Politics

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to revoke tenure for professors who teach critical race theory

Patrick said a recent resolution adopted by faculty at UT Austin about its academic freedom is another signal the “woke left” has gone too far.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick at Stephens Elementary School

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick on Friday proposed revoking tenure for professors at public universities whose curriculum includes teaching about critical race theory.

The threat comes after the faculty council at the University of Texas at Austin earlier this week passed a resolution asserting its freedom to teach students about issues that include race and gender theory despite demands against it from politicians and others outside academia.

"This resolution affirms that educators, not politicians, should make decisions about teaching and learning, and supports the rights and academic freedom of faculty to design courses, curriculum, and pedagogy, and to conduct related scholarly research," reads part of the resolution, which is nonbinding. "This resolution affirms the fundamental rights of faculty to academic freedom in its broadest sense, inclusive of research and teaching of race and gender theory."

The document also states UT faculty "resolutely rejects" attempts by outside groups, including lawmakers and the system's board of regents, to dictate content.

Patrick said during a news conference at the Capitol Friday that the resolution is another signal the "woke left ... has gone too far."

"We are the ones who pay their salaries," he said, referring to members of the Texas Legislature. "The parents are the ones who pay tuition. And of course, we're going to have a say in what the curriculum is. Of course, we're going to have a say on behalf of the parents. If there are issues that the parents are unhappy with, that the taxpayer are unhappy with, or the Legislature is unhappy with or the Board of Regents.

Patrick added that hiding behind "this academic freedom argument" doesn't work.

Lawmakers already passed a bill banning the teaching critical race theory — generally described as an academic discipline that examines the roles of race and racism in American history and how they function in law and society — in public schools.

Patrick on Friday said the Legislature is prepared to go a step further when lawmakers reconvene next year. He proposed amending the Texas Education Code to include language that states teaching critical race theory is grounds for removal and ending tenure for all new hires.

Currently, the code states that "a faculty member be subject to revocation of tenure or other appropriate disciplinary action if incompetency, neglect of duty, or other good cause is determined to be present."

Patrick said that language will be amended to include that: "teaching critical race theory is prima facia evidence of good cause for tenure revocation."

"We are not going to allow a handful of professors who do not represent the entire group to teach and indoctrinate students with critical race theory, that we are inherently racist as a nation," he said. "We will change those rules and we will take tenure to be reviewed annually."

In a statement Texas Faculty Association President Pat Heintzelman said Patrick's proposal would continue an attack on education and academic freedom that began when lawmakers took aim at public schools.

"Despite what Dan Patrick apparently thinks, most people don't think like him, especially people who value education. Banning critical race theory from universities and limiting tenure are attacks on academic freedom, which is an important part of the process of helping students develop the critical thinking skills they will need for future success," Heintzelman said.

"The lieutenant governor's job is to give our public institutions of education the support they need for student success, and that means encouraging professors and students to discuss theories and issues that some people may find uncomfortable. Patrick, instead, seems intent on ignoring the First Amendment rights of faculty members and their students."

Proponents of broader discussions on race and its role in American society have argued the term "critical race theory" has been coopted by those who only seek to limit free speech.

"The term has been unjustifiably used to include all diversity and inclusion efforts, race-conscious policies, and education about racism, whether or not they draw from CRT," the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund states on its website. "Attempts to ban CRT are really attacks on free speech, on discussions about the truthful history of race and racism in the U.S., and the lived experiences of Black people and other people of color."

Patrick said his proposal has the backing of state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, the chair of the Texas Senate's Higher Education Committee. The committee will hold interim hearings on the issue as they move forward, Patrick added.

 

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