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Administrators are responsible for the far-left takeover of our universities, not faculty

OPINION: Complaining about ‘woke’ faculty accomplishes nothing. Our statesmen should focus on those with power: regents, chancellors and administrators.

An illiberal, far-left ideology has become orthodoxy at almost all American universities, and elected officials in Texas are finally talking about doing something about it.

Unfortunately, many have misdiagnosed the problem, thinking that rogue faculty are the cause. Their efforts will prove futile unless they recognize the real cause: far-left high level administrators whom politicians refuse to hold accountable.

Faculty at public universities have very little power. Tenure can protect us from arbitrary termination, but it is not difficult for the administration to fire a tenured professor for cause. For example, a tenured anthropology professor at Texas A&M was fired in January of 2021 after he angered influential former students with Facebook posts and participation in a protest, though the stated cause for his termination were controversial statements he allegedly made in class that were unrelated to the subject matter.

Administrators thus already have the means to terminate faculty for inappropriate hijacking of the classroom for political advocacy. Unfortunately, they only use them to placate angry stakeholders after embarrassing incidents, never to fix real problems. Eliminating tenure, as Texas Lt. Dan Governor Patrick proposes, thus solves nothing. Worse, it will only empower “woke” administrators to eliminate dissenters from the faulty, like me, whom tenure currently protects.

There is a “Faculty Senate” at Texas A&M and a “Faculty Council” at the University of Texas at Austin, and the latter even got into a war of words with the lieutenant governor. These bodies, however, have virtually no power. Almost all their resolutions are merely advisory.

Faculty are elected to committees to recommend dean and department head finalists. Texas A&M rules also require that faculty in the unit recruiting a new dean or department head be surveyed about their opinion of all candidate finalists. Such surveys and committee recommendations, however, are only advisory, and, based on recent experience, often ignored.

Even for decisions related to faculty hiring, tenure, and promotion, votes of faculty committees are only advisory. Ultimate decision-making power rests fully with administrators.

Since administrators have all the power, they are responsible for the far-left takeover of our universities, not faculty. Many faculty approve of the takeover, but administrators made it happen. It was with Texas A&M President Katherine Bank’s approval that her hand-picked Vice President of Faculty Affairs instituted the ACES Plus program, which set aside funding for new faculty positions illegally restricted to non-Asian racial minorities. As a result, Texas A&M is subject to a civil rights lawsuit.

UT President Jay Hartzell blocked the Liberty Institute, a project designed to bring to campus ideas outside the current far-left orthodoxy. Likewise, it was Hartzell’s initiative to make faculty adherence to far-left ideology, under the euphemism of “diversity, equity and inclusion,” or “DEI,” a criterion for faculty performance evaluations, tenure and promotion. Banks-appointed administrators at A&M are now implementing similar requirements. Former A&M Provost Fierke mandated that all faculty serving on hiring committees be subject to the critical-race-theory-infused “STRIDE” training, which, among other things, recommends requiring candidates to submit “DEI statements” and evaluating them under the infamous Berkeley Rubric.

The non-partisan Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression argues DEI statements amount to little more than ideological litmus tests. Nevertheless, the Banks administration at Texas A&M is so determined to force search committees to undergo “woke” DEI training, that when faced with pressure from the governor to eliminate STRIDE, they simply renamed it while keeping it substantially unchanged.

Faculty did not impose the above far-left initiatives; administrators did it, with the tacit, and sometimes explicit, approval of regents and chancellors. No one forced the A&M and UT regents and chancellors to appoint presidents who support far-left orthodoxy. If they wanted to hold Banks and Hartzell accountable, they could, but they refuse.

Statesmen of good will need to find a way to create accountability. Ideally, regents and chancellors who are derelict in their duty need to be replaced. The legislature can defund diversity, equity and inclusion offices, and all other bureaucracies based on critical race theory and other far-left ideologies. They should amend tort law so administrators who promote such initiatives are personally liable for damages. Complaining about “woke” faculty accomplishes nothing. Our statesmen should focus on those with power: regents, chancellors and administrators.

Adam Kolasinski is a faculty senator at Texas A&M as well as the James W. Ashton Republic Bank associate professor of finance at the Mays School of Business. He holds a Ph.D. from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

MORE: University of Texas System suspends new DEI policies, launches probe into current ones

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