In Wake of SB 18 Passage, Tenure Debacle Emerges at UT-Tyler

In what would be the first documented case of tenured faculty in Texas being fired since Senate Bill 18 went into effect, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Tyler was informed she was set to be terminated effective Tuesday, Oct. 31, for allegedly violating university operating procedures.  

As the Austin American-Statesman reported, Dr. Mickie Mwanzia Koster, an associate professor of history on Africa and the African Diaspora, was notified by email Oct. 16 that she was set to be fired. 

National and Texas Conference of AAUP officials immediately began efforts both to defend Koster’s rights to due process and to draw attention to the emerging consequences of SB 18’s passage this year. 

“Like the National AAUP, the Texas AAUP Conference is highly concerned about College of Arts and Sciences Dean Neil Gray’s 15-day notice of termination of employment for tenured Associate Professor Mickie Mwanzia Koster dated Monday, October 16, 2023,” said the Texas AAUP Conference in a letter to UT-Tyler President Kirk Calhoun. ”Dean [Neil] Gray’s actions are in clear violation of policies and procedures of The University of Texas at Tyler and The University of Texas System as well as long-established standards of due process afforded tenured faculty.” 

Subsection C-1 of SB 18, which went into effect Sept. 1, outlines 10 reasons for terminating a tenured professor; those reasons include violations of university policies “significantly” connected to their job performance. Yet, Subsection C-4 clearly states faculty members are entitled to due process. 

Neil Gray, dean of the UT-Tyler College of Arts and Sciences, cited UT System Rule 31008  for Koster’s dismissal; the rule states that if a university wishes to fire a tenured professor, the professor must be given due process, including written notice of any violations and the opportunity to respond. 

In response to the outcry and public attention, UT-Tyler rescinded its termination of Koster, effective Oct. 31, and will provide her due process in adherence with UT System policies, Calhoun announced in an email to faculty.   Koster released a response through the Texas AAUP

Now more than ever, Texas AAUP is playing a vital role in protecting university faculty in Texas, amid continued attacks on higher education in this state. We are proud to be affiliated with them and will continue to support our higher education union siblings.

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