AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is proposing to end all tenure for newly hired public university professors and revoke tenure for professors teaching critical race theory, he announced at a press conference Friday.
During the 2021 legislative session, state lawmakers passed bills restricting what K-12 educators can teach about race in social studies courses. Looking ahead to next session, which starts in 2023, Patrick wants to extend these restrictions to Texas’ public universities.
“We are not going to allow a handful of professors who do not represent the entire group to teach and indoctrinate students with critical race theory — that we are inherently racist as a nation,” he said.
The Republican’s proposal comes days after the University of Texas at Austin’s Faculty Council passed a non-binding resolution affirming that educators have academic freedom to teach on the nuances of race, gender and other such topics.
“The Faculty Council resolutely rejects any attempts by bodies external to the faculty to restrict or dictate the content of university curriculum on any matter, including matters related to racial and social justice,” the resolution said.
Patrick said as institutions partially funded by the state, public universities must comply with anything the legislature may pass.
“We are those who distribute taxpayer dollars. We are the ones who pay their salaries. The parents are the ones who pay tuition,” Patrick said. “Of course, we’re going to have a say.”
In light of last year’s legislation, Patrick said the university should have worked with lawmakers to understand how to teach on race and history. He said the university shouldn’t expect academic freedom without accountability.
“It’s just amazing to me that they can get right in the face of the Board of Regents … the legislature to tell us to go jump in a lake,” Patrick said. “We’re not going to do that.”
University of Texas associate professor Eric McDaniel said removing tenure could discourage professors from wanting to work in Texas and undercut research opportunities.
“This may create problems in terms of the University of Texas being able to attract certain types of faculty members. You may see them move on to the private universities or move universities in other states,” he said. “… This would actually undercut a large amount of research that’s being done throughout the university.”
McDaniel believes banning critical race theory takes away society’s ability to analyze a complex issue that needs robust conversations.
“Critical race theory is not perfect,” he said. “But it’s an idea that’s out there. It’s one of the things we discuss, we try to figure out.”
Patrick has defended the legislation banning critical race theory in K-12 schools, saying it doesn’t outright prohibit discussion of race in the classrooms.
“What we said is, you’re not going to teach a theory that says, ‘we’re going to judge you when you walk in the classroom by the color of your skin,’” Patrick said.
McDaniel said he thinks the way critical race theory has been discussed publicly across the nation has been mischaracterized and doesn’t look at the topic holistically. He said at its core, it’s about the role racism has played in the development of America’s society, laws and systems.
“This is really part of a larger culture wars argument,” McDaniel said. “I think it’s very easy to paint campuses, paint academics as extreme leftists who want to indoctrinate your children. That is not what we do. That is not who we are.”
Patrick indicated he already has support for such a bill from the Senate’s higher education committee chairman, Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. That legislation would not be in the works officially until the 2023 legislative session.
A spokesperson for the University of Texas-Austin said the school is not providing comment on Patrick’s proposal at this time.