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Powers Outage on the 40 Acres: What Would it Take to Fire the UT President?

UT Austin President Bill Powers' job security has been the subject of much speculation.
Photo by Crystal Chavez for KUT News
UT Austin President Bill Powers' job security has been the subject of much speculation.

Is UT Austin President Bill Powers’ job in jeopardy?

Those rumors started circulating last week, following a post from Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka. Powers had recently and publicly clashed with the UT Board of Regents after a proposed tuition hikeat the system’s flagship institution was voted down.

Despite denials from those involved, the rumors continue. But what exactly would it take to oust Powers?  

Although you can find the UT System organizational chart pretty easily online, figuring out how it works is another story.

UT President Bill Powers reports directly to interim Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Pedro Reyes. Reyes reports to the UT Chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa. Cigarroa reports to the nine-member UT Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by the Texas Governor, Rick Perry.

“It’s a bit convoluted,” says Reeve Hamilton, who writes about higher education for KUT’s political reporting partner The Texas Tribune.

“In order for Bill Powers to be fired that would have to go through Chancellor Cigarroa’s office,” Hamilton says. “But, if Cigarroa didn’t proceed as the majority of the regents wanted him to, then, they can throw him out too, if they wanted.”

Chancellor Cigarroa spoke with the Tribune on Wednesday. He denied reports that he had been directed by Board of Regents Chair Eugene Powell to fire Powers after the president wrote about his disappointment with the Regents on his blog. “This action inevitably will affect our ability to teach our students and make new discoveries,” Powers wrote.

Cigarroa told the Tribune that “I don’t evaluate presidents based on the expression of a viewpoint. I evaluate presidents based on qualitative and quantitative measures.”

Nearly all of the major student groups have evaluated Powers’ performance favorably, and many were quick to come out in support. The irony in all of this is that the students would be most directly affected if Powers’ recommendation for a tuition increase went through.

Reeve Hamilton says he thinks it’s also strange that the same officials that support a tuition freeze at the flagship Austin campus don’t seem to have a problem with raising tuition at each of the system’s eight other schools.

“It’s not like they want tuition frozen everywhere,” Hamilton explains. “People seem to specifically want tuition frozen at specific campuses. And UT doesn’t even have the most expensive tuition in the state.” That’s a distinction that goes to UT Dallas.

According to the UT System, Powers is up for an annual performance review later this summer.

You can watch the interview with Chancellor Cigarroa below.

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