UT Regents Support Cigarroa’s New Framework for Measuring Success and Accountability
By Melissa Ludwig
University of Texas System regents on Thursday issued a unanimous vote of confidence in its CEO, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, in an attempt to sooth recent turmoil at the system and answer rumors that Cigarroa’s job was in jeopardy because he would not toe the line of conservative regents pushing for dramatic change.
In that vote, regents also agreed to support Cigarroa’s new framework for measuring success and accountability at the system’s 15 campuses.
Before the vote, Steve Hicks, a regent from Austin, asked for a roll call to see where each of his fellow regents stood.
“Now is the time to get fully behind our chancellor … not to micromanage his affairs,” Hicks said. “Today, we have the opportunity to beginning earning back the trust of our constituency.”
“Today starts the healing process,” Hicks said. “We may not live happily ever after today. I am not that naïve. But it’s a start.”
In recent months, news reports and internal emails have revealed that conservative regents appointed by Gov. Rick Perry want to aggressively take the system in a new direction, cutting tuition by half and dramatically boosting enrollment, even at the flagship campus.
In general, reform-minded conservatives believe that the cost of degrees should come down and more value ought to be placed on undergraduate teaching and less on research.
They have pushed system officials to compile data on how individual professors divide their time among teaching and research duties, as well as how much they are paid and how well they fare on student evaluations.
Rick O’Donnell, a former special adviser hired by Powell to facilitate task forces on productivity and online learning, accused high-level officials at the system of resisting his request for detailed faculty data, which he said would show more tuition and tax dollars going to professors and administrators who do little teaching.
The rhetoric turned sour, with faculty members painted as unwilling teachers who only want to write esoteric articles for little-read journals, and “soft” academic research dismissed as a waste of money and time.
UT alumni, donors and students rushed to the defense of Cigarroa and Powers, and said they would not support attempts to diminish research, fearing it would hurt the flagship’s national rankings and prestige, lowering the value of its degrees. They also spoke out against Powell’s idea to cut tuition in half while quickly growing enrollment, saying it would undermine quality.