January 28, 2013


Chair Elect Hillary Hart (civil, architectural, and environmental engineering) reported that Regent Stillwell spoke at the SysFac meeting about a new University of Texas campus being created in the Rio Grande Valley that will combine UT Brownsville, UT Pan American in Edinburg, and the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio's regional campus in South Texas. This merger is the result of an on-going interest in establishing a medical school in South Texas and could potentially allow the new university to gain access to Permanent University Funds.

Chair Elect Hart said that Dr. Reyes thought passage of a bill permitting concealed handguns on campus was likely to occur this legislative session. He added there might be some flexibility in that universities could have the right to require proof of scenario-based training in addition to regular handgun training for those who carry guns on their campuses.

Chair Elect Hart also reported that Mr. Sharphorn, UT System’s legal counsel, discussed a new conflict of interest and conflict of commitment policy that is separate from the research conflict of interest polity already in place. She indicated that more information about this new policy would be forthcoming.

The chair elect also reported on her involvement with the SysFac Governance Committee, which is working on a resolution regarding laptop encryption that will recommend that encryption policies and practices should respect intellectual property rights and not impede faculty from accomplishing their work. The resolution would allow faculty members with personal computers having no Category I data to sign an encryption waiver; however, faculty members choosing to sign the waiver would assume the risk should any protected data on their computers become public. She said each campus would have a faculty advisory committee handling the waivers.

Senator Seliger, who was recently appointed chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, spoke about outcome-based funding. He promised, according to Chair Elect Hart, that he would consult with faculty if he decided to carry the bill. He also announced that he is in favor of tuition revenue bonds. The chair elect indicated that Representative Dan Branch, who chairs the House Higher Education Committee, is also supportive of UT Austin’s request for $95 million of tuition revenue bonds.

Lastly, Chair Elect Hart encouraged all Faculty Council members to attend the joint meeting with the Texas A&M University Faculty Senate to be on the UT Austin campus on February 25, 2013. She said the presidents and provosts from both institutions are scheduled to attend as well as Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Chair Fred Heldenfels and the two chairs of the higher education legislative committees—Senator Seliger and Representative Branch—unless events at the Texas legislature require their personal attendance. A draft agenda for the joint meeting was to be emailed to Council members in the next day or two.

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