Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Commentary: Regents seeking to diminish student voice

The UT System Board of Regents will be holding a special meeting on Dec. 14 to discuss the revision of the Student Referendum Process (SRP).

The SRP is essentially the vehicle by which a university’s student body can connect with the Board of Regents and have issues voted upon to bring about change.

In 2007, a CIP referendum to increase athletics fees at UTSA was passed by a two-thirds margin from a voting pool of 4,602 students. This referendum was advertised as the first step in the creation of the UTSA football program.

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa proposed the revision to be discussed. The proposal basically changes the process from a bottom up approach that begins with student input to a top down system where change can only begin at the convenience of the Board of Regents, effectively removing students and faculty from the equation.

While this move would undoubtedly serve to save the UT System money, saving money at the expense of a process that gives the over 30,000 UTSA students an opportunity to propel concerns to the Board of Regents is indefensible.

The regents have already seen their fair share of controversy this year. A new chairman was appointed this past August aiming to restore the board’s marred reputation after the Texas legislature accused them of engaging in a “witch hunt” against Bill Powers ­— President of UT Austin.

Regent Wallace Hall is currently under investigation for impeachment. Hall has required Bill Power’s administrative staff to send him about 800,000 documents through open records requests since he was first appointed in 2011.

With the regents targeted for investigation due to the misappropriation of state resources, it only serves to further weaken good faith when they make decisions that diminish the voices of those they have been appointed to serve.

The regents are appointed by the Governor of Texas, and thus not directly accountable to Texas voters. The regents have used this unaccountability to further expand their authority over Texas higher education. The new chairman, Paul Foster, is a commanding choice that will no doubt further this pursuit of authority. Foster said in a statement to the Texas Tribune, “It’s not my role to second-guess. It’s not my role to criticize.”

Governor Rick Perry convened a conference in 2008 for Jeff Sandefer to push his “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” for higher education. These “solutions” are wrought with corporate diction that targets efficiency and financial responsibility. While there may be a place for some elements of business logic in higher education, these goals pull away from the primary responsibility of any academic institution ­­— education.

The regents appointed by Perry seem to have these flawed ideals in mind as they further a tradition of micro-management. Boards of regents should create broad policy changes that allow the individual institutions to dictate their own plans that are tailored for their unique needs.

The gross misappropriation of the state’s resources in the regents “witch hunt” against Bill Powers also leaves many of the aspiring Tier One schools and small regional universities out in the cold. These schools are the workhorses of the state’s higher education and graduate more students than all the existing tier one institutions combined. They deserve to have a voice in their own futures, and should not fall victim to Perry and the regents’ goal of monetizing higher education.

Students, faculty and the university staff that work everyday in the trenches are the people that are most in tune with an institution’s needs, and to alter the SRP in a way that diminishes these voices is a step in the wrong direction. It only furthers disdain for a board that apparently does not trust students and faculty to know what’s best for themselves.

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