III.
COMMUNICATION WITH THE PRESIDENT.

B. Comments by the President.

With regard to budgetary matters, President Powers said both houses in the Texas Legislature had proposed budgets with substantial cuts in general revenue that will negatively impact UT Austin and all of Texas public higher education institutions. He said the Senate bill provides a 10 percent reduction and the House bill provides a 15 percent reduction. He perceived that the mood in the Senate was more optimistic than that in the House, with work in the Senate underway to try to come up with a reduction in general revenue in the mid-single digits. He said administrators at all levels here at UT Austin are working very hard on their five-year plans to accommodate expected reductions. President Powers called the expected cuts in general revenue manageable but painful because he said they would cause significant challenges to departments across campus. He said the final budget allocations would undergo a great deal of horse-trading in the conference committee negotiations and were difficult to predict because of the levels of need in health and human services and other areas. During the legislative session, he said budgetary matters would remain the top priority for him and many other people at UT.

President Powers said he appreciated the recent discussions and input from members of the Faculty Council Executive Committee (FCEC) regarding the problems facing UT Austin and higher education. Similar discussion had also occurred at the joint meeting of the UT Faculty Council and Texas A&M Faculty Senate. He said he knew other faculty members were aware of the antagonistic and skeptical viewpoints being expressed about the value of higher education and the need for providing undergraduate degrees costing no more than $10,000 by producing more Chevrolet-like rather than Cadillac-like degrees. He said another troubling issue pertained to the value of research performed at research institutions. The debate in this case focused on the idea that it could be useful to separate the budgets for teaching and research, with the possible de-emphasis on research eventually occurring. President Powers said pressure on higher education regarding productivity was the reason Texas A&M initiated a procedure whereby individual faculty members were evaluated with their salary and costs compared directly to the benefits they produced as measured by the number of student credit-hours and value of commercializable research generated. He said that method totally devalued probably 98 percent of the research because it is not commercializable. As a result the American Association of Universities wrote a letter to the chancellor of Texas A&M saying this evaluation process was inconsistent with the core mission of a major research university where teaching and research are integral to one another.

President Powers said this critique of the role and mission of a major research university, such as UT Austin, was more significant than the budgetary crisis currently facing higher education in that it went far beyond saying the institution was inefficient or not managing its finances well. He said these criticisms attacked the core mission of what a major research university is and exists to do. In this case, those seeking change are saying the research being performed in not valuable and doesn’t count as an asset. As a result, President Powers said the development board and alumni are outraged and are mobilizing to help strongly counter this attack, and he said we have allies in the legislature who are speaking up in our support. As a result, President Powers said some of the statements of the opposition and those within media presentations are backing away from their original positions and saying they did not mean UT Austin is or should be a “Chevy.” He added, “There are a lot of people out there who are energized and going to go to battle for us.” President Powers said our supporters are gaining traction and have had “some positive effects, at least in the rhetoric that’s been used over the last week or so.” He said that Professor Carrington had asked at the joint meeting why the situation was being perceived differently this time. President Powers said the reason this is such a serious situation is that the critiques are directed at our basic core values, and they are coming from within the institution and even from friends of UT. He said all levels of the University are working on this situation together, and the Faculty Council and faculty in general can help in rallying support to protect our core mission. He closed by saying he would be remiss if he did not discuss the significance of this matter with the Faculty Council because at present “there is nothing more important than this.” Council members applauded President Powers’ remarks.

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