Tenure reform is en vogue in red states like Florida, but at least one right-leaning professor in Texas warns of the potential fallout for conservative professors if tenure protections are changed.
Adam Kolasinski, the James W. Ashton Associate Professor of Finance and Faculty Senator at the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, wrote in The Federalist that tenure reform proposals do not fix the problems of higher education. Conservatives are trying to hold left-wing professors accountable for their work, but removing many existing tenure protections could put conservative professors in a tenuous position.
Kolasinski’s piece is an interesting counter-argument against removing tenure protections, since most of the attention is focused on gutting colleges and universities of left-wing professors.
He put most of the blame of left-wing indoctrination, such as the proliferation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, on administrators. Tenure reform will not remove partisan administrators, he said. He wrote, “Red-state governors and legislatures likely will not clear out woke administrators, so professors who dissent from wokeness would never come to or stay at a red-state university that abolished tenure — even if all anti-woke bills become law.” Kolasinski added, “Without tenure, dissenting professors have virtually no protection from administrators who want to purge them for their opinions.”
He posed the following question, “Why would any professor who vocally opposes DEI take a job here as an at-will employee, knowing the president once willingly violated federal law in the name of DEI?”
The professor explained existing tenure protections, which is often not explained in the media. “At many public universities, tenured faculty are subject to periodic performance reviews by their peers and can be dismissed for persistent poor performance.” Kolasinski pointed out, “They can also be fired for good cause, such as unprofessional conduct, failure to perform duties, and professional incompetence. Tools to remove tenured faculty who perform inadequately or inappropriately hijack the classroom for political activism already exist.”
He noted, “Tenure protects against arbitrary dismissal, which is necessary if Americans want professors who willingly and publicly speak important yet unpopular truths that administrators, and even some politicians, want suppressed.”
To Kolasinski’s point, tenure reform is a two-edged sword. On one hand, it protects professors as they have academic free speech protections. On the other, it insulates them (to a degree) from accountability. It often protects professors who are a part of the liberal, left-wing academic mainstream, but it can also protect conservatives who are not a part of the Left’s groupthink.
Instead, the professor said that state legislators have a “historic opportunity” to reform higher education by “passing anti-woke reforms” to “create intellectual environments free from the grip of the woke orthodoxy that is stifling academic freedom worldwide.”