October 15, 2012


A. Comments by the President.

President Powers noted that he had already commented extensively on edX during the directly preceding General Faculty meeting. His remarks can be viewed online in the minutes of that meeting (D 10114-10118).

The president gave a brief update on the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, currently being argued in the United States Supreme Court, which is seeking a ruling on the constitutionality of the institution’s consideration of race in admissions decisions. He explained that the University had won the case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and a 4:4 tie vote in the U.S. Supreme Court would suffice to confirm the case in UT’s favor. When asked by the president about the number of amicus briefs filed in support of UT Austin’s case and current policies and procedures, Vice President Patricia Ohlendorf (legal affairs) reported there had been a total of seventy-four.  President Powers said that Justice Kagan’s recusal would not be likely change the outcome of the case. There are speculations about the votes of the seven remaining justices; he expected that Justice Kennedy would likely cast the deciding vote. President Powers indicated there had been a number of questions regarding what constituted the criteria or standard for determining “what a critical mass of a particular group of minority students would be on a campus.” The president emphasized the importance of this decision for higher education, for our campus, for the State of Texas, and for the country. He expressed pride in the work of the legal team presenting the University’s case and then explained that he did not anticipate a decision before spring or perhaps even later. He indicated that University officials have been working with the Texas legislative leaders and school principals, who had provided assistance on the automatic admissions policies and procedures in the past, to be prepared for the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision.

President Powers then informed the faculty about the status of the efforts to secure a medical school for UT Austin and Central Texas. He said the project has been in the works for the last six years, starting with the $38 million grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation for the Dell Pediatric Research Institute. The University has since been able to secure support from Senator Kirk Watson, Seton Hospital, and the health district. UT System also committed $25 million of recurring funds, leaving the University in need of an additional annual amount of $35 million. Proposition 1 on the election ballot is supposed to fulfill this last condition toward the new medical school. The president emphasized the positive impact that additional clinical practices would have on healthcare in the area. He also recounted some of the assets the University would be providing in terms of the infrastructure, reputation, and quality from many academic areas on campus, including biochemistry, biomedical engineering, nursing, nutrition, pharmacy, physics, policy, and social work. President Powers said additional Ph.D./M.D. faculty would be needed to augment the reputation and quality of the existing outstanding faculty members, who are already carrying fulltime loads of teaching and research. He added that the decision was in the hands of the voters, but the University was “ready to go” if the proposition were to be approved; however, he said a funding plan was not in place to take $35 million out of the recurring budget of the University if the proposal were not approved.

Return to main minutes