Higher Education Issues

Tenure & Academic Freedom

As our union affiliate the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) notes, tenure is important to safeguard academic freedom, which is necessary for all who teach and conduct research in higher education.  

  • When faculty members know they could possibly lose their positions because of their speech, publications, or research findings, they cannot properly fulfill their core responsibilities to advance and provide knowledge to students.  
  • Tenure provides the conditions for faculty to pursue research and innovation and draw evidence-based conclusions free from corporate or political pressure. The assurance provided by tenure is critical to the ability of colleges and universities to attract and retain the best educators.  

Over the past year, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has repeatedly stated his intention to “reform” tenure policies across the state. As recently as February of 2022, Patrick threatened to end tenure in all public higher education institutions in order to combat the teaching of politicized topics such as critical race theory (CRT). 

In the past legislative session, Patrick prioritized bills which targeted the teaching of CRT in K-12 public schools, even though there is no evidence that CRT is taught in K-12. 

In Patrick’s own statements, he even admitted that CRT is taught by very few professors at Texas’s colleges and universities. 

In addition to censorship attacks on Texas faculty, legislation has already been filed to eliminate “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” offices at public colleges and universities in the state. 

New Endowment Fund

Patrick has signaled support for creating a new endowment fund for Texas’ public universities. The University of Texas system and the Texas A&M University system have access to the Permanent University Fund (PUF), a multibillion-dollar endowment, but Texas’ other universities do not have access to this fund.  

  • Texas Tech and the University of Houston have argued that their lack of access to these funds have negatively impacted their ability to educate students and move up in national university rankings.  
  • Gov. Greg Abbott has floated the idea of establishing $1 billion endowment funds for both Texas Tech and the University of Houston respectively, but neither Abbott nor Patrick provided details on how these funds would be created. 

Community College Funding

This past October, the Texas Commission on Community College Finance (CCCF) approved recommendations that called for a total overhaul of the state’s community college funding system.

Under the current system, community college systems have to compete against each other for an arbitrarily set amount of funding, but under the proposed changes, schools would be guaranteed foundational, formula-based funding.

While these recommendations would guarantee overall greater funding to community colleges, the commission recommended that state fundings should put a greater emphasis on outcomes when allocating community college funding. 

Outcomes-based funding could be particularly problematic for community colleges, which have students who may not be seeking degree completion in a speedy manner but may attend to improve job skills or to gain an industry certification. Other U.S. states that have attempted outcomes-based funding in higher education have not yet achieved the desired results. 

Action Needed

Fight off all attempts to censor educators, from K-12 through higher education, to ensure Texas can attract and retain the best educators who can teach free from fear.

Provide competitive salaries and benefits that attract and retain high-quality educators at all levels.

Join Our Fight: If you’re a Texas school employee (K-12 or higher ed!), we invite you to join our union & our fight to thrive. Join online today.