by James (Jim) Klein President, Texas Association of College Teachers
Greetings from the Texas Association of College Teachers!
I hope your semester is proceeding smoothly. The 88th Texas legislature is in session now and there are several bills pending that pertain to higher education. I strongly encourage you to contact your representative and/or state senator concerning these bills.
When you contact legislators, be certain that you are using a personal email account and/or phone number and not college or university email or phone accounts. When you call the legislative office(s), be sure to reference the bill number and to state clearly your support for or opposition to it. The TACT Board has discussed these with Beaman Floyd, paid lobbyist for the organization, to gain his insight on these pending bills. March 10 was the deadline to file bills in this legislative session. TACT has grave concerns about these:
HB 1006: would prohibit Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs at public institutions of higher education
HB 1046: would prohibit DEI considerations in hiring at public institutions of higher education
HB 3146: would prohibit public higher education institutions from establishing and maintaining DEI offices
While speaking with legislative staffers on March 10, I asserted that banning DEI programs, initiatives and offices would prevent colleges and universities from achieving the longstanding 60X30 goal (60 percent of the Texas population earning a post secondary degree or certificate by 2030) because the ban would drive away very the populations institutions need to attract to achieve this goal.
HB 1607: would place limits on teaching about race and/or gender identity
SB 16: would prohibit the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) at public higher education institutions
While speaking with legislative staffers, I asserted that limiting classroom content in any way would send Texas down the path that unfree societies have taken in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We should avoid that path at all costs.
SB 17: would prohibit DEI policies at public higher education institutions
SB 18: would end tenure for all new hires at public higher education institutions
SB 1799: would require all two-year public institutions to offer only one-year contracts to all faculty
Regarding these bills, I told staffers that tenure has been a common means by which colleges and universities have protected academic freedom to ensure that the search for truth in the classroom, lab, or archives can remain unfettered. Tenure also allows faculty to speak out when they see improper or illegal activity on their campuses. Lastly, ending tenure at four-year and/or two-year institutions would devastate efforts to recruit world class faculty to Texas, damage their reputations, and ultimately hinder the benefit higher education brings to enrolled students, alumni, and the state as a whole.
You should feel free to use these arguments or others when speaking to legislative staffers.
While this list of bills is daunting, no bill has been passed as of this writing. There still is ample opportunity to contact legislators to let them know your views on these bills. To find your representative and/or state senator, go to this web address: https://capitol.texas.gov/
These bills likely will be referred to the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education and the House Higher Education Committee. Consequently, I also have included the members of these committees below. There appears to be less support in the House than in the Senate for the aforementioned bills pertaining to tenure and the teaching of critical race theory.
House Higher Education Committee
Rep. John Kuempel (Chair), HD 48: 512-463-0602
Rep. Dennis Paul (V. Chair), HD 129: 512-463-0734
Rep. John H. Bucy, HD 136: 512-463-0696
Rep. DeWayne Burns, HD 58: 512-463-0538
Rep. Dustin Burrows, HD 83: 512-463-0542
Rep. Travis Clardy, HD 11: 512-463-0592
Rep. Sheryl Cole, HD 46: 512-463-0506
Rep. Mary E. Gonzalez, HD 75: 512-463-0613
Rep. Donna Howard, HD 48: 512-463-0631
Rep. Suleman Lalani, HD 76: 512-463-0596
Rep. John Raney, HD 14: 512-463-0698
Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education
Sen. Brandon Creighton (Chair), SD 4: 512-463-0104
Sen. Mayes Middleton (V. Chair), SD 11: 512-463-0111
Sen. Phil King, SD 10: 512-463-0110
Sen. Drew Springer, SD 30: 512-463-0130
Sen. Royce West, SD 23: 512-463-0123
Thank you in advance for expressing your concerns to our legislators and for all that you do on behalf of higher education in Texas.
James (Jim) Klein
Professor of History, Del Mar College
President, Texas Association of College Teachers