publishing obsolete information.

  6. Jay

    Anyone else think that it is odd that a group of people who do not believe in term limits, are telling universities that they cannot have tenure?
    aint that the kettle calling the pot black.

  7. Jim

    Why should college professors be able to hold a job for life no matter what they do or say with no accountability to anyone? No one else has this privilege in a job and the world seems to go on!

  8. Pap

    I gave a perfect example a couple of days ago of how tenure can go seriously wrong from first hand experience with an oral pathologist in a dental college, but I guess DX doesn’t want to post it??


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