Quotes to Note: Higher education hearing

The newly formed Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency held its first public hearing Wednesday at the Capitol. UT President William Powers Jr., UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, new Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp were among those in attendance. The following quotes are from the written witness testimonies presented at the hearing.

“We need experienced and influential people to oversee our universities, university systems and state higher education agencies — people who have demonstrated leadership in business or civic life.”
— Richard Novak, senior vice president of programs and research at the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, speaking about the challenges in board selection and governance. Novak was invited to speak at the hearing on behalf of his organization, which specializes in strengthening the performance of citizen governing boards and academic trusteeships, according to its website.

“Such criteria are superficial and ill-suited to universities. They reduce the classroom to an assembly line, the library to a book repository and the laboratory to a for-profit business. And they fail utterly to differentiate among disciplines. … Above all, they do not address what universities turn out: people, not products, thinking individuals, not cogs in a machine, new knowledge and new ideas, not mute objects. You can’t measure universities with a blunt instrument.”
— Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, referring to subjecting universities to unproven corporate models to measure efficiency. The AAU is comprised of 61 research universities in the country, and in Texas, only UT, Texas A&M and Rice are members of the prestigious group.

“There has been much discussion and controversy surrounding initiatives in Texas to separate research and teaching budgets and to develop metrics for faculty productivity. Developing a fair and effective metric is not easy, but the regents’ efforts to ensure productivity are entirely appropriate.”
— Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, endorsing the use of data and the active involvement of regents in ensuring that universities meet their goals to educate.

“What is not so well reviewed at universities is the curriculum offered by the faculty as a whole. Here we should do better in molding a coherent set of courses that will enable students to learn what they need to become critical thinkers.”
— Rawlings expressing that while a corporate model of accountability may not be appropriate, universities should not be immune to scrutiny and review.