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The Iowa House Education Committee passed a bill to eliminate tenure at Iowa institutions of higher learning governed by the state board of regents.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Steve Holt and managed by Rep. Skyler Wheeler, passed 12-9 with three Republicans voting against it – freshmen Representatives Garrett Gobble and Chad Ingels and Rep. Tom Moore, who had originally passed and voted no once he knew the bill would survive.

Democrat Rep. Mary Mascher spoke strongly against the bill. She opened by threatening amendments to the bill, telling the committee chair that she has amendments to the bill. She then said she was going to wait just a moment before Rep. John Wills jumped in and asked about the amendments.

Mascher said they are being prepared for the floor.

“Obviously we have a lot of concerns about this bill and there’s a lot of misconceptions out there about what tenure is and what it is not,” she said. “And so there are no amendments for today. My ranking member and my committee discouraged me from doing that although I was ready. I would have come back tonight and I would have come back tomorrow if we would have gone into tomorrow because that’s how strongly I feel about this bill.”

Tenure, Mascher said, is a way of recruiting quality faculty and staff. She said universities use it to maintain that quality.

“We would be the only state in the nation to not allow tenure if this passed,” she said. “I’ve always believed Iowa is a quality place and we stand alone, but I don’t believe this would create a good impression of our state and our education system because it would suffer greatly if we were to abandon or eliminate tenure.”

Despite tenure, evaluations continue every year Mascher said. And they are eligible to be terminated for cause at any time if they violated protocols or requirements of their job.

“So that is a total fallacy,” Mascher said. “When we look at what we have to offer at Iowa, Iowa State and UNI, we should be really proud of the fact that we have such quality faculty.”

Regent presidents have said that losing tenure would create a vacuum for them in recruiting quality faculty and staff and to keep who they already have.

“I think it’s important for us to recognize the damage – the permanent damage this would do to our institutions and why it is so important for us to keep those quality professors,” Mascher said.

Should the bill be debated on the floor of the Iowa House, Mascher promised a spirited debate.

“Pack your lunch and bring your sleeping bag,” she said. “We’ll be here a long time.”

Democrat Rep. Molly Donahue said such a bill would cost Iowa $3.1 billion due to lost research.

Wheeler said House members are elected to two-year terms. Judges are up for retention every eight years.

“Why are we giving professors a lifetime appointment on the taxpayer’s dime,” Wheeler said. “A chunk of the faculty right now is not tenure-tracked faculty, yet many people still apply and teach at the regents. This doesn’t change the contracts or systems that are in place, it simply removes a mechanism that protects bad professors.

“I would ask the question, Mr. Chair, would you use the surgeon who had tenure, or the surgeon that didn’t have tenure? Would you fly on the airplane that had tenure, or the pilot that did not have tenure? The idea of tenure was to protect the diversity of thought on college campuses. It is clear at our regent universities there is no longer diversity of thought.”

Author: Jacob Hall