UT System continues search for new chancellor

Madlin Mekelburg

The UT System has not moved any closer to finding a new chancellor since hiring an executive search firm on March 12, according to System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo. 

In February, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced he would be stepping down after serving in the position since 2009. Cigarroa will serve as the director of pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center-San Antonio following his resignation. 

Earlier this month, the System signed a contract with Wheless Partners, a national executive search firm, to assist in the search for a new chancellor. Cigarroa will remain in his position until the next chancellor is selected. 

According to Board Chairman Paul Foster, a new chancellor will be selected over the summer so he or she can officially begin working at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester. 

“The Board of Regents is fully committed to finding a new chancellor who is worthy of leading one of the finest and most prominent public universities in America and the world,” Foster said in a statement from the System. “We will not settle until we have the right person for this extraordinary responsibility.”

According to reports from The Texas Tribune, Gov. Rick Perry is encouraging the board to consider Kyle Janek, Health and Human Services Executive commissioner, for the position. Perry does not have appointment power in selecting the Chancellor — that decision is ultimately up to the Board of Regents. Perry’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

While announcing his resignation, Cigarroa said the existing tensions between President William Powers Jr. and members of the Board of Regents did not factor into his decision to step down. An email to Cigarroa from Foster, originally obtained by The Dallas Morning News, suggested Regent Wallace Hall accused Cigarroa of not doing his job weeks before Cigarroa announced his resignation. 

Hall is currently being investigated by the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations for overstepping his role as a regent by filing open record requests for over 800,000 pages of information, according to Kevin Hegarty, UT executive vice president and chief financial officer. Individuals at the System have said his requests amounted to only 100,000 pages of information. 

William Cunningham, former chancellor and former UT president, said he thinks it’s important for the chancellor to be able to work closely with all of the regents and the presidents at the various institutions within the System. 

“The chancellor must be able to work with the presidents and the regents, and that’s not always easy,” Cunningham said. “The regents are your bosses, [and] your job is to keep them informed and to shape their decision making process. You play a special role as chancellor in helping the regents understand what the issues are and also helping them understand the position the System should take.”

Cunningham said it is vital for a chancellor to preserve UT’s academic prowess. 

“They need to understand UT-Austin’s historical role that it has played in the development of the System and also UT-Austin’s academic flagship status — that must never be questioned,” Cunningham said. “If you have a chancellor who said, ‘I’m not really sure if we should differentiate between the component institutions,’ or ‘I’m not sure UT-Austin should be the flagship academic institution,’ that person will not be successful and will not do a good job as chancellor.”