by James (Jim) Klein Outgoing President, Texas Association of College Teachers
Greetings from Corpus Christi! I hope this newsletter finds you and your loved ones in good health and spirits as the summer heats up. This will be my last address to you, as Dr. Seth Batiste has generously offered to assume the Presidency of the Texas Association of College Teachers. I have every confidence in Seth and am excited to see his leadership style in action. I plan to remain involved in TACT and its commitment to furthering higher education in Texas.
I wish to thank everyone who contacted legislative offices during the recent session. Working with a number of other faculty organizations, TACT convinced legislators to modify the originally harsh language in Senate Bill 17, regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and initiatives and in Senate Bill 18, which addressed the offering of tenure. Beaman Floyd, the paid lobbyist for TACT, was instrumental in this work. Additionally, Liz Williams, TACT staff was vital in providing timely updates via the organizational website and email blasts. Thank you all for your extensive efforts.
Our task going forward will be to educate faculty and staff at our respective institutions about SB 17 and SB 18 to make certain that everyone knows what these new laws say and, just as importantly, what they do not say. SB 17 addressed DEI. Here is a link to the final wording sent to the Governor for his signature: https://legiscan.com/TX/text/SB17/id/2820276
I ask that you share this link widely so everyone at your institution can become familiar with the exact language of this pending law. Note that the final language states that the restrictions on DEI may not be applied to academic course instruction, scholarly or creative work (including grants for this work), or activities by student organizations.
SB 18 pertains to tenure. Here is a link to the final wording of this bill sent to the Governor’s desk: https://legiscan.com/TX/text/SB18/id/2820070
I ask that you share this link widely at your institution as well. As the final language states, this pending law does NOT abolish tenure for new hires as the first draft of the bill had (before revisions). Be sure that faculty, staff, and administrators at your institution are aware of this. TACT, the Texas Conference of the American Association of University Professors, the Texas Faculty Association, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Texas American Federation of Teachers, and other organizations worked jointly and tirelessly to convince legislators of the need to preserve tenure.
Note also that the final language of this pending legislation requires higher education institutions to provide a “short term development plan” to any faculty receiving an unsatisfactory evaluation rating before dismissal proceedings can commence. This language will clarify disciplinary practices at some colleges and universities in Texas.
Again, I urge you to read these pending laws closely and make certain that everyone at your institution understands the specific language of each. This will dispel any misinformation regarding these laws.
Senate Bill 16, which would have prohibited the teaching of critical race theory, was not considered by the Texas House. The Lieutenant Governor has announced his desire to reconsider SB 16 in a special legislative session, though the Texas House has demonstrated little interest in this. TACT will continue to monitor this matter during the coming months and may ask you to weigh in on this matter with your local legislative delegation. When doing so, make clear that you are speaking for yourself (not your higher education institution) and do not use institutional emails, phone numbers, computers or phones.
Finally, I wish once again to thank Liz Williams for her excellent communication work in support of TACT not only during legislative sessions but throughout the year. She is the best.
As we move into the depths of summer, stay cool and take care of yourself and those around you—do good work when you can and make time for rest and relaxation in between. TACT and Texas need you.
James (Jim) Klein
Professor of History, Del Mar College
Outgoing President, Texas Association of College Teachers