In a leak seemingly timed to minimize exposure, well-placed sources revealed to various news outlets on Friday, a federal holiday, that UT President William Powers Jr. had been called into System headquarters downtown on Wednesday for a meeting with UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. As they have now reported, the purpose of that meeting was for Cigarroa to deliver a message to Powers: Resign now or be fired next week.
While at least once source to the Austin American-Statesman differed with that particular account of the meeting (what has been described as an “ultimatum” may have been couched in less direct terms), Cigarroa’s message to Powers has sent a chill down the spines of the largely pro-Powers UT community. And with good reason. While Powers has faced pressure to resign before, the coming departure of Cigarroa, who announced his resignation in February; Gov. Rick Perry, who appointed all the current regents; and admissions director Kedra Ishop seems to suggest increased urgency to dispose of unfinished business.
Powers, who has been at loggerheads with certain regents, particularly the open record-collector Wallace Hall, over a number of issues, has served the University well in his eight years on the job. He has increased the stature of UT through his $3 billion Campaign for Texas fundraising campaign, his assistance in the creation of the Dell Medical School and his chairmanship of the prestigious Association of American Universities. Until now, Powers has enjoyed the support of at least five of the nine regents. It’s not clear whether that calculus has changed or whether Cigarroa thinks he can determine Powers’ fate with an official recommendation. Either way, the worm has turned and it’s eating its way through the heart of the University.