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Senate Panel Hears Bill to Limit Higher Ed Governing Boards

Liang Shi, KUT News

The Senate Committee on Higher Education held a public hearing on Wednesday about a bill that would limit the power of higher education governing boards in Texas — including the UT System Board of Regents.

The bill comes amid accusations that the UT System’s Board of Regents has been micromanaging UT President William Powers Jr. and the University of Texas.

Gene Powell, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, said in a statement in February that these accusations "surely had to be the result of misinformation and were either incorrect or inaccurate. I know my fellow regents; they are outstanding individuals and I stand behind them fully."

This morning, two students and the CEO of Texas Exes spoke in support of the bill in front of the Senate Committee on Higher Education, citing instances of micromanagement by the Board of Regents.

Michael Redding, president of UT’s Graduate Student Assembly, told the committee that micromanagement from the Board of Regents is impacting personnel on campus.

"It’s gotten to the point now where we can’t keep people," Redding said. "And if you can’t keep people, why are you there?”

Last month, Executive Vice President and Provost Steven Leslie of UT-Austin announced he was stepping down from his administrative duties to return to teaching in August.

Michael Morton, president of UT's Senate of College Councils, also spoke to the committee.

"Over the past few years, the University of Texas at Austin has faced increased micromanagement and interference from members of the University of Texas System Board of Regents," said Morton.

In his complaints against the Board of Regents, Morton cited open records requests, a recent audit into the Law School Foundation and "poor and needless investments" in companies such as MyEdu.

Texas Exes CEO Leslie Cedar said her organization has faced criticism from an unnamed regent, even though the nonprofit is independent of UT-Austin.

The bill was filed by Senator Kel Seliger with seven co-sponsors. It would change state laws to allocate duties not explicitly granted to higher education governing boards to the presidents of individual universities.

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