March18, 2013


A. Comments by the President.

President Powers noted that the 2013 Civitatis Award had been presented to Secretary Greninger at a recent awards ceremony, and the Council responded with applause. The president then provided a brief update on the current legislative session, which he said largely dealt with budgetary issues. He said the legislative process had become organized, with the naming of committee leaders, quite early. After reminding the Council that UT Austin had lost about $46 million in general revenue during the previous legislative session, he said it looked like a little more than half, around $25 or possibly a low $30 million of that lost revenue, might be returned during the current session, including the mark-ups in formula funding. President Powers further explained that the Competitive Knowledge Fund appeared to be undergoing potential restructuring and enhancement in ways that might be “more faithful to the idea and spirit” behind the fund. He added that the versions of the House bill and the Senate bill match up pretty well, and there is strong support for capital funding, with UT Austin’s requests being currently included in Senate bill, article 3 and House bill, article 11. He also perceived there was strong support for $95 million in Tuition Revenue Bonds, which he noted involved underwriting requirements for state funding and were unrelated to student tuition. The president was relatively optimistic regarding legislative outcomes at this point of the current session, assigning an overall grade of B+/A-, but he indicated there was still much work yet to be completed.

President Powers noted that the issue of gun control is a very politically tough one for legislators to address, and many of them feel pressure to vote in accordance with the wishes of their constituencies. He mentioned that there might be a potential compromise solution involving consideration of a “leave-it-to-local option.” He said he believed Representative Dan Branch and others were trying to be creative in working out a possible compromise.

The president expects automatic admissions will remain the same for the next biennium, pending the outcome of the Fisher case, which has not yet been determined by the Supreme Court.

President Powers next addressed the provost search. He noted that given the recent instability regarding different perspectives regarding his leadership and administration, the current climate might make it difficult to recruit somebody from off campus. He thought it more likely to find somebody on campus for the position, somebody from the Office of the Provost or a current or former dean or chairperson. He expressed confidence that UT Austin would be able to find a good provost. The Handbook of Operating Procedures contains rules about the selection of a new provost with a wide range of options all the way from forming various committees to the president picking a provost. He explained that he had met with the chair of the Faculty Council, Professor Martha Hilley, as well as a group of faculty comprised of members of the Faculty Council Executive Committee (FCEC) with the exception of one individual. He said this group of faculty would likely appoint a student representative, a few deans and a representative from the Provost’s Office to form a search committee. The president wanted to present the idea to the Faculty Council before actually forming the committee, even though the FCEC members seemed supportive of that option.

Prompted by a question from Professor Ehud Ronn (finance), the president noted that a dean or provost search would usually involve a larger search; however, he perceived that excellent leadership had been found both on campus and off campus in the past.

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