I have a question related to potentially backing out of a tenure track faculty offer I signed. Ideally I'd love to get feedback from established faculty or others well-familiar with the black hole of academic faculty positions and searches. I've read all the responses to similar questions, but this is a unique situation and I'm at a loss as to what I should do -- thus input from those familiar with the 'other side' of faculty hiring would be most helpful. I would note up front I am not asking "can I bail on a signed offer for a better one", as this is just something I couldn't do.
Recently (March), I signed an offer at a public university in Texas for a tenure track faculty position, Lets call it "University A". A week later, the Texas legislature began the process of moving several higher education bills into law, one (SB18) which sought to abolish tenure at TX public universities, and another (SB17) which sought to abolish DEI offices and program in TX public universities. Despite assurances from multiple faculty (including the deptartment chair,) since then, these bills, in one form or another, have passed the senate and the house (effectively no chance the governor won't sign them.)
While the anti-tenure bill was modified by the House to no longer ban tenure, it still adds a litany of poorly-defined reasons a tenured faculty can be dismissed without much recourse by administrators (including "moral turpitude,") which could heavily weaken tenure, or not do much to it depending on implementation. The anti-DEI bill, however, passed with flying colors. The latter is particularly problematic, as it may have a very strong negative effect on attaining funding from multiple federal and private sources, due to their requirement of DEI/outreach components which will now be very hard to implement at public universities in Texas, having a potentially major impact on funding. Not to mention what the 'optics' of this will do to future recruitment to this department or many in TX, and possible established faculty egress as well.
During this time (following my signing, while SB18 was written to fully abolish tenure) I contacted a university/department whose search was still ongoing, but which I had already notified that I had accepted a position, to tell that I may not be as decided as I thought -- lets call it "University B". This department is now in the deciding phase, and I've been told I am a top candidate (search chair,) whatever that means in this context.
While these bills have an unequivocally negative effect on a faculty position in TX, given that the full outcome is ambiguous in the degree of negative, is it acceptable to back out of a signed offer in this unique context? Should Uni B offer me a position?
I would never be able to just bail on a signed offer for a better place, and am quite aware of how such reneging will negatively impact Uni A, but in the context of this legislation (not to mention that this is the most stressful decision I've ever made independent of said legislation) I have major concerns -- the landscape of the position I signed for has since changed considerably regardless of what happens. Of course, if TX had fully abolished tenure the offer I signed would be unambiguously no longer valid, which would simplify things a bit. Currently it is almost the worst place one could be with respect to reneging.
EDIT: A few UT AAUP links for those masochistic enough to want to see more details related to these bills: