State legislators in Iowa and Missouri have introduced legislation to eliminate tenure for public colleges and universities in their states. While the Missouri bill would have schools cease tenure-track hiring in 2018, the Iowa bill goes further, proposing to take tenure away from those who already have it, according to reports from Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Rick Brattin, the Republican representative who authored the Missouri bill (HB 266), asks, “If you’re doing the right thing as a professor and teaching students to the best of your ability, why do you need tenure?” reports IHE, suggesting he does not understand the point of tenure protections. He also asks, “What other job in the U.S. has protections like that?” suggesting that he doesn’t know that tenure doesn’t prevent termination of faculty for failing to perform their job, and so has an exaggerated sense of what tenure protections are. Ignorance is no obstacle to introducing legislation.
As Hans-Joerg Tiede, senior program officer for academic freedom, tenure and shared governance at the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) says in the IHE article: “These are serious attempts to undermine universities and the role of universities in society.” Relatedly, you can join the AAUP here.
I encourage those working in academia in Missouri and Iowa to keep us apprised of developments there, including efforts to combat this legislation.