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September 21, 2009


A. Report on the Brackenridge Tract.

David Hillis (professor, integrative biologybiology and chair of the Faculty Council Special Committee on the Brackenridge Campus) reported that his committee had met monthly with consultants from Cooper, Robertson & Partners, LLP, a New York design firm hired by the University of Texas Board of Regents, to provide faculty input for the firm’s proposals regarding future development and utilization of the Brackenridge Tract. Because the faculty committee members felt their input was largely ignored in the proposals the firm presented to the Board of Regents, Professor Hillis said the faculty committee developed its own modular plan for the future use and development of the tract, which he then presented to the Faculty Council. The PowerPoint slides that summarize the content of the presentation are included in Appendix A, and David Hillis’ explanation of the PowerPoint slides is included in Appendix B.

Professor Tom Pangle (government) commented that the presentation was “very powerful” and asked Professor Hillis for his interpretation of what the consultants envisioned in their proposed plans. Professor Hillis responded that he thought the consultants were focused on promoting a relatively self-serving plan of urban development and therefore seemed to ignore the input of the faculty committee as well as that of some of the deans. When Professor Andrea Gore (pharmacy) asked if the faculty had been involved in the development of the Cooper Robertson proposal, Professor Hillis said there had been monthly meetings, but his faculty committee members perceived that their input and recommendations had been ignored. Professor Gore also asked about the site the consultants had recommended for the relocation of the Field Lab. Professor Hillis said a number of sites had been reviewed, but the one that was deemed most feasible by the consultants was along Highway 71 near Bastrop at McKinney Roughs. Faculty and administrators thought this location was too far from campus and, therefore, difficult to effectively utilize for classroom use and activities.

When Professor Martha Hilley (music) asked what the Cooper Robertson study cost, Professor Hillis said the firm had not presented its financial report. Professor Lauren Meyers (integrated biology) said she thought the science outreach center was an excellent idea for the University as well as for the Austin community. In response to her asking if the plan had been presented to the city and received an endorsement, Professor Hillis said most of the meetings with the city had dealt with the hike and bike trails. He said neighborhood groups in the west Austin area were enthusiastic about the possibility of a science center being located on the tract. He also thought the science center was perceived as creating less of a traffic problem for the area than the consultants’ plan to relocate roadways in order for a dense, large-scale residential community to be built on the tract.

Professor Brian Evans (electrical and computer engineering) asked if general-purpose classroom space would be added if the faculty plan were adopted. Professor Hillis responded that there would be some additional teaching facilities on the tract, but he felt the freeing up of space that could be used for general-purpose classrooms on the main campus would provide the primary benefit to the University as a whole. Professor Evans said he understood that freeing up space would help, but he was concerned that recent buildings on campus had included little classroom space. Professor Hillis agreed and said he thought the Texas Memorial Museum could be renovated to add a good deal of general classroom space. When Professor Evans asked how the graduate student community perceived the consultants’ recommendations regarding their housing, Professor Hillis said he thought there was concern about all of the housing being located at the Gateway complex and the change from having a good deal of outside space in comparison to what would likely be available at the Gateway facilities. He said his committee had not had time to look at the student housing issues.

Chair Staiger thanked Professor Hillis and his committee for their work on this major issue and asked Council members to direct any further questions or comments to Professor Hillis.

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