Lawmakers debate tenure for professors

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JEFFERSON CITY - The state capital was tense on Wednesday, as lawmakers debated a bill that could prohibit professors from receiving tenure at public state universities.

Right now, all public universities in the state offer a tenure track for faculty. 

Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, proposed the bill to the higher education committee, which had several members that vocally opposed the bill. Brattin argued once a professor received tenure, they are impossible to remove. 

"It's guaranteed lifetime employment," Brattin said. 

Brattin proposed that making changes to this tenure program would ensure professors at the university level are being held accountable. Right now, he said he doesn't think there's a way to know if professors are teaching to their full extent. 

According to Brattin, only 38 percent of faculty in the University of Missouri system are tenured, which is the lowest number of faculty compared to all other schools that are a part of the Association of American Universities. 

"It's nice for Mizzou to be in the nation's most elite club of research universities. There's only about 60 or so in the country with only about 30 or so public universities in the whole country," Law Professor Ben Trachtenberg said.

Trachtenberg, who is tenured, also said not providing tenure to professors could hurt the university's chances at hiring quality teachers.

"The University of Wisconsin weakened its tenure protections, and they lost a lot of their best people and are finding it difficult to recruit the kind of faculty they want to have," Trachtenberg said. 

Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, said the university should be proud to be a part of the AAU, and it's wildly important not only to the university, but to the state as well. 

Mitchell Springer is an executive director for a polytechnic institute outside of Missouri, and fully supports the bill.

"Tenure does not have an economic right to exist," Springer said. 

He said tenure provides a negative force towards transformation, basically prohibiting a university from transitioning into new programs. 

"Tenure has been proved and documented to be biased, prejudicial and inherently discriminatory," he said. 

Springer said this is based on quantitative data he's done over the past 25 years.