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Education

Tenure under fire from Republican legislatures in two U.S. states

by Andrea Widener
January 23, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 4

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Credit: Shutterstock
Lawmakers in two states are considering bills to nix tenure for professors at public colleges and universities.
Credit: Shutterstock
Lawmakers in two states are considering bills to nix tenure for professors at public colleges and universities.

Legislation introduced last week by Republicans in Iowa and Missouri would eliminate tenure for professors at public colleges and universities. In Missouri, a bill (H.B. 266) would cease offers of tenure for new hires. A similar proposal (Senate file 41) in Iowa would end tenure for every professor, even those who already have it. Tenure offers job security and academic freedom to college faculty, but it has been under attack in recent years. In Wisconsin, chemistry professors have been among many vocal opponents of changes that have damaged tenure there. Some professors at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and other campuses have left, saying that their tenure protections were under attack. Proponents of tenure say it allows universities to hire professors—especially in the sciences—who would earn more in the private sector. It also affords professors the right to pursue whatever research they want, even if it is politically unpopular. Opponents of tenure say that it gives professors protections that are not offered in the private sector. The vast majority of U.S. universities, both public and private, currently offer tenure.

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