Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include information from a Wednesday afternoon press briefing.
The UT Board of Regents unanimously approved Jay Hartzell as the permanent president of the University at a special meeting Wednesday morning.
Hartzell was made interim president April 8 after former UT President Gregory Fenves left his position to lead Emory University. Hartzell was previously dean of the McCombs School of Business.
So far, Hartzell has overseen the University reopening in fall 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and has helped create plans for more COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
James Weaver, academic affairs committee chairman, announced the motion and said it will be made effective immediately.
“Seeing President Hartzell work and provide leadership during this time as interim president over the past few months compelled this board to name him the sole finalist for the job,” UT System chairman Kevin Etlife said.
System board member Jodie Lee Jiles said Hartzell “jumped in with both feet.”
“Jay has done an enormous job in terms of recognizing the importance of listening … understanding the stakeholders, understanding the University, addressing major issues of racial equity and the pandemic,” Jiles said.
In an email Hartzell sent to students this morning, he said he has seen the UT community step up to help others during the pandemic.
“Today, I’m humbled and honored that the members of the UT System Board of Regents have given me the honor of a lifetime, selecting me to serve as the next President of The University of Texas at Austin,” Hartzell said in the email. “This is a dream come true for me because it means that I get the chance to go to work with you and put all my energy into helping Longhorn Nation do what it does best — change the world.”
At a media briefing Wednesday afternoon, Hartzell said the University is still working toward attracting a diverse group of students, faculty and staff.
“Part of our effort is to make sure that the campus is welcoming to help students choose us as their educational home,” Hartzell said. “Learning outcomes are better if we bring people from a more diverse set of backgrounds, areas of expertise, skills, gender, race, you name it.”
Hartzell said he does not know of any students being suspended or expelled after being found in violation of COVID-19 guidelines, and he thinks disciplinary action will deter students from participating in proactive testing.
“We have been focusing more on (the) positive, and, for example, sending students reminders or nudging them that they're not behaving the way we'd hoped,” Hartzell said. “We have been partnering with the city when we know of things that happen off of our campus.”
Hartzell said the University will not require students to get tested, but instead will explain why it is best for the community to do so.
“There are places like a football game where we can bundle the opportunity to take a test with something that's extracurricular like a football game and saying, ‘If you’d like to go to this football game, that test can make that happen,’” Hartzell said. “We think that's a natural thing that is a more positive way to approach this issue for our community.”
Hartzell said the University is getting started on plans for detailing the racist history of “The Eyes of Texas,” and he hopes to communicate those with the community next week.
“We're going to spend some time and effort using some of the expertise we have on campus to get that history done well and to tell that story fully,” Hartzell said. “My hope is once we have a level set where we're all working off the same basis, then we can start to talk about how the song can be a unifying force for our campus as we move forward.”