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UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa Steps Down

University of Texas Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa during Joint Committee on Oversight of Higher Education Governance, Excellence & Tansparency on September 21st, 2011
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune
UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced Monday he is resigning to head pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.

After five years, Francisco Cigarroa announced Monday morning that he is stepping down as University of Texas System Chancellor. 

Cigarroa says he's leaving to head the pediatric transplant surgery department at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

"It really ended up being a very personal decision as to what is my next role in life?" Cigarroa said at a press conference Monday morning. "What’s the next mountain I want to climb?"

Cigarroa said he's proud of his accomplishments, including the Dell Medical School coming to UT-Austin; an expanding Engineering school, also at the flagship campus; and a new university in the Rio Grande Valley.

Despite those accomplishments, Cigarroa also spent time as chancellor mediating disagreements between the UT Board of Regents and UT-Austin President Bill Powers.

Last year, the Texas Legislature's House Transparency Committee met multiple times to determine whether UT Regent Wallace Hall overstepped his role when he requested thousands of pages of open records from UT-Austin. Some accused Hall of starting a "witch hunt" against President Powers. Despite some criticism, Chancellor Cigarroa ultimately recommended Powers keep his job as president.

At Monday's press conference, Cigarroa brushed off suggestions his resignation had anything to do with the tensions between the regents and Powers. But others – like state Sen. Judith Zaffirini – disagreed.

"Undeniably … he has endured unmitigated stress from the rogue regents who want UT President Bill Powers fired," Sen. Zaffirini said in a statement. "Those who were unhappy with his recommendation to continue the heavily supported employment of President Powers reportedly turned their powerful weapons on him."

State Rep. Trey Martinez-Fisher, who is on the committee investigating Regent Hall, says Cigarroa's resignation raises concerns.

"In the past year, the UT System has lost five attorneys with decades of combined experience in open government, open records and transparency. Now, it has lost its chief leader," Martinez-Fisher said in a statement. "I am concerned that without proper leadership and experienced staff there will be continued communication and administrative issues between the Board of Regents and the component institutions of the System."

Martinez-Fisher says when the committee reconvenes it, "will need to discuss these on-going concerns at the System, the Chancellor’s departure, and the timeline and process to fill this critical position.”

Cigarroa says he plans to remain chancellor until the Board of Regents names his successor, a process that's expected to take four to six months.

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