Nebraska GOP bills target college professor tenure and diversity, equity and inclusion

Feb 13, 2024, 7:31 PM

Scores of people turned out Tuesday to testify well into the night on bills being considered by Nebraska lawmakers that target diversity initiatives and higher education programs, mirroring proposals by Republicans across the country.

The bills before the state Legislature’s Education Committee included one that would ban diversity, equity and inclusion — known as DEI — programs and offices at state colleges and universities. Another would eliminate tenure for college professors. Similar bills have been introduced in Republican-led legislatures across the country as the 2024 election year heats up.

Sen. Dave Murman, a south-central Nebraska farmer who is chair of the Education Committee, introduced the anti-DEI bill that has garnered 13 cosigners who are among the most conservative in the body. Already this year, Republican lawmakers have proposed about 50 bills in 20 states that would restrict DEI initiatives or require their public disclosure.

Murman characterized DEI programs as “a threat to academic freedom” by elevating diversity over meritocracy.

“Taxpayer-funded universities shouldn’t be used for activism and social change,” he said.

The 12 people who testified in support of the bill echoed that sentiment, using phrases like “Marxist philosophy,” a “you-owe-me mentality” and “promoting victimhood.”

Jess Lammers, of Holdrege, was more blunt, saying DEI is “being inflicted on us by liberals.”

“It excludes white people,” he said.

Opponents of the bill vastly outnumbered supporters, and dozens took to the mic to encourage lawmakers to reject it. Among them were several young people of color who grew up in the state or Nebraska college students who told lawmakers of the discrimination they’ve faced.

That included Mia Perales, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineering student who graduated at the top of her high school class.

“As a Latino woman in engineering, I have been overlooked by my peers countless times,” she said.

Ricki Barber, the secretary of the Lincoln chapter of the NAACP, addressed lawmakers supporting the bill — several of whom are UNL graduates and Nebraska college football fans.

“The transfer portal is a real thing,” Barber said. “And our Black athletes are watching what happens here.”

Sen. Loren Lippincott defended his bill seeking to eliminate the tenure system as an idea that’s gaining traction in other state legislatures. He noted that similar measures have been or are actively being sought in at least half a dozen other states, including Iowa, Florida, North Dakota and Texas.

Academic tenure is given to high-performing professors — usually those who are long-serving and have a catalog of published academic material. Tenure provides a raft of benefits, including higher pay and heightened job security. Advocates say tenure is crucial to protecting academic freedom.

Critics have long held that tenure protects poorly performing professors. Many conservatives have come to see tenure as a system that protects professors who espouse left-leaning ideals.

“A lot of these horses were pulling their weight in their youth,” Lippincott said. “But then those horses end up staying in the barn and just eating hay.”

Lippincott’s bill would create a system that would set up annual performance evaluations of all faculty, along with a set of minimum standards of faculty performance and disciplinary actions. It would also set up employment agreements that would lay out grounds to fire faculty, including for just cause or for financial reasons and program discontinuance by the school.

A handful of supporters testified in favor of the bill. Most cited a belief that it would help protect the free expression of conservative views of students who are too often silenced by professors who hold power over them.

Opponents warned that eliminating tenure would make the already competitive nature of attracting top candidates for faculty jobs at Nebraska colleges and universities even more difficult.

“Eliminating tenure would tie both behind our back right at a time we’re trying to recruit and retain faculty,” said Chris Kabourek, interim president of the University of Nebraska. “No other Big Ten university is without tenure. We can’t afford not to offer it.”

It’s too early to know whether either measure has the votes to advance to the full Legislature.

United States News

Associated Press

North Carolina University system considers policy change that could cut diversity staff

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The future of diversity, equity and inclusion staff jobs in North Carolina’s public university system could be at stake as a series of votes loom on a key policy’s potential repeal. The Committee on University Governance within the University of North Carolina Board of Governors that oversees 17 schools, was poised […]

21 minutes ago

Associated Press

Sweeping gun legislation awaits final votes as Maine lawmakers near adjournment

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Legislature moved in fits and starts toward adjournment on Wednesday, with unfinished business including final votes on a series of gun safety bills that were introduced after the deadliest shooting in state history last fall. The Senate was awaiting an enactment vote on the governor’s gun safety proposals that […]

30 minutes ago

Associated Press

How many ballerinas can dance on tiptoes in one place? A world record 353 at New York’s Plaza Hotel

NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of young dancers in white tutus and tightly coiffed hair gathered in New York’s Plaza Hotel on Wednesday to break the world record for dancing on pointe in one place. The spectacle was organized by Youth America Grand Prix, a ballet scholarship program that is celebrating its 25th anniversary with […]

39 minutes ago

Associated Press

Lab chief faces sentencing in Michigan 12 years after fatal US meningitis outbreak

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) — Days after a routine injection to ease back pain, Donna Kruzich and a friend drove across the border to Canada in 2012 to see end-of-summer theater in Stratford, Ontario. The 78-year-old Michigan woman suddenly became ill and returned home. By early October, she was dead. “Most of the time she could […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Police confirm Missouri officer fired fatal shot that killed man who allegedly shot another man

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A Ferguson, Missouri, police officer fired the fatal shot that killed at man at a gas station in the St. Louis suburb, police said Wednesday. The shooting happened just before 1:30 a.m. Tuesday at a convenience store. Police said 26-year-old Detarius Haynes and 18-year-old Joshua Campbell were in a vehicle that […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Senator’s son pleads not guilty to charges from crash that killed North Dakota sheriff’s deputy

WASHBURN, N.D. (AP) — The adult son of U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to homicide and other charges in connection with a Dec. 6 crash that killed a North Dakota sheriff’s deputy. Ian Cramer, 43, waived his preliminary hearing and entered his not guilty plea to felony charges of homicide while fleeing […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Nebraska GOP bills target college professor tenure and diversity, equity and inclusion