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.
UH to the Big 12?
Reports out this week suggest the University of Houston would drop its opposition to the UT System expansion in Houston in exchange for entrance into the Big 12 conference. The idea of welcoming UH into the Big 12 received immediate support from Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick and UT Austin President Fenves, as indicated by a round of supportive Tweets. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Houston lawmakers had differing views on whether or not a “swap” was in the works. “I have talked to boosters of the university who have floated that concept,” said Rep. Garnet Coleman. “In these circumstances, people use the tools that they have, and that’s one of the tools the University of Houston has. All’s fair in love and war.” State Sen. John Whitmire, however, had a differing view. “For anyone to think there’s a swap there, I say not only no, but hell no,” he said. “They are separate and apart.”Continue reading
"Undisputed Center for Innovation and Intellectual Capital"
Saying he is “fueling a new era of economic development” Gov. Greg Abbott this week announced the first round of recipients of the Governor's University Research Initiative. The funds are intended to attract renowned researchers to Texas universities, and this first batch certainly meets that description. The 10 researchers, who are members of The Royal Society in the United Kingdom, the National Institutes of Health, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences, will come to three Texas schools: Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston. Texas A&M will receive half the researchers. In an op-ed following the announcement, Abbott wrote: “Because of the strategic investments we are making today, Texas will be the undisputed center for innovation and intellectual capital in this decade and beyond.”Continue reading