"Listening to Each Other"

The U.S. Senate will have a new bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act “by early spring” according to Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Alexander, along with the ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Patty Murray, are working together and “listening to each other” in order to find common ground to move the bill forward. At a hearing this week Lamar outlined the goals of the legislation: “Simpler, more effective regulations that make college more affordable and easier for students to apply for financial aid and pay back their loans; reducing red tape so administrators can spend more time and money on students; making sure a degree is worth the time and money students spend to earn it; and helping colleges keep students safe on campus.”
 
This weekend The Eagle editorial board praised Chancellor Sharp for his “vision, tenacity and leadership” in getting the new RELLIS campus up and running. Academic programs from around the System will be offered at the campus starting this fall, and the new Texas Transportation Institute headquarters recently was “topped off” with a final piece of steel being placed at a facility that will bring all employees together for the first time since the 1950s. According to the paper, “In the future, RELLIS will expand the number of buildings and the number of course offerings. Private businesses will be encouraged to locate on the campus or nearby to create a synergy between students, faculty, researchers and business to work on projects in a wide range of areas from health care to transportation to technology and beyond.”
 
“How do we have a lean efficient operating system that's serving our institutions?” That’s the question that UT System Regent and former state lawmaker Kevin Eltife said was the goal of the task force on which he, along with Regents Longoria, Weaver and Aliseda, are serving to take a critical and broad look at the System’s operations. In an interview with the Texas Tribune, he called the task force’s review a “valuable tool” for whomever would next helm the System after Chancellor McRaven steps down later this year. “Kenny Jastrow, a prominent UT alumnus and donor, said the committee presents the regents with an ‘incredible opportunity to ... set the long-term direction for the system – and then bring on a chancellor to carry out that mission.’”
 
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke at the University of Houston Law Center on Friday. Her visit marked the first time a Supreme Court justice had been on the campus since 2005. Her remarks spanned topics from the #MeToo movement to criminal justice reform. She challenged students to excel, saying that the justices are “only as smart as the lawyers who present issues to us.”
 
Speaking of the Supreme Court, UT Law School professor, Stephen I. Vladeck delivered oral arguments before the court in January. A Q&A about the experience can be read here.
 
Texas A&M faculty members may soon see their influence diminished when it comes to the selection of department heads, deans, and other academic leaders. The Board of Regents will vote on a proposal to make faculty votes on whether to recommend candidates to a search committee “advisory or recommendations” instead of binding. Texas A&M Provost Carol Fierke discussed the proposal this week at the faculty senate meeting.

Week of January 28, 2018

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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