The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s “seven breakthrough solutions” have been answered in countless ways since their initial unveiling: the University of Texas System released data on faculty productivity, Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl issued a detailed retort, and most recently, Liberal Arts Associate Dean Marc Musick has given UT faculty high marks in his numbers-based report.
Regardless of their varied conclusions, I am troubled by this quest to win the numbers race at the cost of excluding student success from the discourse.
In fact, graduation rates have so far been the only metric used to include students in the discussion at all. This sentiment was reiterated to me when I was asked to meet with a regent and the controversial, since-removed “special adviser” to the Board.
I had expected to share with them my own student-focused approach to higher education reform on behalf of the UT student government’s “Invest in Texas” platform. I urged them to help us keep UT safe, affordable, and competitive. I was baffled when my points were brushed aside by decidedly “seven solutions”-esque rhetoric.
It has come to this—the absolutely counterintuitive notion that students must convince legislators and the powers-that-be that the quality of our degrees matters.
Our learning and achievements have been reduced to numbers like graduation rates and professor research revenue.
But, simply stated, we are unquantifiable.
When I testified before the Senate Finance Committee last session, I told them I knew students who were becoming some of Texas’s most prominent writers, who were using their McCombs education to enhance the Texas business world, who were going to work in some of our state’s most cutting-edge laboratories, and who were even going on to work in the committee members’ offices.
In short, I told them I knew students who exemplify our motto of “What Starts Here Changes the World.”
So what chart can explain the impact we make once we’ve left the Forty Acres? The number of professional schools we attend? The companies we work for? I’m not sure anyone could have predicted that a journalism major on a track scholarship would graduate in 1977 and go on to lead the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.
It seems that many have forgotten one of UT’s most exceptional qualities: its students. I can assure you, however, that the students have not forgotten that they are getting the short end of this stick.
Muneezeh Kabir is a former UT student body vice president. Photo by Corey Leamon.
Barbarians, Rankings & Guns
Chancellor Bill McRaven made headlines this week at a National Security Forum hosted by UT Austin’s Clements Center for National Security and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law. Calling Islamic State terrorists “barbarians” who “need to be destroyed,” McRaven urged the U.S. to lead in the fight against global terror. The symposium, which convened military and national security leaders from around the country, comes weeks after McRaven released his vision for the UT System, which includes building a UT Network for National Security.Continue reading
A Titan in Our Community
The Texas A&M System Board of Regents unanimously approved a 2.2 percent tuition hike this week that will impact students across the System. In explaining the increase, the Board’s Finance Chairman Charles W. Schwartz said, “We know that Texas A&M and its constituent universities don't live in a vacuum … we're subject to forces of the economy like every other public actor."Continue reading
Last weekend to kick off Texas A&M University’s $4 billion capital campaign, the Aggies pulled out all the stops, including the world’s largest card stunt that featured the campaigns’ theme: Lead by Example. Officials also announced the campaign has raised $1.9 billion since 2012 when it began the “quiet phase” of the fundraising push. According to The Eagle, funds “will provide scholarships, allow the school to compete for accomplished faculty, construct facilities and attain new technology.”