• State Sen. Kel Seliger files bill to limit power of Board of Regents

    State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, filed a bill that would limit the power of regents over individual universities within the system.
    The bill, co-authored by nine other senators, would amend state law to say that all duties and responsibilities not specifically granted to university systems or governing boards of those university systems fall under the authority of the individual institutions of that system.

    The bill comes on the same day Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced a joint committee to investigate the governance role of boards of regents over their respective university systems.

    Seliger, who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, said in a statement that the bill aims to preserve institutional autonomy in the same way the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects state sovereignty from overreach by the federal government.

    "It was made clear on Monday that university governance and allegations of micromanagement by regents is an issue the Senate takes very seriously," Seliger said.

    On Monday, the Texas Legislature passed three resolutions defending and honoring UT President William Powers Jr. after some members of the UT System Board of Regents intensely questioned Powers on a number of topics at their Feb. 13 meeting. Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he received numerous complaints that the regents were subverting Powers' authority and disrupting the System's governance structure.

  • Lt. Gov. Dewhurst announces joint committee to examine Board of Regents

    After allegations arose earlier this week that the UT System Board of Regents is micromanaging President William Powers Jr., Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced Wednesday that he and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus will relaunch a joint committee composed of higher education leaders from both houses to examine regents' proper governance role in an institution.

    Dewhurst said he believes the job of regents is to advise institutions on policy matters and provide consent to those institutions to move forward with policy, not to manage individual institutions.

    "I don't pretend to be an authority on the governance of higher education, but that's the way that our universities, over decades and decades, have been run very effectively," Dewhurst said.

    Speaking to reporters on the Senate floor, Dewhurst said he signed a proclamation that will create the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency, which will be co-chaired by state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, and state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who chair the higher education committees in their respective houses. The proclamation still requires Straus' signature.

    The committee will have subpoena power, or the ability to summon witnesses to testify and to procure evidence related to the subject of investigation. Dewhurst said complaints he has received have revolved around three regents, not the majority of the board or board chairman Gene Powell.

    During the Feb. 13 regents meeting, three regents – Alex Cranberg, Wallace Hall and Brenda Pejovich, each appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011 – intensely questioned Powers on a number of topics.

    In response, the Legislature passed three resolutions Monday honoring Powers. During a ceremony on the Senate floor, Dewhurst offered an emotional defense of Powers. Multiple senators also defended Powers’ record and decried his detractors.

    On Wednesday, Dewhurst did not directly comment on whether the committee was being formed prior to Monday's events.

    The Feb. 13 meeting was not the first time Powers and the regents found themselves opposing one another. Last year, the regents rejected Powers’ request for a 2.6 percent in-state undergraduate tuition increase and chose to freeze tuition. Afterward, Powers sent an email to faculty, staff and students expressing disappointment with the regents’ decision.

    Shortly after, rumors originating from a blog post by Paul Burka, senior executive editor for Texas Monthly, stated that Powell directed UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to fire Powers. Cigarroa denied the allegations.

    State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo and former chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, said the committee will allow members of both houses to share differing perspectives on how regents should govern university systems.

    Zaffirini said she did not know if the committee was being formed prior to complaints surrounding the regents.

    "You would have to ask the lieutenant governor," Zaffirini said.

  • Sandra+Shank campaign will not be on the Student Government ballot

    Sandra Ogenche and Justin Shank will no longer be on the Student Government executive alliance ballot.

    Election Supervisory Board vice-chairman Ryan Lutz said Ogenche was notified of an ineligibility problem with her filing before the candidate seminar Jan. 12, though the board and the Dean of Students gave an extension to resolve the issue. Lutz said the board decided to remove their names from the ballot Tuesday, after the alliance failed to solve the problem during the extension period.

    Ogenche is a government and pre-entry public health junior and Shank is a biology senior.

    “There was evidence to suggest that it was an administrative error and that it would be corrected quickly,” Lutz said. “With that knowledge in mind, the ESB and [Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly] gave her almost a day-by-day extension for her to go ahead and straighten out any issues she had.”

    Because the alliance's file was pending they were asked by the Dean of Students to stop campaigning Monday night.

    “She was not considered a candidate at all during that time. She was in a pending status and therefore was not eligible to campaign,” Lutz said. “Unfortunately she has just run out of time, we have to release the ballot tomorrow and it just came down to not having all the ducks in a row.”

    After a closed meeting Tuesday night, the board issued a resolution stating that the alliance had not met the requirements outlined in the Student Government Constitution to participate in the election. The resolution also states the issue involves information protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy, so the board could not disclose specific details.

  • Sandra Ogenche, Justin Shank told to stop SG campaign

    Student Government executive alliance candidates Sandra Ogenche and Justin Shank have been asked by the Dean of Students to stop campaigning because of eligibility issues, members of the Election Supervisory Board told The Daily Texan on Monday night.

    Ogenche is a government and pre-entry public health junior and Shank is a biology senior.

    Ogenche said she expects the issue will be resolved by Tuesday afternoon.

    “We have stopped our campaigning until we have word from the Dean of Natural Sciences that this situation has been rectified, until he give us the go ahead to campaign,” Ogenche said. “As an international student there are certain rules that I have to follow. Obviously, if I don’t follow them there are problems. It will be resolved as soon as possible.”

    Ogenche said the alliance has not broken any rules and has not been disqualified.

  • Statement from UT System Chancellor Cigarroa and Board of Regents Chairman Powell regarding President Powers

    UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and Gene Powell, Board of Regents chairman, released a statement Monday night on the heels of a day in which the Texas Legislature passed three bills in support of President William Powers Jr. and his work at the University:

    "It is extremely fitting that on this President’s Day, the Texas House and Senate honored Bill Powers, the president of The University of Texas System’s flagship institution – UT Austin.

    We are grateful to members of the House and Senate for recognizing President Powers for his leadership and efforts to make UT Austin America’s finest public research university.

    We are proud of UT Austin - its faculty, students and staff - and we are proud of its president and his efforts to implement the UT System’s Framework for Advancing Excellence. We are glad to partner with President Powers in building and protecting a university of the first class for the state of Texas."

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