A Louisiana lawmaker staunchly opposed to permanent tenure for college professors said he will not call a meeting of the policy review panel he created. Instead, he said he intends to introduce legislation but won’t elaborate on its objective. (Photo by Julie O'Donoghue)
A Louisiana lawmaker staunchly opposed to permanent tenure for college professors said he will not call a meeting of the policy review panel he created. Instead, he said he intends to introduce legislation but won’t elaborate on its objective.
Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-Monroe, confirmed to the Illuminator he will not convene the Task Force on Tenure in Public Postsecondary Education. He authored a resolution last year to create the task force that he personally chairs.
Cathey said he is working with higher education leaders on legislation, but he declined to name them or provide specifics on the bill he will pursue.
Ashley Arceneaux, a senior aide to LSU President William Tate, said Tate has not been asked for input on Cathey’s proposal. Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System, said he has offered to discuss the topic with Cathey but has not been called on for advice. Representatives for the Southern University System have not responded to requests for comment.
Tenure provides an indefinite academic appointment to qualifying faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in their field. Academics with tenure can only be terminated for cause, and it typically only happens in extreme circumstances. College faculty view tenure as a key part of academic freedom at public universities and a shield against political, corporate and religious intervention.
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While professors across the state were initially apprehensive about the task force, faculty leaders began to look forward to the opportunity to defend tenure when it was announced the panel would be stacked with academics and pro-tenure legislators.
Christof Stumpf, a biology professor at LSU Alexandria who was selected to represent LSU system faculty on the committee, expressed disappointment with Cathey’s decision to introduce legislation without the input of faculty.
“This is a very unfortunate move on Senator Cathey’s part,” Stumpf said. “It is absolutely imperative that faculty have input in all questions regarding tenure.”
“We do not know what the aim of the proposed new legislation is and are deeply worried that it may do irreparable harm to higher education in Louisiana. We would love to talk to the legislature and address any issues that it may have regarding tenure,” Stumpf added.
Academic tenure is considered to be particularly important in Louisiana, where faculty compensation consistently falls below the regional average. Higher education leaders fear the loss or reduction of tenure protections, coupled with low faculty pay, would drive professors out of the state and make it difficult to recruit qualified candidates. The result could significantly impact the quality of a Louisiana college degree, they have said.
Cathey’s move to abandon the task force and pursue legislation is unusual. Typically, legislators use task forces as a fallback option when their controversial proposals do not have enough support for approval.
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