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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Coalition Responds to Cigarroa ResignationOn the heels of the resignation of the Chancellor of the University of Texas System, Francisco Cigarroa, the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education issued the following statement:
“Chancellor Cigarroa’s resignation is a serious loss to the University of Texas System and higher education across Texas. Under Chancellor Cigarroa’s visionary leadership, the UT System has realized many important achievements in its academic and health institutions, and he is to be applauded and thanked for his service, particularly under increasingly challenging and divisive circumstances.“We call on the UT System Board of Regents to conduct a thorough, diligent national search for the next Chancellor, and seek to identify an individual qualified for and experienced in managing the complexities of a statewide system inclusive of academic, research and medical institutions. The next chancellor of the UT System must have an appreciation for thorough input from all stakeholders in decision-making and a vision for the future of higher education in the evolving academic environment with the primary goal of enhanced excellence.“We applaud Chancellor Cigarroa’s willingness to ensure continuity of leadership by staying on throughout the search for his successor. We encourage Chairman Paul Foster to continue making strides to improve the working environment at the UT System and between the campuses, and look forward to a search process devoid of political interference and focused on academic excellence.”Continue reading
Chancellor announces he is stepping down to return to medicine full timeUniversity of Texas System (news release)Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., a nationally renowned leader in higher education and pediatric transplant surgery, announced Monday morning that he will step down as head of The University of Texas System after a five-year tenure marked by groundbreaking accomplishments. Cigarroa will serve as chancellor until his successor is named, and afterward will become the head of pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. Cigarroa will also serve as a special liaison to the Board of Regents to advise on the development of the new University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and medical school, Chairman Paul Foster said.Before being named the first Hispanic chancellor of the UT System in late 2008, Cigarroa served as president of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio from 2000 to 2008. Cigarroa said at a news conference Monday that it always had been his plan to return to medicine full time, but he did not know the perfect opportunity at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio would unexpectedly present itself in late 2013.