UT President Jay Hartzell vows to increase UT’s ranking, promote diversity at State of the University Address

Kaushiki Roy, News Reporter

UT President Jay Hartzell praised the University’s growing diversity and pledged to raise the  University’s academic rank during his State of the University Address on Friday.

“We are the academic engines in the country’s most thriving state, and we happen to be sitting in the state’s most dynamic city,” Hartzell said. “A place where everybody wants to live.”

To a crowd of over 200 people, the UT System Board of Regents awarded Hartzell presidential regalia during the University’s 30th presidential inauguration. During his speech, Hartzell spoke about UT’s COVID-19 response, plans to increase STEM research and diversity initiatives.

“My first year was a stressful one,” Hartzell said. “Let’s be honest, we’ve all worked our tails off through a lot of stress and frustration. We navigated the pandemic and other issues and consistently placed our chips on the positive.”

While Hartzell said he faced considerable challenges during his first year as president, he is proud of the work UT’s staff and faculty put in towards keeping the campus safe.

“So much of what we do on campus is made possible by our staff,” Hartzell said. “From supporting students to administering nearly 150,000 doses of the vaccine to communicating with our community, our response to COVID-19 has been made possible by our staff.”

At the same time and only a few feet from the steps of the tower, around 50 people with Underpaid at UT — a graduate student activist organization — and other organizations protested UT’s lack of COVID-19 precautions, among other complaints.

Hartzell commended the work of UT’s STEM departments for their research on things like vaccines to fight the pandemic. He also praised the Army Futures Command partnership that will build autonomous military weapons and vehicles for the U.S. Army.

“There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be one of the world’s leading academic engines for innovation, new companies and future jobs,” Hartzell said. “If we combine our talent base and strengthen STEM fields, our emerging expertise in health care, our connections both of our alumni base in the state and local ecosystems, we will have a huge impact in ways it’s going to be hard to predict.”

Hartzell said he promises to make UT a top-tier institution. The University is currently ranked 10th among U.S. public universities according to the 2022 U.S. News & World Report college rankings

The UT president also commended the University’s growing diversity in minority groups such as Latinx and Black students. Hartzell said 20 years ago, only 3% of undergraduate students were Black. He said the percentage of minority students have doubled over the last 20 years, and UT now serves over 30,000 students from marginalized groups.

“We have the chance to bring together amazing, diverse talent, to utilize Austin and Texas as we serve them better and innovate in our classrooms and performance spaces,” Hartzell said. “If we can do that, I’m confident that we will become the world’s most impactful public university.”

Editors Note: An earlier version of this story misquoted President Jay Hartzell as saying “We are the academic ninjas in the country’s most thriving state.” This quote has since been corrected to say “We are the academic engine in the country’s most thriving state.” The Texan regrets this error.