Coalition, Powers fight back against report’s negative assessment of UT officials

Huma Munir

A report by The Center of College Affordability and Productivity classifies high-level administrators as the least productive members of the University, according to a Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education press release.

The coalition, which formed in June, came out with a statement Tuesday saying the center’s analysis casts the University’s senior officials in a negative light. The report used preliminary data released by the UT System in May and used it to propose solutions that would significantly undermine education, according to the press release.

“A number of people who have been involved in Texas with higher education like myself have examined what [these] proposals are, and we don’t like it very much,” said former UT president Peter Flawn, who serves on the executive committee of the coalition.

People who support this analysis are characterizing the value of education using numbers, statistics and percentages that do not capture the full quality of research and education at the University, Flawn said.

Richard Vedder is an Ohio University economics professor who authored the center’s report. Vedder said President William Powers Jr.’s administrative salary is excessive at about $1 million a year. Powers earned $746,738 last year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Vedder said Powers teaches one class a year and has a student interaction of about 100 hours. He said if professors taught more students per year, tuition could be reduced significantly. Powers and other senior officials represent only one percent of the faculty, and if you took them out, the analysis would remain the same, Vedder said.

“As a professor of 40 years, it seems to me that a person can do a good bit of research while still maintaining [a high] teaching load,” he said.

Powers said he is not as well-paid as some of the other university presidents in the country. As president, he said he works about 80 hours a week.

“In most schools, presidents and deans do not teach at all,” Powers said. “I teach my freshman seminar, [which] I am not required to do, but I think it’s good for the curriculum.”

Some people don’t understand that increasing class sizes can be dire for students and their academic experience, he said.

Powers publicly criticized the Seven Breakthrough Solutions — written by Jeff Sandefer and endorsed by Gov. Rick Perry — in an op-ed published this month. Powers said he wants to continue a vigorous conversation about solutions to the challenges facing Texas higher education.

Printed on 06/30/2011 as: Powers speaks out against evaluations of UT administrators