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.
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Turmoil resumes at UT over admissions, records requestsThe University of Texas System was a battleground over the summer as a legislative panel voted to censure a divisive regent, and President William Powers agreed under pressure to resign next year. The selection of a widely respected new system chancellor, Adm. William McRaven, added to hopes that the controversy might be winding down. University officials confirmed this week that regent Wallace Hall's public records requests, a key issue in the legislative hearings that led to his censure, had continued unabated. And in an Oct. 16 letter to regents Chair Paul Foster, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, expressed dismay that Hall had asked to examine certain unspecified, "potentially confidential" documents.For nearly a year before his censure, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations looked into the lengthy, personal investigation Hall had undertaken into UT-Austin under Powers. Powers' supporters called the probe a witch hunt to oust the president. They said Hall bullied staff, released confidential student information and sullied the school's reputation in the process. A preliminary investigation found no evidence of punishable wrongdoing. But additional information provided to system officials reignited concerns over UT-Austin's admissions practices and led the regents to hire corporate investigations firm Kroll Associates to undertake a deeper, independent inquiry. Lawmakers hoped the censure and the launch of the independent probe would tamp down Hall's personal investigations, but they haven't.
Pressure on the PresidentsTwenty-eight percent of public four-year college and university presidents say they feel pressure from their governors to conduct their presidencies in ways that differ from their judgment about what's best for their institutions.That is among the findings of the latest snap poll of presidents -- conducted by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed -- on breaking issues. A total of 620 presidents responded to the latest survey. They were assured anonymity, but their answers were grouped by sector. The latest survey was conducted amid the latest push by allies of Texas Governor Rick Perry to force out Bill Powers as president of the University of Texas at Austin, and amid growing debate over the use of climate surveys as one tool to combat sexual assault on campuses. (Powers survived, but in part because he was agreeing to retire anyway, just on his schedule instead of the governor's.)Continue reading