FIRE statement on Texas Lt. Governor’s comments on Critical Race Theory, tenure

February 18, 2022

On Tuesday, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick tweeted: “We banned [teaching critical race theory] in publicly funded K-12 and we will ban it in publicly funded higher ed.” Today, he added that eliminating tenure would also be among his priorities in the 2023 legislative session. 

More than sixty years of Supreme Court decisions have repeatedly concluded that faculty and students in American higher education possess robust expressive and academic freedom rights. These rights may not be infringed upon through government interference. In the landmark 1957 case of Sweezy v. New Hampshire, the Supreme Court explained why defending our nation’s public institutions of higher education from government intrusion is critically important:

The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident. No one should underestimate the vital role in a democracy that is played by those who guide and train our youth. To impose any strait jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation. No field of education is so thoroughly comprehended by man that new discoveries cannot yet be made. Particularly is that true in the social sciences, where few, if any, principles are accepted as absolutes. Scholarship cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise, our civilization will stagnate and die.

The First Amendment does not permit the Texas government to impose a “pall of orthodoxy” over higher education.

Those words are as true today as they were 65 years ago. The First Amendment does not permit the Texas government to impose a “pall of orthodoxy” over higher education.

FIRE looks forward to explaining to the Lt. Governor why academic freedom is the lifeblood of American universities and protects freedom of expression for faculty of all ideological persuasions. 

Texas can protect against discriminatory practices without jettisoning the protections that ensure its public intitutions remain the true “marketplaces of ideas” they are intended to be.