May 14, 2012


A. Comments by the President

President William Powers expressed his gratitude to the audience for the robust round of applause he received as he approached and reached the podium. He also thanked Chair Friedman and the members of the 2011-12 Faculty Council for their service during the past year. After acknowledging that there had been quite a bit of work accomplished, he said he thought the chair and members deserved recognition by the audience, which responded with a hearty round of applause.

The president said words were inadequate to express how much the support of the University community had meant to him, his wife, and his family. After commenting that UT Austin was a great University that had a special place in his heart, President Powers again expressed sincere and deep gratitude to everyone—faculty members, staff members, students, alumni, and friends—for their support.

Emphasizing the importance of campus-wide leadership, President Powers announced the appointments of two new deans:

  • Linda Hicke, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences
  • Ward Farnsworth, Dean of the School of Law    

President Powers singled out for special recognition Interim Dean David Laude (natural sciences) for the outstanding job he had done and for agreeing to assume a new role as Senior Vice Provost for Enrollment and Graduation Management to coordinate pathways through the University and facilitate increased student success rates across campus. He also recognized Associate Dean Marc Musick (liberal arts) for his leadership in revamping orientation for incoming freshmen to emphasize academic matters and get the large, incoming class off to a good start. He said the Task Force on Cost Containment has made progress in reviewing business practices in an effort to generate savings and revenue for faculty and student support needs. He thanked Vice President Patricia Ohlendorf (legal affairs) for her work in assembling a private legal team experienced in affirmative action defense to represent the University in the Fisher case. Noting that the team is centered on the law firm of Lathan and Watkin, President Powers said he believed UT Austin was in “very, very good hands in that litigation.”

President Powers reported a number of individuals had raised a question through the Faculty Advisory Committee on Budgets as to whether the increased size of the freshman class this fall was a strategy for dealing with the budget situation. He said it was not a strategic move, and a number of factors contributed to the large incoming freshman class, including increased in-state and out-of-state applications and higher yield rates in combination with the state’s automatic admissions policy. Although some reform and amendments were secured last year limiting automatic admissions to 75 percent of enrollees, notification to the high school juniors 18 months ago that a top nine-percent class ranking that would be needed for admission to UT Austin was based on an algorithm that used historic application and yield rates that were lower than the actual rates experienced this year. According to President Powers, the University was trying to keep total enrollment around 51,000, but the “popularity” of the campus resulted in much higher application and yield rates than expected. The president said these higher rates could be perceived as indicators of the value Texans and people across the country and world place on The University of Texas at Austin. Although this class size will generate more tuition and these rate spikes are not totally unusual, he assured everyone that the added funds would be used to accommodate the higher enrollment and provide advising and other services to meet the needs of the students.

President Powers pointed out that the University moves forward each day in the classrooms, laboratories, and libraries, where the real work occurs. He said, “job one” is for this process to continue despite the bumpy patches along the way so “we fulfill our mission of being the best public university in the country by educating a fantastic group of students and doing fantastic research that really does change the world.” He closed by saying that just looking at all the faces in the room meant the world to him, and he again emphatically thanked the crowd. The audience responded with a long round of applause.

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