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.
Coalition Welcomes Fenves as New UT Austin President
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“Today’s appointment of Greg Fenves as the next president of UT Austin marks the start of a new chapter for the school and builds on a legacy of excellence. Fenves has the academic credentials, national respect, campus and alumni support, fundraising skills and working knowledge of The University to hit the ground running. We commend the presidential search committee, Chancellor McRaven and the Board of Regents for ensuring this orderly transition. With new presidents at both UT Austin and Texas A&M, exciting prospects are ahead for Texas’ major public research institutions.”Continue reading
Coalition Statement on Grand Jury Report
The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education today issued the following statement after the release of a report by a Travis County grand jury that recommended removal of UT System Regent Wallace L. Hall, Jr., but stopped short of indicting him:
“We respect the grand jury’s legal process and its findings, including its decision and statements. This confirms the Texas Legislature was right to exercise its oversight authority and look into Regent Hall’s actions. This report shows that Regent Hall’s actions were not appropriate, permissible or in keeping with best practices for public officials. Now is the time to move forward – new regents have been appointed and approved, a new president for UT Austin has been designated and the new chancellor clearly wants to move the UT System forward. It is our hope that all have learned from this experience and will join the Chancellor in a spirit of collaboration, cooperation and excellence, and work to advance opportunities for all students within the UT System.”Continue reading