Student media director asked to resign

Kayla Jonsson

Former Texas Student Media director Gary Borders said Thursday that his Feb. 8 resignation came under pressure from the office of the Vice President of Student Affairs rather than because of personal reasons as had been previously announced.

After serving as TSM director for seven months, Borders announced his resignation abruptly last week. Borders spoke out Thursday saying he did not wish to resign, but chose it rather than being fired. Borders said he was not given a warning or valid reason for what he said was a forced resignation by the Student Affairs vice president Juan Gonzalez.

“I was called to meet with Mr. Gonzalez last week and he told me I had to resign or be fired,” Borders said. “It was a very brief meeting. I was stunned.”

Gonzalez, who announced in July he will be leaving the vice presidency to return to teaching, told The Daily Texan in an email that all university employment policies were followed.

“Mr. Borders decided to resign after meeting with my office about employment expectations,” Gonzalez said. “Had Mr. Borders not decided to resign, UT employment policies would have continued to have been followed in my office in consultation with the Board of Consultation Trustees.”

Members of the TSM Board of Trustees, which jointly oversees TSM with the office of student affairs, expressed frustration over not being consulted about Borders’ departure.

Student Media Board President Lindsey Powers said she was surprised by Borders’ resignation and was unaware of whether the Vice President’s office forced him to leave.

“I have not heard anything officially or legally,”

Powers said. “I would like some answers.”

Borders said Gonzalez told him he was “not collaborative” and was not doing enough to balance the budget.

As one of his primary responsibilities, Borders was expected to help TSM overcome a projected deficit of about $175,000, according to a letter from the vice president’s office. He said the office balked at some of his suggestions for doing so.

Borders said his proposal, which was never made official, suggested selling TSTV and KVRX in an attempt to gain $3 million for TSM, and this might have played a role in his forced resignation. Borders said Student Affairs assistant vice president Jennifer Hammat told him Gonzalez did not support the idea at all.

“I had talked to Mrs. Hammat about the idea before I wrote it up and she did not say she agreed with it, but she didn’t say it was completely crazy either,” Borders said. “We talked again after she showed it to Gonzalez and she said he absolutely hated it and was very upset about it.”

Borders said when he learned Gonzalez did not like the proposal he immediately began a new one suggesting different ways to make money for TSM. He said the reasons for his forced resignation are invalid because he attempted to improve the budget and collaborate with coworkers.

“I was just seeing if it was a viable option, and when I learned it wasn’t, I got to work on new ideas,” Borders said. “It wasn’t my way or the highway.”

Borders said he did not have a contract and was told he was hired “under the pleasure of the president” and could, therefore, be terminated at any time. Although Borders is upset by the forced resignation without any warning, he said there is no legal issue.

“I was never evaluated before that meeting,” Borders said. “I was never before given a warning about what I needed to change or do differently. I was never reprimanded. Nothing.”

Powers said the TSM board is planning a meeting soon to discuss an interim replacement for the position. The University originally scheduled a meeting for today but a quorum of board members was unable to attend.

Borders previously worked for newspapers throughout East Texas where he served as publisher and columnist, according to his website.

Previously publisher of Cedar Park’s Hill Country News, Borders said he hoped to hold the TSM position for as long as possible, according to a June 2011 Daily Texan article. He replaced Hammat, who served as interim director for a year and a half.

Associate director of the School of Journalism and former TSM board member Wanda Cash said although she was not on the board at the same time as Borders she has known him for a long time and believes he had good intentions for TSM.

“He understood keenly about balancing budgets and was on his way to cutting the deficit at TSM,” Cash said. “I hope his goal of debt reduction will be continued. TSM will not be able to survive on a deficit.”