Higher Ed Reform Needs a Student Focus, Young Alum Says

November 15, 2011
Muneezeh Kabir | The Alcalde

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 thisthe 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.

Signup for Updates:

Latest Updates

  • Higher Education Coalition Calls For Hall's Resignation

    The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education today called on University of Texas System Regent Wallace L. Hall Jr. to resign, citing a comprehensive investigation conducted for the Texas Legislature by an outside law firm, which concludes he has abused his office in ways the Coalition believes are creating a toxic distraction to higher education’s fundamental mission of educating students.
     
    The report outlined a number of potentially impeachable offenses, including “unabated and burdensome requests for records,” “misuse of confidential student information,” “public criticism for UT Austin,” and “obstruction of legislative process,” including pressuring “UT System witnesses to alter testimony provided to the Committee.”
     
    The Coalition issued the following statement calling for Hall’s resignation:
     
    “The job of a regent is to set broad policy and hold administrators accountable, not to create havoc and a culture of intimidation. The primary focus of the Board of Regents right now needs to be on finding and recruiting the very best new chancellor to lead the University of Texas System into a future of continued and increasing excellence. Hall’s presence has become a toxic distraction that is threatening the environment for a chancellor search, creating turmoil on the UT Austin campus and undermining the credibility and integrity of the entire Board of Regents. Rather than put the State of Texas through the spectacle of an impeachment trial that would no doubt bring additional negative national publicity to Texas, Hall should do the right thing and resign.”
     
    The Coalition is comprised of leading Texans with a lifelong commitment to higher education, including former presidents of UT Austin and Texas A&M, former members of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, a former UT System Chancellor, and former university regents and chairmen of the Board of Regents. The Coalition also includes CEOs of Texas companies, numerous business leaders, philanthropists and more than 400 concerned citizens.
    Continue reading
  • Report Chronicles Pattern of Abuse, Intimidation and Disregard for Rule of Law by Regent Hall

    Following the public release of the “Investigative Report to the House Select Committee in State Agency Operations regarding Conduct by University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall and Impeachment Under the June 25, 2013 Proclamation,” the Coalition issued the following statement:

    “The findings in this report indicate that Regent Hall has betrayed the public trust and abused his appointed position in vindictive and damaging ways. The behaviors and actions documented in this report are not consistent with the way Texans expect our state boards and agencies to be governed. The intimidation and harassment of state employees, the disregard for student privacy and the abuse of power uncovered in this investigation are deeply troubling and warrant further action. We applaud the Committee Members for their commitment to transparency and good governance, and encourage their continued focus on this critical matter.” 

    Continue reading

Share This Page: