UT’s Center for Mexican American Studies misses out on $1.5 million following Perry’s veto

Andrew Messamore

Updated Tuesday, 3:00 p.m.

After sustaining substantial budget tightening during the past four years, the Center for Mexican American Studies took another cut Friday when Gov. Rick Perry line-item vetoed $1.5 million in funding to the center approved by the Texas Legislature.

Under HB 1025, written by Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, the center would have received a one-time supplement of $1.5 million from the University’s General Revenue Fund for the next biennium. Other centers across the state, such as the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M International University, were also slated to obtain funds but received similar line-item vetoes.

The center will still receive a $400,000 budget increase next year as part of the University budget appropriation, University spokesman Gary Susswein said. Budgeted funding to the center declined 60 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to the center. 

In a statement, Perry said he vetoed the funds for the center and other programs because they had not been requested with regular budget “formula funds” and instead were requested as “special funds” outside of the University’s legislative request. 

“Because of the growth in special item funding, there is less state money to teach college students, which contributes to rising tuition,” Perry said. “If the Department of Mexican-American Studies is a priority, the University can use its $2.2 million appropriation for Institutional Enhancement.”

The line-item vetoes of items in HB 1025 were accompanied by 26 other vetoes of bills by Friday, including a bill relating to increased oversight of the UT System Regents and a bill related to gender equality.

Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez, associate director of CMAS, said the center had been planning to use the additional funding to help develop into a full department capable of setting the standards for its own faculty hires.  

At present, the program’s restricted funds and status as a center means it cannot set the standards for recruitment of new faculty, which has already resulted in a potential faculty member choosing another department during hiring, Guidotti-Hernandez said.

“UT could not compete with other schools, in particular with their salary offers, which is a shame because the candidate is currently the CMAS Carlos Castaneda Postdoctoral Fellow,” Guidotti-Hernandez said. “We should have been able to retain her and CMAS did everything we could on our end to do so.”

Asked if CMAS is able to effectively compete with traditionally successful programs for private funding, Guidotti-Hernandez said CMAS has recently created an advisory committee and 10-year plan for development priorities.

"Since taking the helm of CMAS in January of 2012, we discovered that the center had no concerted development plan for its previous 42 years of existence," Guidotti-Hernandez said. "We understand that in this very competitive market, with shrinking state resources, that we must be entrepreneurial in both fundraising and seeking grants."

Mexican American Studies graduate student Jaime Puente said the veto was constricting available resources for graduate students at the University.

“It's terrible,” Puente said. “It’s part and parcel of what I think is a concerted effort by Rick Perry to attack the University of Texas. If the center can’t fund its graduate students, it will definitely affect recruitment.”