Perry’s Office Criticizes UT Administration’s Defense of Status Quo
By William Lutz
Gov. Rick Perry’s communications director Mark Miner blasted University of Texas administrators for issuing a report attacking proposals to reform higher education. The university used personnel on the College of Liberal Arts payroll to produce a report critical of ideas put forward by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and other higher education reformers.
“Gov. Perry continues to advocate for necessary reforms, accountability and transparency in our state’s higher education system,” said Miner. “The status quo that some Texas universities try to protect – with rapidly increasing tuition and four-year graduation averaging just 28.6 percent – is not keeping pace with our state’s needs. The governor, university regents, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
, lawmakers of both parties and others from across Texas are promoting higher education reforms
aimed at improving access to meaningful financial data, graduation rates, faculty and staff productivity and overall outcomes in both teaching and research. “
Miner is responding to a report from University of Texas Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl criticizing Texas philanthropist Jeff Sandefer’s “Seven Breakthrough Solutions for Higher Education
.” UT has also set up a website, http://www.7solutionsresponse.org
to reply to these ideas for higher education.
It’s quite noteworthy that UT is putting Diehl on the front lines of the higher education reform debate. Diehl is the UT administrator that removed philosophy professor Robert Koons
from director of the program in Western Civilization and American Institutions. The program was reformed under new leadership as the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Ideas. Notice the absence of the words “American” and “Western” in the center’s name. Click here to read more about “The Mugging of Western Civilization” at UT-Austin.
The UT report argues that teaching is taken seriously in tenure decisions and that either the 7 breakthrough solutions or proposals to create a $10,000 college degree would hurt the university. It says UT is committed to reform and suggests that reform should take the form proposed by the University’s Commission of 125. “Any solutions to the challenges we face should be guided by a commitment to dynamic and effective teaching, world-changing research, and the responsible use of public resources. We should steer clear of oversimplified, market-driven ideas, like the seven “breakthrough solutions,” which would undercut our record of excellence and obstruct our efforts to produce new knowledge and transfer that knowledge to the next generation of Texans,” the report argues.
The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education
, an organization that supports the higher education governance ideas offered by university administrators, called on regents and elected officials to distance themselves from the seven solutions. “This careful and thoughtful analysis of available science and research exposes the serious flaws with misguided proposals that will undermine the quality of higher education in Texas,” said the coalition in a statement. “This analysis should settle this issue once and for all, ending any flirtation with implementing these misguided suggestions and we call on university regents and state leaders to repudiate these flawed ideas in the best interests of quality education and economic development in our state. We continue to support proven, effective improvements that our universities have been actively implementing, and continue to address.”
One Texas political leader who isn’t distancing himself from higher education reform is Perry. “University faculty
and their allies should join the reform efforts and recommend ways to innovate, improve graduation rates, and enhance accountability and efficiency at Texas colleges and universities. We all have an obligation to meet the needs of Texas students, employers, taxpayers and our fast-growing economy. Resisting reform and accountability is an unsustainable recipe for mediocrity and stagnation. Texas deserves better,” Miner said in reference to Diehl’s report.