Tillerson is a bad fit for UT

Sam Groves

Where does a man go after wrecking the State Department and getting canned as the nation’s top diplomat? If you’re Rex Tillerson, apparently you go to Texas. Reports last month named him as a top candidate to replace outgoing UT Chancellor William McRaven, who announced his plans to retire last December.

Tillerson’s resume is impressive, to be sure. Before serving as President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, he spent more than 40 years at Exxon, including over a decade as the company’s chief executive. He’s also a UT graduate — living proof that what starts here actually does sometimes change the world.

Unfortunately, he didn’t exactly change it for the better. It’s evident from the facts of his career that Tillerson is a poor choice for this position. His actions as secretary of state demonstrated that he does not represent student values at UT — and furthermore cannot be trusted to run the system effectively.

Thirteen months with Tillerson in charge left the State Department in ruins. Critical positions went unfilled and officials left the department in droves — some by choice, others pushed out. Beyond a ruthless compulsion to downsize wherever possible and no matter the cost, Tillerson’s leadership was bereft of vision. Insiders variously described his tenure as “demoralizing,” “totally incompetent,” and “deeply, deeply anguish(ing).”

Of course, it can’t have been easy conducting the foreign policy of America’s deranged xenophobe-in-chief. During Tillerson’s first few months as secretary of state, President Trump implemented severe limits on travel to the United States from certain countries, including Iran, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called the action “at its core a Muslim ban, which is discriminatory and unconstitutional.”

Tillerson was complicit in this de facto Muslim ban. “With this order,” he said when the ban was announced, “President Trump is exercising his rightful authority to keep our people safe.” As such, his appointment as chancellor would be a slap in the face to Muslim students at UT.

LGBTQ students should also be concerned. Tillerson’s record at the State Department on LGBTQ rights is relatively innocuous, but his record at Exxon is deeply unsettling. Under his leadership, the company received a dismal “equality score” from the Human Rights Campaign — the lowest any company has ever received, in fact. In 2013, Exxon was sued in Illinois for engaging in employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The University of Texas system should be led by someone who stands up to bigotry rather than tolerating or enabling it. It should be led by someone who can run a large organization efficiently without decimating its ranks. Tillerson fits neither of these criteria, and from both an administrative perspective and a political one, he’s the wrong man for the job.

Groves is a philosophy junior from Dallas. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @samgroves.