TACT Legislative First Alert
February 25, 1997

The Texas Senate today passed Committee Substitute Senate Bill 149, Senator Teel Bivins' measure to require all higher education governing boards to implement post-tenure evaluation. The bill next goes to the House of Representatives where it will probably be referred to the Higher Education Committee and compete with Committee Member Rodriguez's HB 1343 calling for a moratorium on any new post-tenure review policies, a study of the need and best response, and a grandfather provision exempting faculty tenured before September 1, 2002.

During the fall Senate floor discussion, the two senators representing the areas with the largest concentrations of faculty expressed grave concerns. Senator Barrientos from Austin and Senator Steve Ogden from College Station questioned the bill sponsor about such things as "the law of unintended consequences," "What problem is this trying to solve," "the inverse relationship between student evaluations and future performance," and "perception may be different than the intent of your bill, but many times the perception is the reality" (all quotes from Senator Ogden). Senator Barrientos expressed reservations that no study had been done and that Chancellors told him that there is not a problem of not being able to get rid of "deadbeat" faculty. He said that it is important that we attract the best minds to our universities from the state, nation and world, and that "the future of our children must not be compromised."

Senator Barrientos passed four amendments consistent with the TACT policy on post-tenure review: that regents must seek faculty input in creating the review process; that the review process may occur at intervals from 1 to 6 years; that poor performing faculty must be offered an opportunity to improve their performances before being terminated; and that due process rights be established and respected. All the amendments were acceptable to the author, who closed with the interesting assessment that such accountability was necessary since "taxpayers pay 80 percent of the cost of providing a higher education in the state."

On another issue, Senator Armbrister has filed TACT's "ORP Supplement" request with the wish list items of SB 5 -- the Senate Appropriations Bill. If adopted and combined with a certain House rider, the ORP contributions would maintain the status quo: 6 percent from the state plus a special appropriation of 1.31 percent from the state plus the latitude for institutions to "make up" the remaining 1.19 percent from non-appropriated funds for a total of 8.5 percent for faculty hired before September 1, 1995. It's an uphill battle; write your legislator today.
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