Meanwhile in Texas, 04.18.23

Dear Colleagues,

This is call to action now!

This week, the Texas Senate is expected to debate and pass two bills that would take effect at all public colleges and universities in Texas on Sept. 1, 2023:

·      Senate Bill 18 to eliminate granting of tenure for all faculty members, and

·      Senate Bill 17 to ban DEI offices, officers, programs, and practices.

And the Senate has already passed

·      Senate Bill 16 to restrict academic freedom and critical thinking in courses and research.

Penalties for violating either SB 16 or SB 17 is employment termination, regardless of tenure status.  By Friday, these bills will be sent to the House for deliberation. 

After describing actions to take on the bills, I’ll describe the content, impact and talking points of these bills, followed by references.  I am speaking for myself as a private citizen.

Take Action. Getting alumni, research partners, and community leaders on board in addition to faculty, staff and students will be key in defeating these measures, esp. in the House.

Amplify the message.  Make calls or meet with 10 people in your network – former students as well as companies and community leaders – to discuss the impact of SB 16, 17 and/or 18 by using the talking points in after this section.  Don’t stop the communication until they can commit to taking at least two or more actions as private individuals representing themselves:

o   Join Defend Campaign (next item)

o   Visit their Texas Senate and House reps in their local offices — see Who Represents me?

o   Meet with House Higher Education Committee members

o   Email staff for House Higher Education Committee members handling higher ed [10]

o   Testify on these bills at the House Higher Ed Committee meetings on Mondays 10am

o   Follow our Bill Tracker, and @TexasAaup and @aaup_utAustin on Twitter, for updates

o   Ask people at companies to contact their Government Relations team to ask them to consider doing the above (e.g. testify “on” a bill to provide info about its impact).

o   Contact 10 other people to amplify the message

Join the Defend Campaign

o   Sign the Texas AFT Defend Tenure, DEI & Academic Freedom campaign to ask your Texas Senator to vote against SB 17/18, and you can edit the draft letter to your liking

o   Post, tweet, e-mail, text the Defend Tenure, DEI & Academic Freedom campaign and op-eds & articles [6-9] to faculty, students, alumni, parents, and community and business leaders from personal and other non-State accounts

o   Automate e-mail and text to join the campaign using Impactive App using code 851761

E-mail all Senators and House members from a personal or other non-State account, e.g. using the talking points below.  Their e-mail addresses are in [11][12].


Eliminating Future Granting of Tenure.  Senate Bill 18 removes the possibility of tenure for faculty currently on the tenure track at Texas public colleges and universities including 400 Assistant Professors at UT Austin and 700 Assistant Professors at Texas A&M [1].  Tenure-track faculty are rigorously evaluated in teaching, research, and service over a six-year period, and the 50% that do not earn tenure in the United States are dismissed from their positions.  Tenure is a necessary safeguard for academic freedom in teaching, research, and expression.  Academic freedom is freedom from censorship from the institution or the government.  Tenure protects professors in developing and disseminating new knowledge from all viewpoints, including conservative, moderate, liberal, and apolitical.  Tenured faculty take on the long-term curriculum development, research projects, and leadership positions vital to students.  Tenure is part of the national faculty job market — more than 800 colleges and universities in the US have adopted the AAUP principles on academic freedom and tenure, including the top schools. [5]  Tenured and tenure-track faculty at universities are vital for a university to graduate the PhD students and land the grants to become a Tier-1 or Tier-2 university. [1]  About 50% of the faculty at UT Austin and 70% at Texas A&M are either tenured or on the tenure track, which is common for a Tier-1 Doctoral Granting University. [1]  There are no other bills similar to SB 18.

Talking points of the impact of Senate Bill 18:

·      SB 18 eliminates granting of tenure after Sept. 1, 2023, at public institutions of higher ed

·      Tenure is necessary safeguard for academic freedom in teaching, research, and expression

·      Current tenure-track faculty will seek tenure-track and tenured positions elsewhere

·      Public colleges/universities would no longer be able to recruit tenure-track/tenured faculty

·      Due to the starvation of the tenure pipeline, tenured faculty members will leave.

·      Texas public colleges and universities will lose quality, prestige, and rankings

Discontinuing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Efforts.  Senate Bill 17 bans DEI offices, officers, programs, and practices, and penalties include termination of employees and loss of state funding.  DEI is not a single, clearly defined program, but rather a broad set of policies and practices designed to foster student access and resilience, reduce discrimination, and improve institutional life. [2]  Enrolling a college is a major transition for students, and DEI programs help students adjust, adapt, and thrive inside and outside the classroom while enrolled.  DEI helps students better relate to people from different backgrounds their own, which will help our students when they are in a diverse work environment.  SB 17 will lead to loss of accreditation in social work, law, and many other disciplines as well as endanger the mission, status, and funding for the 76 Hispanic Serving Institutions [3] and 2 Historically Black Colleges and Universities among our public colleges and universities.  Moreover, DEI requirements are now built into nearly all federal grant mechanisms in STEM including Dept. of Energy Office of Science, National Science Foundation, and National Institutes of Health, which together awarded nearly $40B in grants to higher ed in FY 2022. [4]  Without DEI programs, Texas public colleges and universities would lose an estimated $1-2B of their $4B in annual external research expenditures from non-State sources. [4]  Bills similar to SB 17 include HB 1607 and HB 5127, and both the House and Senate budgets contain amendments banning DEI practices.

Talking points of the impact of Senate Bill 17 include

·      SB 17 bans DEI programs and practices at public institutions of higher ed

·      DEI fosters student access and resilience, reduces discrimination, and improves campus life

·      SB 17 penalties (termination of employees and loss of state funding) creates chilling effect

·      We will lose money, and the opportunity to improve the world by elevating those around us

·      We will lose faculty and students whose work depends upon a DEI infrastructure.

·      Texas public colleges and universities will lose quality, prestige and rankings

Restricting Academic Freedom and Critical Thinking.  Senate Bill 16 says that a faculty member “may not compel or attempt to compel a student enrolled at the institution to adopt a belief that any race, sex, or ethnicity or social, political, or religious belief is inherently superior to any other race, sex, ethnicity, or belief” and has a penalty of termination for the faculty member for violating this provision, regardless of tenure status.  Anyone may file a complaint against a faculty member, including students who are unsatisfied with a grade they have received on an assignment.  The language “compel or attempt to compel” is vague and open to wide interpretation.  The bill is a clear violation of free speech and academic freedom.   Academic freedom is the freedom from censorship by the institution or government, which is adopted by more than 800 colleges and universities in the US. [5]  Companion bills to SB 16 include SB 2313HB 1006HB 1046HB 3164HB 3682HB 5001, and HB 5140.

Talking points of the impact of Senate Bill 16 include

·      SB 16 limits academic freedom on teaching

·      SB 16 creates a chilling effect on teaching, research, and expression on any subject related to race, sex, ethnicity or social, political, or religious belief due to fear of faculty losing their job

·      Professors will be unable to have students think critically in courses and research on these topics who then will not be prepared to work in diverse workplaces

·      We will lose faculty and students to other institutions that safeguard academic freedom,

·      Texas public colleges and universities will lose quality, prestige and rankings


[1] Brian Evans, “Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty in the US, Texas A&M & UT Austin”,Apr. 3, 2023.

[2] Pat Heintzelman, Testimony on SB 17, April 6, 2023 Testimony on SB17

[3] Excelencia in Education, “A Texas Briefing of 25 Years of HSIs”, 2021.  74 public Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) are in Texas.  UT Austin and Texas A&M became HSIs after the report issued.

[4] Brian Evans, Andrea Gore, Brian Korgel, Diana Marculescu, and Angela Valenzuela, “How Senate Bill 17 and Banning Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Jeopardizes University Research Funding: A STEM Perspective“, Apr. 15, 2023.

[5] The American Association of Colleges and Universities co-formulated principles of academic freedom and tenure with the American Association of University Professors and has 848 college and university members.

[6[ Karma Chavez, “Opinion: Equity, inclusion, and access don’t divide us. They bring us together”, Austin American-Statesman, April 16, 2023.

[7] Kate McGee, “How Republicans’ threats to tenure and diversity might undercut their own efforts to advance Texas’ universities”, Texas Tribune, April 11, 2023. Quotes AAUP members Karma Chávez, Brian Evans, and Andrea Gore.

[8] Christine Julien, “DEI: What it is and why it matters in engineering“, Dallas Morning News, April 1, 2023.

[9] Andrea Gore, “UT scientist: Killing tenure would ruin the state’s research universities“, Houston Chronicle, March 24, 2023.  Andrea Gore is an AAUP Member.

[10] Here are the staff members who handle higher ed issues for members of the House Higher Ed Committee – please send thoughtful e-mail messages to engage in a dialogue – spamming them will be counterproductive:

[11] Eli Melendrez, Texas American Federation of Teachers, provided the list of the e-mail addresses for all Texas Senate members:

[12] Eli Melendrez, Texas American Federation of Teachers, provided the list of the e-mail addresses for all Texas House members:




Brian L. Evans, PhD | He/His/Him

Member, American Association of University Professors, AFT, AFL-CIO

Vice President, Texas AAUP Conference

Speaking for myself as a private individual

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

One thought on “Meanwhile in Texas, 04.18.23

  1. Hi William,

    This just came from Helena Worthen, and I remembered you had met her and was racking my wobbly brain to remember WHEN, and then it came to me: Helena and Joe (her sig. other, maybe husband) and you and Andrea and Al Young and I had dinner in Berkeley and then went back to Helena and Joe’s house (minus Al) in Berkeley (or did we meet at their house and THEN go to dinner? ) Anyway, it was even before Tremont, when you lived in an apt. in Oakland after getting back from the Mideast.

    I met Helena in the Wallace Stegner program at Stanford, which is where I also met Al and Tom McGuane. That was pretty much a magical year: 1966-67. Al died a year or so ago in a healthcare facility in Berkeley after having a couple of incapacitating strokes.

    ANYwho, as Pop would say, I’m back from the farm. KC in the news now b/c of Ralph Yarl. Lilly sent me a link to his GoFundMe page, making it easy for me to contribute. Have you seen the mugshot of the asshole who shot him twice just for ringing his doorbell??

    Love, Mom

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