Academic Freedom

Lawmakers in 2 States Propose Bills to Cut Tenure

January 13, 2017

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
State Sen. Brad Zaun of Iowa

Republican lawmakers in at least two states — Sen. Brad Zaun of Iowa and state Rep. Rick Brattin of Missouri — proposed bills this month that would eliminate the tenure system at public colleges and universities.

Missouri House Bill 266 isn't exclusively about cutting tenure. The bill would also require public colleges to publish estimated costs of degrees, employment opportunities expected for graduates, average salaries of previous graduates, and a summary of the job market, among other things.

In an interview with The Chronicle, Mr. Brattin said that tenure is "outdated" and hinders colleges from holding professors accountable. Professors' main focus should be to help students get the best job possible, he said.

"Something's wrong, something's broken, and a professor that should be educating our kids should be concentrating on ensuring that they're propelling to a better future, but instead are engaging in political stuff that they shouldn't be engaged in," Mr. Brattin said.

In Iowa, Mr. Zaun's bill focuses specifically on getting rid of tenure in public universities and community colleges, giving the Iowa Board of Regents more power.

Mr. Zaun has not responded to a request for comment.

Iowa Senate Bill 41 proposes to eliminate tenure completely, including for current faculty. The Missouri bill would stop awarding tenure after January 1, 2018, but does not say it will eliminate tenure for current employees.

Critics, including faculty members across the country, have already raised concern about the bills.

Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz is a web writer. Follow her on Twitter @FernandaZamudio, or email her at fzamudiosuarez@chronicle.com.

Correction (1/13/2017, 3:25 p.m.): The original version of this article stated incorrectly that the Iowa legislation would establish a program to hire more female faculty in "targeted shortage areas." Such a program already exists. But the bill would strip tenure protections from that program as well.