AUSTIN, Texas — On Friday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick held a news conference announcing plans he's aiming to take in the 88th Legislative Session in response to a resolution passed by the University of Texas at Austin's Faculty Council this month, expressing support for educators to have the freedom to teach "truth in U.S. history and civics education."
At the conference, Patrick said he will be working on a bill to ban tenure for all new professor hires and allow universities to revoke tenure for professors who teach critical race theory, which he said should be grounds for firing.
According to Lt. Gov. Patrick, who is currently amid a campaign for reelection, the Texas Legislature has the ability to determine curriculums in school because they are elected by the people.
Patrick argued that the teaching of critical race theory suggests that white people are racist and that people of color are victims. He added that he stood with Black people during the time of segregation and that Americans should remember those times, but he believes critical race theory divides people and teaches them that they are either racist or a victim, which he says is inaccurate.
So, what exactly is critical race theory?
Purdue University defines it as "a theoretical and interpretive mode that examines the appearance of race and racism across dominant cultural modes of expression." In its teachings, students may learn how victims of systemic racism are "affected by cultural perceptions of race" and how they could be able to represent themselves to "counter prejudice."
Critical race theory isn't taught in Texas public schools, but lawmakers did pass two bills in 2021 related to the concept. While neither specifically mentions critical race theory, both laws focus on how teachers talk about racism, history and current events.
The UT faculty council approved a resolution earlier this month defending the freedom to teach about race, gender and critical race theory. It states that educators, not politicians, should make decisions about what they teach and supports the rights and "academic freedom of faculty to design courses, curriculum and pedagogy, and to conduct related scholarly research." The council also called for UT President Jay Hartzell and Provost Sharon Wood to reject attempts to restrict the university curriculum.
The resolution sparked the following tweet from Patrick:
"I will not stand by and let looney Marxist UT professors poison the minds of young students with Critical Race Theory. We banned it in publicly funded K-12 and we will ban it in publicly funded higher ed. That’s why we created the Liberty Institute at UT."
This led faculty members to demand an explanation from university leadership about the Liberty Institute, arguing that Patrick's statements directly contradict what they were previously told by administrators last fall.
“Either the lieutenant governor is just speaking out of school, or he’s reinforcing the very narrative that has provoked individual concerns last fall,” Texas law professor Steve Vladeck told The Texas Tribune. “It’s incumbent upon the university to provide a full-throated update and … explain to faculty members, to whom assurances were made in September, why the lieutenant governor is wrong. Or if he isn’t, why that attitude is acceptable?”
Faculty Council President Domino Perez reported that staff were told the idea for the institute originated with faculty on campus. A report from the Tribune last August shows that UT leaders were working with private donors and Lt. Gov. Patrick to create the institute as a center “dedicated to the study and teaching of individual liberty, limited government, private enterprise and free markets.”
Meanwhile, public documents show that university leaders wanted the center to bring "intellectual diversity" to campus, and two proposals provided by Patrick's office suggested that those involved in the project had political motivations to launch it.
After Patrick's conference, State Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton), a Democrat running against Patrick, released the following statement:
"As a member of the Aggie caucus, I stand with the University of Texas and its resolution supporting the teaching of Critical Race Theory.
"What Dan Patrick is doing is cow manure. The only manure that UT has comes from Bevo and even that is more useful than Dan Patrick - it's great fertilizer for bluebonnets.
"Educators want to teach the truth and students want to learn it. Erasing the uncomfortable realities of our past denies Texas children the knowledge they need to understand the present and work towards a better future. I appreciate those who stand up against school censorship designed to divide students in our classrooms and silence their voices. We will continue our fight to create safe, inclusive learning environments for all students."
Texas House Democratic Caucus First Vice Chair Toni Rose also released a statement:
“Today was just the latest series of attacks by Texas Republicans on our educators and students. Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, public schools have faced some of the most difficult years in the history of education. For Lt. Gov. Patrick to add to that burden for the sake of his own personal culture war against the teaching of what he refers to as ‘Critical Race Theory’ is unconscionable.
“Our public universities are the keystone of Texas’ economic prowess. As Republicans like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick make it their mission to undermine public trust in our education system, they will chase away the best and brightest students and educators our state needs to remain great.
“Our Republican leadership must stop making major policy decisions based on what’s politically convenient for them, and instead put Texas educators, students and families first.”
Patrick additionally released a written statement following the conference:
"Tenured professors must not be able to hide behind the phrase 'academic freedom,' and then proceed to poison the minds of our next generation. I am outraged by the University of Texas at Austin's Faculty Council's 41-5 vote on a resolution in support of teaching critical race theory, and I am further outraged that the Faculty Council told the legislature and the UT Board of Regents that it is none of their business what they taught. Universities across Texas are being taken over by tenured, leftist professors, and it is high time that more oversight is provided.
"During the upcoming 88th Legislative Session, one of my priorities will be eliminating tenure at all public universities in Texas. To address already-tenured professors, we will change tenure reviews from every six years to annually. Additionally, we will define teaching Critical Race Theory in statute as a cause for a tenured professor to be dismissed.
"The Texas Senate will also take up giving Boards of Regents more authority to address issues of tenure."
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