University Academics’ Tenure is the Focus of Conservative Concerns

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked Texas universities to renounce critical race theory. UT educators adopted a resolution attempting to defend their rights to teach about race.

Patrick interpreted it as “go to hell.” Patrick, a Republican, stated it was time to hold academics accountable by attacking a top reward.

Patrick indicated in November that tenure should be examined.

Conservative authorities in red states agree. In at least six jurisdictions, legislatures or state oversight committees have reviewed tenure’s indefinite academic positions to rein in liberal intellectuals.

As legislators return to statehouses, tenure advocates expect additional attacks.

Needs To Be Controlled

Conservative examination of race, gender, and sexuality instruction has spread to higher education. Budget factors also matter. Even liberal states have less tenured academics. As state funding diminishes, universities hire more adjuncts.

Conventionally, tenured academics can only be fired for wrongdoing or financial hardship. Tenure advocates argue it’s essential to academic independence, especially as disagreement over history and identity intensifies.

Irene Mulvey, head of the American Association of University Professors, noted that without tenure, academics might avoid uncomfortable classroom discussions.

Even tenured academics may not be employed in challenging economic and political circumstances. Emporia State University in Kansas terminated 33 tenured academics this autumn, citing a pandemic emergency procedure to balance finances.

Emporia State’s only journalism professor, Max McCoy, wrote a piece that started with, “I may be fired for writing this…” before discovering this would be his last year teaching.

He called it a cleansing. All sacked academics were liberal Democrats, he noted.

Gwen Larson, a university representative, claimed instructors weren’t targeted. She said the changes followed a study of shifting academic demand and “where we needed to go.”

Conservatives’ view of colleges and universities has changed, says PEN America’s Jeremy Young. From 2015 to 2019, the number of Republicans and independent-leaning conservatives who believed higher education hurt the country rose from 37% to 59%.

In Texas, university officials believe tenure legislation could hamper recruiting, says Jeff Blodgett, chairman of the Texas Conference of AAUP.

Pat Heintzelman, head of the Texas Faculty Association, said some individuals aren’t applying for teaching positions.

Not Linked To Academic Independence

In Florida, a federal court banned the “Stop WOKE” Act, supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis, in November. The governor’s office appealed the injunction. Compliance with the statute would be a criterion for assessing tenured academics in a Board of Governors review process.

DeSantis doubts that tenure guarantees academic independence. It’s difficult for those with different opinions to be tenured, he stated in April.

Conservatives oppose tenure for several reasons. Marc Stein, an SFSU history professor who has written on part-time teachers, says not everyone is worried about “woke higher education.”

Sol Gittleman, a longtime provost of Tufts University, said tenure soared after World War II when the GI Bill boosted enrollment. Gittleman expects tenure to disappear beyond the top 100 schools and institutions in the following decades.

This article appeared in NewsHouse and has been published here with permission.