State of the State
In his State of the State address this week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a state hiring freeze that included institutions of higher education. As noted by the Associated Press, the move “applies only to positions supported by money appropriated by the Legislature. That might allow campuses to use tuition dollars to pay for some positions while shifting appropriated funds to other college and university expenses.” In his remarks, Abbott also called on lawmakers to fully fund his University Research Initiative, which aims to recruit talented faculty to Texas institutions.
Following the weekend Executive Order by President Trump restricting immigration from seven countries, Texas universities struggled this week with how to handle students and faculty who hailed from those countries. According to The Eagle, “Texas A&M University president Michael K. Young joined with other higher education officials from around the country Friday to express concern” over the order. Young was one of 598 university and college presidents who signed on to a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. It read, in part, "We take seriously the need to safeguard our nation and also the need for the United States to remain the destination of choice for the world's best and brightest students, faculty and scholars ... We are confident that our nation can craft policies that secure us from those who wish to harm us, while welcoming those who seek to study, conduct research and scholarship, and contribute their knowledge and talents to our country."
UT Austin President Greg Fenves, who also signed on to the letter to Kelly, issued a letter to the campus praising the contributions of the 110 students and faculty from the affected countries. UT System Chancellor McRaven, noted for masterminding the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, expressed his concern in a statement saying, “I would hope that my commitment to our nation's security cannot be questioned … But, I also stand behind the core values we hold as a nation.”
On Thursday, the Senate Nominations Committee gave approval to Janiece Longoria, Kevin Eltife and Rad Weaver to be the next UT System Regents. The full Senate is expected to take up the nominees as early as this week.
This week the UT System announced it was developing a “biobank” to allow multiple UT institutions to share data and biological samples used for medical research. “Once in place, the UTSHB network will speed scientific discovery and translation of these findings into patient care, and will make the research of UT faculty more competitive for grant funding,” said Ray Greenberg, UT System executive vice chancellor for health affairs.
A new study by the U.S. Department of Transportation highlighted the economic impact of a proposed “cross-border freight shuttle” a public-private partnership developed by Texas A&M. “The Freight Shuttle is a great example of how research universities and the private sector can solve everyday problems in the real world,” said Chancellor John Sharp. He added that the shuttle would “address border security, traffic congestion and environmental concerns” in addition to the economic benefits. Click here to watch a video of the shuttle in action.
Week of February 5, 2017
"A workhorse for our nation’s scientists and engineers"
Saying it was “among our biggest challenges,” this week Texas A&M President Michael K. Young indicated that lowering the faculty-to-student ratio was a top priority. While the institution has experienced tremendous growth in its student body, hiring of faculty has not kept pace. Last fall, Texas A&M’s ratio was 23-to-1. “As a comparison, Young noted the University of Texas had an 18-to-1 ratio -- 23 percent better than A&M -- and the University of Michigan has a 12-to-1 ratio -- 92 percent better than A&M.” Young told The Eagle, “We would like to improve that [ratio] as quickly as we can, but it does take time to hire quality faculty, [and] it is also a tremendous financial challenge.”Continue reading
Minors, Guns & Affirmative Action
Race in college admissions was in the headlines again this week when the Justice Department announced it was “preparing to investigate and sue colleges over their affirmative action policies.” UT Austin is “likely well-shielded” from any changes to its admissions policies, since a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2016 approved of The University’s approach. And, though, most institutions in Texas don’t use affirmative action, those that do employ it may face scrutiny. “Officials at Texas State University and Texas A&M University, for example, said such factors play no role in admissions decisions. However, some schools — notably UT and A&M — go to considerable lengths to recruit applicants from heavily minority areas in Dallas, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley and other parts of the state.”Continue reading