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Iowa Lawmaker Proposes Ending Tenure at Public Universities

DES MOINES, Iowa — A Republican senator has introduced a bill to end tenure for faculty at Iowa’s public universities, saying he wants administrators to have more flexibility in managing professors.

State Sen. Brad Zaun is introducing the bill, which would establish grounds for the termination of employment for any faculty member, the Des Moines Register reported. Reasons for termination would include just cause, program discontinuance and financial exigency.

The Board of Regents and faculty opposed the bill, saying Zaun doesn’t understand the purpose and value of tenure in attracting the best employees.

University of Northern Iowa criminology professor Joe Gorton said tenure is not for offering protection to underperforming faculty, but to ensure universities keep the brightest teachers.

“Tenure does not prevent faculty from being terminated for just cause,” Gorton said. “It does prevent firing faculty for exercising our freedom to teach and conduct research about controversial or politically unpopular topics. This protection is a critical bulwark in the protection of American democracy.”

According to the American Association of University Professors, tenure is defined as “an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency and program discontinuation.”

Zaun said he had filed similar legislation in previous years, but those bills had received little attention due to the fact that Democrats controlled the Senate at the time. With Republicans now the majority in Iowa’s Senate this session, his bill has more traction.

“My job is to look out for the best interests of our college students and certainly for the people of the state of Iowa,” Zaun said. “There are some bad professors out there that need to be fired, and this would allow universities to have that opportunity.”

Democratic senators have said the proposed legislation is “political silliness,” and that they plan on fighting it.

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