American Association
University Professors

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AAUP Home Page
(Letter to Texas House of Representatives)

February 14, 1997

To: Professors in Texas

From: Ruth Flower
AAUP National Office
Government Relations

Re: Legislative Alert

You've probably been monitoring the news about the Texas legislature's interest in ending tenure as we know it.

Last week, the Senate Finance Committee reported out a version of SB149, which will require all public universities and colleges to adopt system of comprehensive review of tenured faculty every six years. The outcome of these reviews could range from a pat on the back, to recommendations for professional development assistance, to dismissal. Dismissal is supposed to be for good cause only, but "good cause" is defined to include "incompetency" as well as "unsatisfactory performance." Performance is to be evaluated on the basis of "the professional responsibilities of the faculty member, such as teaching, research, service, patient care, and administration, in addition to other factors determined by the governing board."

This legislation is of national significance. If the Texas legislature adopts this bill as written, Texas will be the first state to connect mandatory post-tenure review to the end of tenure and the possible dismissal of a faculty member. Other states are watching; private colleges and universities are watching.

Texas professors need to speak up. Tenure is vastly misunderstood in the Texas legislature, and because of this misunderstanding, the legislature may do serious harm to the tenure system.

We urge you to contact your own representatives in the Texas House (we anticipate that the Senate will have voted on SB 149 by the time you receive this alert.) Your visit, phone call, fax, e-mail message or letter should include the following points:

Please call/ fax/ e-mail your message today. For reasons best known to the authors of the legislation, this matter is considered to be "an emergency" -- and so the legislation has been put on the fast track in the Texas legislature.

To contact a member of the Texas House of Representatives by telephone, call 512-463-3000 (the Speaker's Office) and ask to be transferred to your Representative's office. To fax a message, call your representative's office and ask for their individual fax number.

To e-mail, go to the Texas House Membership page. On your individual member's web page, his or her e-mail address will be listed.

To send mail, address your letter to:
Representative [ ]
Texas House of Representatives
Capitol Building
Austin, TX 78701

ALL members of the House of Representatives need to hear from professors about this issue. But the Committee on Higher Education will consider the bill first, and will have the best opportunity to alter or reject it. IF YOUR REPRESENTATIVE IS A MEMBER OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION COMMITTEE, PLEASE MAKE AN EXTRA EFFORT TO CONTACT HIM OR HER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Higher Education Committee members are:

Rep. Irma Rangel (Chair)
Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez
Rep. Jim Solis (Vice-Chair)
Rep. Henry Cuellar
Rep. Kevin Bailey
Rep. Bob Rabuck
Rep. Ted Kamel
Rep. Jim Dunnam
Rep. Elvira Reyna

Other Resources Available on Request from National Office:

AAUP letter to full House

OpEd piece submitted to Texas papers in late January

For copies of these documents, call 202-737-5900, extension 3042 or 3029.

Letter to Texas House of Representatives

February 14, 1997

Representative James E. "Pete" Laney
Speaker of the House
Texas House of Representatives
Capitol Building
Austin, TX 78701

Dear Speaker Laney:

The American Association of University Professors is very concerned about a bill that has been approved by the Senate Committee on Education, and which, presumably, is being referred to the House. The bill is S.B. 149, an Act Relating to Post Tenure Evaluation of Faculty Tenured at Certain Institutions of Higher Education.

The concepts addressed in this bill have been considered carefully by several deliberative and advisory bodies; we urge you to review and incorporate the results of those careful discussions in your own deliberations.

For example, the Regents of the University of Texas System adopted a carefully drafted policy last November, which distinguishes between routine periodic reviews of all faculty, and the more serious investigations undertaken when an individual tenured faculty member is charged with malfeasance or incompetence.

Academic tenure is not well understood. It is often mistaken for a lifetime job guarantee, with easy hours and no particular requirements of achievement. Since none of the rest of us get that kind of guarantee in life, it is natural to wonder why professors should have it so easy. But that's not what tenure means.

Academic tenure protects professors from being fired unreasonably, for teaching or researching or inquiring into an area that might be politically or commercially unpopular. As the University of Texas System Regents' statement acknowledges:

Throughout history, the process of exploring and expanding the frontiers of learning has necessarily challenged the established order. That is why tenure is so valuable, not merely for the protection of individual faculty members, but also as an assurance to society that the pursuit of truth and knowledge commands our first priority. In virtually every university and college, professors already undergo routine reviews. In the University of Texas system, reviews are required every year. These routine reviews serve to guide and support the professional development of the faculty.

Also in every university and college, tenured professors who are charged with malfeasance, non-performance of duties or incompetence, undergo disciplinary procedures -- on an individual basis -- that can lead to termination. These very serious proceedings are guarded by due process rights that assure that such terminations are only for good cause. Generalized, routine professional reviews should be kept separate from the individualized disciplinary procedures.

As a legislator, you have no doubt recognized that it is sometimes inconvenient to guard some of our most precious individual rights -- like the right to freedom of expression, and the freedom to learn. Likewise, academic freedom might be inconvenient -- it might make it harder for a university to plan outcomes and products the way a corporation would. But a university is not a corporation; it should be an oasis from the marketplace where new ideas -- new curiosities -- get a chance to be aired, and if worthy, to grow. Academic tenure protects such inquiries. We urge you, as a member of the Texas legislature, to protect academic tenure.


Ruth Flower, Director
Government Relations

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