The Volokh Conspiracy

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Academic Freedom

My Testimony on the North Dakota Tenure Reform Bill


I noted earlier that the Republican majority leader in the lower chamber of the North Dakota state legislature had introduced a bill that would effectively gut faculty tenure in the state's public universities. The bill has passed the House and is now awaiting a committee hearing in the Senate. HB 1446 has been amended to pull back somewhat on the ambitions of the initial version, but it remains an extraordinary proposal. The text of HB 1446 can be found here.

I have submitted written testimony in my individual capacity to the North Dakota Senate Education Committee. Here's a taste:

Although I appreciate the legislature's interest in ensuring that faculty employed at state universities remain productive over the course of their careers, the provisions of the current bill would significantly undercut an effective tenure system that is essential to promoting free inquiry on college campus.

. . . .

Post-tenure reviews of the performance of members of the faculty can be entirely compatible with the maintenance of a meaningful system of tenure protection. There are many ways that such a system of post-tenure review can be designed, but this bill would entrust university presidents with essentially unconstrained discretion to terminate tenured members of the faculty. Such sweeping discretion to revoke tenure and terminate a faculty member would effectively subvert the very purpose of granting tenure protections in the first place.

My testimony can be found here.