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

  • “A clever political move”

    Calling it “a clever political move,” the San Antonio Express-News editorial board criticized state lawmakers for turning tuition-setting authority to regents, saying Texas parents have lawmakers to thank for higher tuition bills this fall. “State lawmakers know they can shortchange higher education because the university boards will feel obligated to make up the difference with tuition. An added bonus of the arrangement is that it allows the regents, appointees of the governor, to take the heat off elected officials, who can claim no direct involvement in the rising cost of a college education. But, in truth, cutting state funding for higher education directly causes tuition increases. Denial is a sham, and pointing fingers at regents is an evasion of responsibility.”

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  • Implosion

    A longhorn and leading former member of the Trump Administration is being considered to head The University of Texas System, according to media reports. Rex Tillerson, who was ousted as Secretary of State just two weeks ago, is “open” to the idea of becoming the next UT System Chancellor per a Wall Street Journal report. Tillerson gave a farewell address at the State Department this week and his final official day on the job is March 31. Chancellor Bill McRaven will step down as Chancellor in May. “Rex is a solid citizen, very ethical, straightforward, and straight talking,” said ExxonMobil general counsel Charles Matthews to Texas Monthly. “He brings great integrity to whatever he does, and if he were chosen he would be a very, very solid choice.”

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