House Speaker Pat Grassley says there have been years of inaction to complaints about retaliation against conservative speech on the public university campuses and that’s why House Republicans are considering a bill to end the tenure system at the universities in Ames, Iowa City and Cedar Falls.
“We invest millions and millions of dollars every year in higher education. We think it’s something that needs to have a serious look,” Grassley says. “…It is something that’s definitely a live round right now.”
A few Republican lawmakers in previous years have proposed ending tenure for professors at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa, but for the first time a bill to accomplish that goal has won approval in a committee. Three Republicans on the House Education Committee voted against the bill and Grassley says he’s heard concerns from fellow Republicans. Grassley plans to have House Republicans discuss the proposal in private to see if there are 51 “yes” votes among Republicans to pass the bill out of the full House.
“For years and years we’ve always had conversations with the universities about free speech, making sure that there wasn’t repercussions for people that raised those concerns and it always has been just a conversation,” Grassley says. “That’s all that’s ever happened.”
During a recent statehouse hearing, the presidents of Iowa, Iowa State and UNI said ending tenure would prompt professors to leave and make it harder to hire staff. Ag commodity groups have expressed concern that ending tenure will be a set-back for critical research at the three state-supported universities.