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New bill could eliminate tenure status at public Texas universities

Senate Bill 18 would eliminate tenure for any new hires at public colleges and universities in Texas after Sept. 1.

AUSTIN, Texas — A new senate bill, if put into law, could affect faculty at public universities and colleges throughout Texas.

Senate Bill 18 was filed by State Sen. Brandon Creighton, who is chair of the Senate subcommittee on higher education. 

According to Dr. Michael Hirsch, professor of sociology and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Huston-Tillotson University, when faculty are hired on a tenure track, they're basically on probation. Those professors are given a number of years to prove themselves to be good instructors, researchers and productive in terms of community engagement. 

"If they meet the criteria set forth by the university within 3 to 6 years, they were given tenure, which basically is a lifetime appointment. Now you can be removed if you're a tenured professor for malfeasance, immoral acts, dereliction of duty, but otherwise is a guaranteed position throughout the course of your career," said Hirsch. 

According to the bill, public Texas universities and colleges "may not grant an employee of the institution tenure or any type of permanent employment status." 

The bill did state that if passed, it would not apply to faculty members or other employees who were awarded tenure, or any type of permanent employment status, before Sept. 1, 2023. This would include those that have been employed with any institution by or under contract on Sept. 1, 2023. 

"What the likely outcome will be is that we'll have fewer applications to the public institutions in Texas. The best talent, whether it's in economics, engineering, computer science, biology, sociology across disciplines, the best talent is looking for stability for themselves and their family. They'll seek those positions at those universities that will provide them that opportunity to gain that stability," said Hirsch. 

In a news release, Creighton called tenure, "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." 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has also been in support of the bill to end professor tenure for all new hires at Texas public universities and colleges.  

Hirsch says if SB 18 is passed, Texas will most likely see the quality of the faculty decline through time because the bill protects the tenure for faculty members who already have it. For faculty who are also coming from other countries, they will go to other universities throughout the country that are going to provide them the opportunity or the stability that tenure provides. 

"It's going to advantage private institutions because now we're going to have a wider talent pool looking for positions with us here at Houston-Tillotson, but also providing private institutions across the state of Texas," said Hirsch.

SB18 has advanced through committees and will now move to a full vote on the senate floor. If passed, the bill will go into effect on Sept. 1.

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