‘In the interest of transparency’

Following the UT System’s announcement of a unique $10-million investment in MyEdu, members of the UT community have questioned the transparency surrounding the deal. The purpose of the investment still remains unclear, and questions loom about possible conflicts of interest, as the private company was co-founded by the son of William Cunningham, former UT System chancellor and MyEdu investor.

When UT System Student Regent John Davis Rutkauskas agreed to speak at a Senate of College Councils meeting last week, we hoped to gain greater insight into the Board of Regents’ intent and the process through which the deal was made.

Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that Rutkauskas was not concerned about providing answers. While touting an “interest of transparency” in almost tongue-in-cheek irony, he demanded that Senate not record his presentation and that media be barred from attending, despite the fact that all Senate meetings are open to students and broadcast live.

The student regent is not an elected position; the regent is appointed by the governor. But in his application for the position, acquired by The Daily Texan through the Texas Public Information Act, Rutkauskas wrote that the role of the student regent is “to represent all students of the UT System.” Additionally, he is the only student privy to the operations and discussions of the regents. Both by the nature of the position and by his own admission, he has a responsibility to answer to students.

Students fought for years to get a voice at the regents’ table, finally succeeding in 2006. Now the battle has shifted to giving the student regent voting power. However, Rutkauskas’ failure to communicate openly with students undermines that effort and does a disservice to the people who fought for the creation of this position.

Rutkauskas’ actions severely hinder transparency and allow the board to appear as though it considers student input when it may not.

Editor’s note: The following quotes are from Rutkauskas’ presentation at last week’s Senate meeting regarding the UT System’s investment in MyEdu.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about MyEdu.”

“I expected that people were going to applaud the deal.”

“I think that faculty misunderstand what the technology is.”

“I think we all have a reason to be concerned, but we don’t have a reason to be worried.”

“[MyEdu] certainly won’t be used by the board to say, ‘This faculty member [is not good]. Let’s do something about it.’”

“To insinuate that students are here to take the easiest classes is insulting.”

“Through collaboration, we will be able to deliver more tools effectively to more students.”