The Next Spindletop?

A recent national survey found that international student enrollment is declining in the U.S. This echoes an earlier study by the Houston Chronicle, which found sharp drops in international enrollment at Texas institutions this fall. In fact, “applications to Texas' four-year public universities plummeted year over year by at least 10,000.” Among the contributing factors, according to the study, were the “social and political climate” in the U.S., as well as visa delays and cost. As reporter Lindsay Ellis noted, “International students pay way more money to attend state schools, boosting campus budgets amid uncertain state appropriations.”
 
Last week Gov. Abbott announced two new GURI Grant Awards. (That’s acronym the Governor’s University Research Initiative, of course.) The newest recipients will both join the faculty at Texas A&M University. M. Cynthia Hipwell, Ph.D., is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and Roderic Ivan Pettigrew, Ph.D., M.D., is a member of both the National Academy of Engineering as well as the National Academy of Medicine. “The Governor’s University Research Initiative is the kind of smart, strategic investment that will keep our great research universities at the forefront of innovation,” said John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “Gov. Abbott’s investment in higher education will pay off in a more educated workforce, a stronger economy and great universities.”
 
UT Austin President Greg Fenves recently received the “Guardian of the Human Spirit Award” from the Holocaust Museum in Houston where he delivered a powerful speech in which he spoke personally about the story of his father, a survivor of Auschwitz. He said, “I feel a need to speak more personally than I am used to …We are living through a time when our nation is experiencing acts—even movements—fueled by hatred, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim and anti-gay sentiments, and discrimination towards immigrants on college campuses and in our communities … Too many people do not understand what hatred can lead to—especially organized, legitimized hatred. That is why we must remember. Remember through our stories. So today, I want to tell you a story. A story that helps define who I am, and a story about our nation—my father’s story.” The full text of his speech can be read here.
 
The UT Regents met last week, covering off on many issues, but one that didn’t move ahead was whether or not to move forward with a bid for managing and operating Los Alamos National Laboratory. Board Chair, Sara Martinez Tucker, said the vote would be postponed until the November 27 meeting. Another move that is in a holding pattern until more information can be gathered, is whether or not UT would join Texas A&M, Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Medical Center to “establish a joint campus focusing on life sciences research in the medical center,” an initiative dubbed TMC3. Meanwhile, Regents from the Texas A&M University System, who also met last week, gave the greenlight to Chancellor Sharp to begin negotiations to expand its partnership with TMC3. The President and CEO of the Texas Medical Center, Bill McKeon is enthusiastic about the opportunities the collaboration has. He said, "(I hope) this will be the Spindletop of life sciences in Texas... I really hope that it carries through."

Week of November 12, 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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