On The Higher Ed Horizon

“University leaders began this year [2017] expecting a bruising Texas legislative session, but they came out mostly unscathed. In many ways, the year will be remembered more for what happened on campus — not in the Capitol,” according to a roundup of higher ed news by the Texas Tribune. Funding, culture wars, tuition, #MeToo and Hurricane Harvey were just a few of the top stories that dominated headlines in 2017. With one week of 2018 under our belt, we’re already seeing a little more of the same – campus issues dominating higher ed headlines.
Consider the Texas Legislature announced this week a January 31, 2018 hearing on campus free speech issues to be held at Texas State University, which “grappled with free speech after a fall controversial newspaper column” last fall. According to the Houston Chronicle, the “hearing will attempt to evaluate ‘any restrictions on Freedom of Speech rights that Texas students face in expressing their views on campus along with freedoms of the press, religion, and assembly’ and ‘recommend policy changes that protect First Amendment rights and enhance the free speech environment on campus.’
Inside Higher Ed prognosticated about seven trends for higher education in 2018. The full article about what university leaders should prepare for can be read here, but the bullet points are:

  1. Eroding support for higher ed.
  2. Challenges to the business model.
  3. Violent activism and balancing free speech, safety and climate.
  4. #MeToo movement in the academy.
  5. Student safety in Greek life and athletics.
  6. Reckoning with the racist past.
  7. Presidents as public thought leaders.

 “… Intellectual and administrative chops to oversee 14 academic and health campuses, political savvy for navigating sometimes treacherous waters at the state Legislature and an unwavering commitment to the mission of teaching, learning, research and public service.” That’s the Austin American-Statesman’s take on what the search committee for the next chancellor of the UT System should look for in candidates. Following the announcement that Bill McRaven will step down in May 2018, UT System Board of Regents Chair, Sara Martinez Tucker, announced the formation of a search committee, which will include Regents Hildebrand and Foster, as well as two former Board Chairmen, James Huffines and Donald Evans, to find McRaven's replacement.
Students at Rice University are working with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to study the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the coral reef at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. More on their study can be read here.
“Rita Clements was an outstanding First Lady of Texas, committed public servant and proud Longhorn who loved her alma mater and dedicated her life to making it even greater. The UT community mourns her loss and sends our thoughts and prayers to her family.” That was from a statement by UT Austin President Greg Fenves following the death of Rita Clements this week. Clements served as a member of the board of regents and was a distinguished alumnus of The University.

Week of January 7, 2018

Latest Updates

  • “So far Texas has been incomparable.”

    “So far Texas has been incomparable.” That was how newly minted UT System Chancellor James Milliken reflected on his first two weeks on the job when he spoke recently at the Texas Tribune Festival. In discussing what he plans to bring to the role, he said: “The foundation of my philosophy about public higher education is that talent is equally distributed across every demographic—whether it’s wealth, race, ethnicity, nationality, or zip code.” A recap of the festival, which also featured conversations about higher ed policy by Texas lawmakers, can be viewed here.

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  • The Longest Lecture

    The fall semester started with the surprise departure of a chancellor at one university system and the arrival of a new chancellor at another. Robert Duncan, the Texas Tech System chancellor, stepped down on August 13th, but rumors about the “why” of his departure continue. Meanwhile, the UT System officially welcomed James Milliken as its new chancellor. “You can't do anything important in public higher education without a partnership, a close partnership, with the leadership of state government, and frankly a partnership with the philanthropic community," said Milliken. "It is one of the essential roles of the job,” he said. “I've been successful at that in other places; I certainly hope that I'm successful at it in Texas.”

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