“Lt. Governor Dan Patrick proposes ending college tenure to fight critical race theory teachingswas first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that educates — and engages with — Texans about public policy, politics, government and issues in the world. statewide.
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lieutenant governor Dan Patrick said Friday he would push to end faculty tenure for all new hires at Texas public universities and colleges in a bid to crack down on faculty members who he says are “indoctrinating” students with lessons on critical race theory.
“Go to a private school, let them raise their own money to teach, but we’re not going to fund them,” said Patrick, who is running for re-election. “I’m not going to pay for this nonsense.”
Patrick, whose Senate oversight position allows him to lead the state’s legislative agenda, also proposed a change to state law that could make teaching critical race theory a ground for revocation of the mandate of professors who already have it. His announcement kicks off the next major fight in the Texas Capitol over how students learn about the history of race and racism in the United States.
Over the past year, conservatives have used “critical race theory” as a broad label to attack progressive teachings and books in colleges and K-12 schools that address race and gender.
Tenure is an indefinite appointment for college professors that can only be terminated in extraordinary circumstances. The academics said on Friday that the tenure was intended to protect the freedom of professors and scholars from exactly the type of politicization carried out by Patrick.
“This type of attack is precisely why we have tenure for professors,” said Michael Harris, a professor at Southern Methodist University studying higher education, who likened tenure to lifetime appointments given to federal judges. . “Political winds are going to blow at different times, and we want professors to follow the best data and theories to try to understand what’s going on in our world.”
On Friday, Patrick also proposed making the mandate review an annual event instead of something that happens every six years. At the press conference, he said his proposals already had the support of the state senator. Brandon CreightonR-Conroe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Higher Education.
In the last legislative session, Creighton introduced a bill that would have reduced tenure review periods to four years and expanded the grounds universities could revoke tenure to include sexual harassment, tax embezzlement, plagiarism, conduct involving moral turpitude and “other good causes”. This bill never came out of committee. No more than another bill which proposed removal of tenure from faculty members who bring civil suits against their students. Creighton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Patrick’s plan was quickly condemned by the American Association of University Teachers, the body that helped develop the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure which has been adopted by universities and colleges nationwide.
“There have always been attempts to interfere with higher education, but I have never seen anything as egregious as this attack,” said AAUP President Irene Mulvey. “This is an attempt to have government control over scholarships and education. It’s a complete disaster. I’ve never seen anything so bad.”
Mulvey said Patrick had a “fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of tenure” and that his definition of academic freedom was “wrong”.
The Texas Faculty Association also criticized the idea and argued that it would jeopardize the state’s future.
“The Lieutenant Governor’s job is to give our public educational institutions the support they need for student success, which means encouraging faculty and students to discuss theories and issues that some people might find uncomfortable,” TFA spokesperson Pat Heintzelman said. “Patrick, on the contrary, seems determined to ignore the First Amendment rights of faculty members and their students.”
According to federal data, about 53% of full-time faculty members at the University of Texas at Austin are tenured. About 40% of all full-time faculty at all public universities and health-related institutions were tenured in 2020.
Patrick said his latest priority is to respond to the UT-Austin faculty council after it passed a nonbinding resolution Monday reaffirming the academic freedom of instructors to teach on issues of racial justice and critical race theory.
“Legislative proposals and enactments seek to prohibit academic discussion of racism and related issues if the discussion would be ‘divisive’ or suggest ‘blame’ or cause ‘psychological distress,'” the resolution reads. “But do not recognize that these criteria… chill the ability of educators to exercise their academic freedom and use their expertise to make decisions about content and discussions that will serve educational purposes.”
A day after the resolution was passed, Patrick tweeted that he would continue the fight against teaching discipline in the next legislative session.
“I will not sit idly by and let the crackpot Marxist professors at UT poison the minds of young students with critical race theory,” Patrick wrote on Twitter. “We banned it in publicly funded K-12 and we will ban it in publicly funded higher education. That’s why we created the Liberty Institute at UT.
Patrick’s mention of the publicly funded Liberty Institute, a new center still in the planning stages at UT-Austin, also drew criticism from UT-Austin faculty. They said his comments to suggest lawmakers are behind the new center contradicts previous statements by university officials. On Friday, Patrick said he meant that the resolution passed by the faculty council is an example of why the university needs such an institute.
The proposal to end tenure would fundamentally change how Texas universities operate in terms of hiring, teaching, and research. Faculty members warn that it is likely to impose major challenges on Texas universities to recruit and retain researchers and scholars from across the country.
“Your top talent has a lot of options,” Harris said. “And if you’re hurting your ability to hire the best, you’re not going to. … I guarantee you there are university leaders across the country making a shopping list of who they will try to steal from the University of Texas if this comes to fruition.
Harris said even headlines offering to end the tenure could hurt Texas universities hiring faculty for the next year who might think twice about accepting a job at a public university.
In a statement, the first vice president of the Texas House Democratic Caucus criticized the plan.
“Our public universities are the backbone of Texas’ economic prowess,” the state representative said. Tony Rose, D-Dallas. “As Republicans like Lt. Governor Dan Patrick make it their mission to undermine public confidence in our education system, they will drive out the best and brightest students and educators our state needs to stay great.”
Andrea Gore, professor of pharmacy at UT-Austin, chair of the UT Advisory Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility, presented the initial resolution to the UT faculty council. She told the Tribune that she was shocked that a non-binding resolution passed by the council would elicit such a reaction.
“These resolutions are important because they allow us to assert our opinions and our rights as faculty members, but they normally do not elicit a response. In fact, they usually gather dust in the faculty council archives,” Gore wrote in an email to the Tribune. ” What is the [lieutenant governor’s] actions and words tell me is that he not only waited for the opportunity to ban ideas contrary to his own, but also prepared to attack tenure.
UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell remained silent on the issue. University spokesman JB Bird did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Tribune after Patrick’s press conference on Friday.
Domino Perez, president of the faculty council, said the council had no official comment but is awaiting a response from Hartzell on the plan.
Patrick fought last summer against critical race theory in K-12 schools. He said it teaches that “one race is better than another and that someone, because of their race or gender, is inherently racist, oppressive or sexist”. Academic experts have said that interpretation is a misrepresentation of critical race theory.
Last year, Governor Greg Abbott signed two laws that dictate how teachers can discuss race in the classroom. Although neither used the phrase “critical race theory,” lawmakers who backed the measures called the legislation an anti-critical race theory.
Senate Bill 3 states that a “teacher shall not be compelled to discuss a widely debated and currently controversial matter of public policy or social affairs.” The law does not define what is a controversial issue. If teachers discuss these topics, they should “explore this topic objectively and without political bias.”
The act also contains provisions relating to the teaching of the history of slavery in America, including that slavery may not be taught as contributing to the “true foundation of the United States” and that “with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery, and racism are nothing but deviations, betrayals, or breaches of the genuine founding principles of the United States, which include freedom and equality.
Disclosure: Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Austin financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors . Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune‘journalism. Find a suit list here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Grandstand at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/02/18/dan-patrick-texas-tenure-critical-race-theory/.
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