Board chairman Powell calls Dewhurst’s remarks ‘result of misinformation’

Joshua Fechter

Capping off a week of drama between the Texas Legislature and the UT System Board of Regents, board chairman Gene Powell released a statement saying Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s remarks that the regents are allegedly micromanaging UT “surely had to be the result of misinformation and were either incorrect or inaccurate.”

“I know my fellow regents; they are outstanding individuals and I stand behind them fully,” Powell said.

On Monday, the Legislature passed three resolutions honoring UT President William Powers Jr. in response to a Feb. 13 regents meeting during which regents intensely questioned him on a number of topics.

During a ceremony on the Senate floor, Dewhurst offered an emotional defense of Powers and said he received numerous complaints that the regents were subverting Powers’ authority, disrupting the System’s governance structure and engaging in “character assassination” against him.

Powell said he and Dewhurst met several times over the past few days to address Dewhurst’s concerns.

“I join him in the desire to move forward constructively on these issues, and we have agreed to keep in close contact in the days and weeks to come,” Powell said in the Friday statement.

Powell’s statement comes two days after Dewhurst announced that he and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus will relaunch a joint oversight committee formed in 2011 to examine regents’ proper governance role over individual institutions.

Dewhurst said Wednesday that the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency will be made up of the higher education committees from both houses and additional members to examine regents’ proper governance role in an institution.

Wednesday afternoon, state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo and Senate Higher Education Committee chairman, filed a bill that would limit university boards of regents’ authority over the affairs of individual universities within a system.

Seliger’s bill would amend state law to say that all duties and responsibilities not specifically granted to university systems or governing boards of those university systems fall under the authority of the individual institutions of that system. Nine other senators co-authored the bill, including four members of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

Two of the bill’s co-authors, state Sens. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Kirk Watson, D-Austin, sit on the Senate Committee on Nominations, which must confirm Gov. Rick Perry’s appointments to the board of regents. Thursday, Perry appointed Ernest Aliseda of McAllen and Jeff Hildebrand, a UT alumnus from Houston, to six-year terms on the board. He also reappointed board vice chairman Paul Foster.

Published on February 25, 2013 as "Chairman denies regent misconduct".