Anti-tenure legislator backs off controversial bill to put tenure practices into law
LSU’s Memorial Tower displays the time on Monday, March 20, 2023, on Tower Drive in Baton Rouge. (Photo by Matthew Perschall)
A proposal to place tenure policies for higher education faculty into Louisiana law is dead for the year after its author has decided not to pursue the legislation.
Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-Monroe, confirmed in an interview Senate Bill 174 is not going anywhere this session because he never requested a hearing for it in the Senate Education Committee.
His bill would have put into law employment practices that many Louisiana’s institutions of higher learning already have in place, at times reading more like a faculty handbook than a state statute. Cathey has said he believes in abolishing tenure, raising concerns that professors are practicing political indoctrination.
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. Higher education leaders view tenure as a key part of academic freedom at public universities and a shield against political, business and religious interference.
Cathey’s decision not to do anything with the bill is the second time the anti-tenure legislator has opted not to move forward with efforts to restrict tenure practices. Last year, he pushed for a task force to study tenure and make recommendations for reform, but never called a meeting after the panel was stacked with academics and pro-tenure legislators.
Cathey said he has not yet determined whether he will bring legislation next year, saying he is currently focused on his re-election campaign.
One Louisiana university system president recently said Senate Bill 174 sparked an “important discussion,” according to Cathey, who declined to name which of the three system heads made the comment.
Cathey said it was entirely his decision not to move the bill, pointing out that the Senate Education Committee already had enough controversial bills. He wanted to make sure the proposal from Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, to restrict minors’ access to library materials the bill defines as sexually explicit got the support it needed, he said.
Cloud’s bill, Senate Bill 7, has one last stop in the legislative process, a vote before the House of Representatives. The legislation has received bipartisan support.
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