Texas Tribune: What is your motivation for repeated requests for significant amounts of information? Why have you not been more public about your motivations?
Texas Tribune: What is your motivation for repeated requests for significant amounts of information? Why have you not been more public about your motivations?
There could be trouble for Powers in Sunday’s meeting. The tension is rising. Is this the last straw in a string of cover ups? You decide. Read the article by Kirk Bohls, Ralph K.M. Haurwitz and Randy Riggs of the American-Statesman Staff.
A prominent state senator is questioning the need for a rare Sunday meeting of the University of Texas’ governing board — a meeting prompted by the disclosure that Longhorns assistant football coach Major Applewhite was disciplined in 2009 for an inappropriate relationship with a student.
Posted by Steven Harper
Last month, University of Texas President Bill Powers asked his law school dean, Larry Sager, to resign months ahead of his originally planned departure at the end of the academic year. According to the Texas Tribune, Sager’s relationship with the law school’s faculty “had become so strained that he was no longer able to serve effectively.” One source of discord, the Tribune said, was faculty compensation.
The story became more interesting with news that the law school’s foundation—a private, nonprofit group run by alums and distinguished attorneys—had given Sager a $500,000 “forgivable loan” in 2009. Things got even juicier when Powers said, “I don’t remember ever being told about the loan to Dean Sager, and that’s the sort of thing I would remember.”
He said, He said
Sager countered with his “clear memory” that Powers knew about the loan, but then distanced himself from the foundation’s action in giving it to him: “Whatever else is true about the loan, the decision was made by the president of the foundation, the executive committee of the foundation and the trustees of the foundation as a whole. I would not and could not have dictated this outcome [i.e., the $500,000 loan he received].”
So who determines compensation at the University of Texas School of Law? Read more…
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.
Under Rick Perry‘s leadership, Texas has registered the largest growth in jobs and population among the 50 states while amassing a deficit estimated at between $15 billion and $27 billion for the next two years.
The population has surged by about 3.9 million since 2000, giving the state four new seats in Congress, the biggest gain for any state, Census Bureau figures show.
Payroll jobs, meanwhile, have grown by more than 1 million while total U.S. employment was little changed, said Richard Froeschle, deputy director of Labor Market and Career Information at the Texas Workforce Commission.
“A lot of the job growth in Texas has occurred in lower-wage industries, which is problematic but also no different than in other states,” Froeschle said.
“People and companies are coming to Texas because of good public policy that includes low taxes,” said Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation, a conservative research center that advocates for lower taxes and smaller government.
While Perry appears to be testing the presidential waters by traveling to U.S. cities, including Los Angeles on Thursday, and touting Texas’ business-friendly environment, corporate leaders are criticizing a 2012-2013 state budget that cuts higher-education spending while shortchanging primary and secondary schools by $4 billion in the two years that begin in September.
Executives including Ed Whitacre, a former chairman of Dallas-based AT&T, have said cuts of that magnitude may make Texas less competitive. The state ranks 43rd in graduation rates, according to the Legislative Budget Board in Austin.
“For Texas to cut $4 billion from public-school funding now, when a better-educated Texas can be a bulwark against future recessions, seems unwise, not conservative and, in fact, very risky,” Charles Butt, chairman of H.E. Butt Grocery in San Antonio, wrote in a letter published June 10 in the Houston Chronicle.
Public schools have started firing teachers and increasing class sizes, while colleges and universities will receive $1.2 billion less. Lawmakers didn’t raise taxes or dip into the state’s $9 billion Rainy Day fund. Read more…
Long-awaited performance data at the University of Texas has now been analyzed by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. The findings are nothing less than shocking and help explain why our public colleges have become so expensive.
The data reveals that a sizable percentage of the teaching staff at our premier publicly-funded university lead a very good life. But it proves to be far less than a good deal for Texas taxpayers and students.
The research reveals that only one out of five faculty members teach more than half of all the classroom hours. These hard-working professors carry nearly 60 percent of the teaching load for less than 30 percent of the overall cost of the entire faculty. They also produce 18 percent of all the research dollars generated at UT. These productive heroes are a very good deal for Texans.
At the other end of the spectrum, 20 percent of the faculty carries 2 percent of the teaching load — and that 20 percent is expensive. Combined with overhead, these 840 professors cost almost $57 million a year. For these tenured professors, UT is an ivory tower lined in rich silk. A full 80 percent of all of the teachers at UT carry only 43 percent of all the teaching responsibilities at the Austin campus. Read more…
By Huma Munir
President William Powers Jr. came out against what he called “flawed” productivity analyses of the University that have been cropping up since the system released data on faculty performance last month.
The task force on enhancing productivity and excellence, created in February by the Board of Regents, requested the data. The data is considered premature by the UT system administrators and was released with cautionary statements saying no analysis would yield accurate results. Read more…
By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
No one expected institutions of higher learning in Texas and their students to emerge unscarred from the legislative session, and they did not.
The number of students receiving state financial aid grants will decline by tens of thousands during the next two years. Community colleges aren’t getting any extra funding to accommodate sharp enrollment growth. Appropriations to the University of Texas are down 16.5 percent, or $92.1 million, for 2012-13. Read more…
By Weston Hicks
A recent article in a Bryan-College Station paper, The Eagle, provides a good example of the kind of distraction people defending the unsustainable status quo in Texas higher education are forced to engage in.
The article discusses accountability efforts elsewhere (Oklahoma University, in this case), including who came up with them and how well they worked, trying hard to make it all sound controversial enough to further hamper efforts in Texas.
The fact is, tuition costs, expensive in the first place, are rising faster than almost everything else in our economy without corresponding improvement in teaching or research. Why does the same exact thing cost so much more every year? Why is it “irresponsible” to expect that to change?
The UT Regents, Governor Perry, and others on the side of reform simply want transparency and accountability in teaching, research, and money-spending so we can get ahead of the problem. Common sense ideas for change are out there. It’s true we won’t fully know how well they’ll work until they’re tried. If they don’t work well, we need to find better solutions. Read more…
Zaffirini chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee and, along with Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, the recently established Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency.
The joint panel will conduct a lengthy and thorough examination of governance, policymaking and other matters, she said in an interview. Its first report is due in January 2013.
Zaffirini said she expects the spotlight to remain on governing boards, especially that of the University of Texas System, for four to six years. That would be long enough to include Gov. Rick Perry’s current term in office and the term of some of his recent appointees to the UT board, she said. Read more…
The regents were scheduled Thursday to meet for the first time since chancellor Mike McKinney announced his retirement earlier this month. Emails and some lawmakers have indicated McKinney may have grown unpopular because A&M was slow in adopting suggested reforms. Read more…
Beginning with Answers to Their Questions.
By Ronald L. Trowbridge
The debate on higher education reform has become a firestorm. The reason for the controversy is that, as with any debate, valid arguments exist on both sides. How, then, should the issue be resolved?
The first consideration%3A Is there in fact a problem with the status quo? The recent study from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity reveals an unacceptable disparity. Of the roughly 4,200 faculty members at The University of Texas at Austin, the
840 most productive teachers teach an extraordinary 57 percent of all student credit hours, while the least productive 840 members teach only 2 percent of all student credit hours. Why?
One thing is certain: Reform will never come from within the university. Derek Bok, president of Harvard for 20 years, tells us why: “In theory, presidents and deans are supposed to counteract self-interested behavior to make sure that the legitimate needs of students are properly addressed.
“In practice, however, academic leaders often fail to fulfill this responsibility,” he continued. Read more…
Gene Powell has had a few trying months. First, the formation of two task forces, one on excellence and productivity and the other on blended and online learning were established to give the Regents information and data on methods to improve and innovate, helping to create a benchmark to move the UT system forward.
Secondly, in an attempt to instill positive academic change and facilitate the process for educated decision-making within the task forces, Rick O’Donnell was hired as an adviser. Although there were no improprieties in this process, a fury of condemnation from all sides attacked Powell for doing what was in the best interest of the UT System. Read more…
At a meeting of the University of Texas System Board of Regents in Austin Thursday, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa delivered a highly anticipated address, laying out his “framework for advancing excellence throughout the university system.”
In a roll call vote, the board of regents, who have been the subject of speculation and suspicion in recent weeks from some members of the higher education community — particularly with regard to their support for academic research — unanimously supported Cigarroa’s vision.
Without directly mentioning them, a number of Cigarroa’s comments alluded to a controversial set of seven “breakthrough solutions” promoted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, and Gov. Rick Perry. The most hotly debated of the seven is a call to separate research and teaching budgets, which some critical students and alumni at the University of Texas at Austin have speculate is a divide and conquer approach. Read more…
The regents voted unanimously to show their support to Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and endorse his plan to improve the UT System campuses.
Cigarroa’s comments came amid heated debate over the future of the UT System and its 15 campuses. Some new regents have pressed hard for changes in the system, demanding reams of data about how the universities operate financially and academically. But the approach has struck critics as too heavy-handed and misguided.
“Universities simply cannot be micromanaged. I trust my presidents, and I will hold them and I will hold myself accountable,” Cigarroa told regents at Thursday’s meeting. Read more…
In a major show of confidence in Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, University of Texas System regents today unanimously endorsed his vision of pursuing excellence across the system’s academic and health campuses.
Cigarroa outlined that vision in a 34-minute speech. Each of the nine members of the board, along with the nonvoting student regent, subsequently expressed support.
Chairman Gene Powell, whose comments and actions in recent months raised questions about his support of the chancellor, said he “wholeheartedly” agreed with Cigarroa and was proud to call him a colleague and friend. Read more…
A telling moment could come Thursday when Cigarroa outlines what the agenda describes as “a framework for advancing excellence” throughout the system.
The regents are scheduled to vote on his recommendations, and in light of recent controversy about the direction of the UT System, that could amount to a referendum on Cigarroa himself.
This is the first meeting of the regents since debate erupted a few months ago regarding several higher education “breakthrough solutions” advocated by Gov. Rick Perry and Jeff Sandefer, an Austin businessman, philanthropist and Perry campaign contributor. Read more…
Mary Dearen Midland Reporter-Telegram
ODESSA — Wm. Eugene “Gene” Powell, chairman of The University of Texas System Board of Regents, will deliver the featured address at The University of Texas of the Permian Basin‘s graduation at 9 a.m. Saturday on the campus lawn.
Powell has been a member of the Board of Regents since 2009 and was elected chairman in February.
Handicapped parking will be close by in the Devonian Lot to the left of the library. Remote parking areas like South Campus and the Duck Pond will be serviced by a variety of UTPB-marked shuttles before and after the ceremony.
Parallel parking will be allowed on JBS Parkway on the east curb line between University Boulevard and Maple Street. However, vehicles may be parked on the street only until noon when all lanes will reopen.
By Melissa Ludwig
Gene Powell, a San Antonio businessman who chairs the University of Texas System Board of Regents, would like to reduce tuition by about 50 percent across system institutions, including UTSA, according to an April 7 memo obtained by the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle.
Powell also suggests increasing enrollment at UT-Austin by 10 percent per year beginning in 2013, and by an unspecified figure at all other campuses.
Other goals include making UT-Austin the best public university in the nation and creating a timeline for UT’s four emerging research universities, including the University of Texas at San Antonio, to reach Tier One status. Read more…
University of Texas System Regent Alex Cranberg is not shying away from previous statements criticizing professor accountability, weighing faculty’s “credentials” versus “achievements,” and praising the Acton School of Business, co-founded by Jeff Sandefer, architect of the controversial seven breakthrough solutions for higher education.
March 25, 2011
Dear Regent Hall:
I’ve been thinking about our several discussions regarding the accuracy of claims made about my stance on university research. I appreciate your interest and have been delighted to answer your questions. Please let me elaborate a bit on what we have talked about.
Based on recent news coverage, it is clear that most people have focused on one or two white papers I wrote a number of years ago. That‟s understandable, especially since those papers represent not only a small slice of life but a slice from an environment designed to stimulate dialogue and
encourage debate. However, there is also the evidence from my actual work in higher education where my words and deeds clearly reflect my positive views about the role of research in the university and the role of the research university in higher education in America.
When I served as Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, I was always a strong proponent of university-based research – both basic research and applied research. In fact, during my career in Colorado state government, I advocated for and assisted in the passage of financing for Colorado to build its new premier biosciences research center, the University of Colorado Health Science Center at Fitzsimmons. At the time, I was recognized by the President of the University of Colorado for the role I played in securing the Governor‟s support for debt financing for this massive project of hospitals, research labs, classrooms and adjacent private sector research park. My opportunity to help move this state-of-the-art health science center from the drawing board to reality was then and continues today as a source of enormous pride and a satisfying example of the many delights of public service.
Throughout my career in senior positions in Colorado state government I was always a strong supporter of investments in science and technology institutions and programs. I was honored to serve as chairman of the Colorado Institute of Technology, a public-private partnership to advance
undergraduate and graduate STEM education. My fellow board members, composed of the presidents of every public and private research university in Colorado and high technology CEOs, unanimously elected me to serve as chairman due to my commitment to the mission and ability to advance it with both public and private sector leaders.
The white papers at the center of recent attention have been used to suggest I don’t value university-based research. In fact, I wrote the white papers to initiate a discussion about approaches to assessing the value of research. That is the role of a white paper at any think tank, including the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). As a Senior Fellow at TPPF (an unremunerated honorific post), it was my responsibility to produce thought-provoking analytical pieces to advance a line of reasoning to further debate and discussion on important issues. I decided to focus on ways of measuring the productivity of dollars invested in research because I knew from experience that many state legislators and governors raise questions about investments in research and how those investments affect a university‟s teaching, training and public service functions. It was also my responsibility in those papers to offer public policy options that are an outgrowth of the line of reasoning put forward.
I knew my white papers would be controversial. The purpose, after all, was to generate debate. I knew the application of cost-benefit measures would both spotlight the value as well as the limitations of that methodology as well as point to areas where we need better measures of benefits.
I think my papers did that. Too often in cost-benefit analysis we measure what we can (i.e., where data are available) rather than measure what is important – like the old story of the guy looking for the keys to his car under the street light because that‟s where the light is. So, for example, I looked at
the return on scientific research as measured by available data – such as income royalties and licenses on patents. Are these adequate measures of the contribution of research to university-based innovation? No, I don’t think so. But this is what budget analysts will measure in the absence of other indicators.
I think my papers show clearly that we may be spending too much time under the street light – and that, indeed, measures of what is important are sadly missing. For instance, there is evidence that involving freshmen in research with primary investigators increases student engagement and retention. These are valuable outcomes and thus it is worth creating metrics to evaluate how many freshmen contact hours there are with primary investigators, if the trends are going up or down, if student engagement and retention differs by discipline or type of research with which they are involved, and what the costs are for these efforts. Measures such as these will provide guidance on how to craft strategies with the greatest cost-benefit for students and research.
There are many ways to measure and value research beyond that done in my white papers. Research capacity may attract technology-based companies and promote economic growth – one of the very reasons I supported the creation of the Fitzsimmons Health Science Center referenced above. Another value of research is that, particularly via graduate education, it helps prepare the next generation of researchers who, in the private sector, will conduct the vast majority of research done in America. But most of these lack ready metrics.
I hope my white papers and the discussions they have generated (including those over the past few weeks) will help produce new indicators and new measures that will make it possible for taxpayers, legislators, governors, university chancellors, deans, department chairs and institute directors to
develop a more valid dashboard of performance measures and thereby arm leaders at every level with the information they need to be better allocators and managers of scarce resources.
But, when all is said and done, it is clear that the public through their elected officials will, whether we like it or not, increasingly demand that we justify the way we allocate taxpayer funds that support higher education. They have a right and responsibility to do so and those of us in the university have an obligation to provide clear answers to questions that are being asked – especially if budget cuts require a reassessment of priorities and a reallocation of resources. My papers at TPPF, which are now so controversial, are one of many ongoing efforts to show the need for more refined ways to assess the value of the state’s investment in higher education. I am not the first to do this. In fact, I quote many leading academicians who have raised and are raising similar questions. Nor will I be the last. I think that many in leadership positions at every level in the U.T. System and its campuses are to be commended for seeing the need to get a better handle on how we allocate higher education dollars, not the least because there are inevitably going to be fewer dollars to allocate.
Put another way, it’s clear that research investments to facilitate student engagement and retention, advance knowledge, promote economic development or job training will not be free from accountability, including closer examination of their costs and benefits. For instance, Charles O. Holliday Jr., an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, former CEO of DuPont, and now chair of the National Research Council‟s Committee on Research Universities, a panel of 22 university and corporate leaders formed at the request of members of Congress to examine the financial, organizational and intellectual health of the U.S. research university, said, according to news reports, that “he wanted ways of measuring „the productivity of research universities.‟ It wasn’t clear he’d be getting answers.” At the same meeting, M. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities “at one point mused about the value of developing hard figures on the cost of producing a graduate student. Mr. Berdahl [president of the
American Association of Universities] answered, “I‟m not sure we want to call attention to that.‟”
Whether we want the attention or not, it seems clear that questions on productivity, efficiency and accountability for our research universities and research expenditures are being asked. These questions may be controversial to some and seem to challenge the status quo, but they are raised from time to time, even within the scientific community. Not only have I been an agent of higher education reform as a state leader, I am very well acquainted with the literature. As long ago as the early 1970s, the National Science Foundation and others wrestled with if there should be an explicit focus on funding “research for national needs” and just how to evaluate that. Simply typing “research funding accountability” into Google yields millions of links to studies, books and conferences where others have raised similar issues for decades.
In a nutshell, I understand and support the value of research, including basic research, and the central role of research universities in the science and technology eco-system that is the backbone of America’s economic role in the world. I also am unafraid to look at the data, ask hard questions around productivity, cost-benefits and accountability because I think it is possible to measure the value of research to our common weal. Perhaps the best sense of my overall approach to research is what I said on my feet earlier this year as moderator of a panel discussion, where I mentioned that
research is an integral part of the university and economic resources of the state. You may watch the short clip of my remarks here: http://vimeo.com/21526494.
Let me conclude by quoting a recent remark of U.T. Austin President William Powers Jr. “We are committed to inventing and reinventing what it means to be a great public university. We want to make sure that we do it in a way that also advances great public research.” I am in total alignment with President Powers’ comments. I believe that process of reinvention requires us to ask hard questions that may challenge the status quo as we are held accountable for outcomes. That, after all, is how any great organization, including public universities, continually improve.
I hope this letter provides some context and helps clarify my views on the value of research and the research university. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Like you, I look forward to strengthening the teaching, research and public service commitments of the University of Texas System and its intuitions.