A Thumbs Up

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. You can help those affected by visiting www.RedCross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Or, visit www.HelpSalvationArmy.org or text STORM to 51555. 
On Wednesday, the Texas A&M System Board of Directors gave a thumbs up to extending Chancellor John Sharp’s contract. “From day one he has been a bold, innovative, visionary leader and he has really made a difference for the A&M System,” said Regent Phil Adams. The move paves the way for the board’s chairman to negotiate and finalize a deal with Sharp, which is expected to stay consistent with his current salary of $900,000 – $1.3 million with benefits.
The UT System Board of Regents voted unanimously to select Peter W.T. Pisters, MD, MHCM, as the sole finalist for the position of president at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. “The search for a new leader began earlier this year when Ron DePinho, M.D. announced he would be stepping down as president. Marshall Hicks, M.D., will continue serving as interim president of MD Anderson until Pisters’ appointment as president is finalized by the Board of Regents.”
The fracking boom has been a boon to the Permanent University Fund (PUF), which supports an endowment for the Texas A&M and University of Texas Systems. Consider that the UT System received $352 million from the fund in 2011 – this year it will receive $603 million. Last week the Texas Tribune produced an in-depth piece on how and where that money gets spent.
This week, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities announced that UT Austin was one of the finalists for its 2017 “Project Degree Completion Award.” The prize works to “identify, recognize, and reward institutions that employ innovative approaches to improve retention and degree completion.” UT Austin’s four-year graduation rate increased more than 10 percent over a four-year period.
After the departure of Texas A&M’s provost Karan Watson over conflict-of-interest issues with her husband’s business, the A&M Board of Regents this week voted totighten rules to avoid such controversies in the future. “Under the new rules, chief financial officers, vice chancellors, chief auditors, chief compliance officers, provosts, vice presidents, deans, deputy agency directors, associate agency directors and others with equivalent job duties are prohibited from contracting for goods and services from vendors if they or their close family members have a financial interest in those vendors.”
The UT System Board of Regents this week greenlighted an effort by System leaders to pursue management of the contract for Los Alamos National Lab, “the nation’s most preeminent national laboratory in the areas of nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation, safeguards and security, environmental management, energy and other programs.” The University of California System has the contract now, and has been involved in management of the Lab for more than 70 years.

Week of August 27, 2017

Latest Updates

  • Dramatic Changes

    With higher education facing financial and public opinion headwinds, Rice University took a proactive step this week by unveiling a seven-point plan to demonstrate its value to the public. According to the university, the plan is partially in response to “dramatic changes” in higher education. According to the Houston Chronicle, “Rice University plans to double research funding, work more closely with Houston and make undergraduate education more affordable for middle-class students in its next decade, a recognition that even the city's most prestigious campus must show its worth in a cultural climate skeptical of higher education.”

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  • "You can’t legislate morality or civility"

    “No one should be shouted down … We need to put an end to that. But you can’t legislate morality or civility — I get that,” said Sen. Joan Huffman during a State Affairs Committee hearing on campus free speech issues last week. In the wake of a series of incidents on college campuses nationally, and here in Texas, where conservative speakers had been dis-invited or shouted down because of their political views, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tasked the panel with coming up with solutions to “protect First Amendment rights and enhance the free speech environment on campus.” The panel was co-hosted by Texas State University and held in San Marcos. “Senators seemed to agree that no one has the right not to be offended,” according to the Austin American-Statesman account. Read more here on free speech conflicts on Texas campuses in 2017.

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