Much has been said in the past couple of days about UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa instructing President Bill Powers to resign at risk of termination. I have never before written a letter to the editor, but I cannot imagine a more apt time for my first.
I recently left the 40 Acres after three years as a Longhorn student-athlete to begin my professional baseball career. I officially graduate with B.A. degrees in English and History this August, but recent circumstances request my voice be heard as a Texas Ex and proud alumnus before the ink is dry on my diplomas.
I unequivocally support Powers, and you should as well if you care about the best interests of The University of Texas at Austin.
Since Powers took office in 2006, he has been a dedicated leader of our proud University, which simultaneously reaps the benefits and bears the responsibilities of being the flagship institution of higher learning in the state of Texas, the proudest state in the Union. The facts prove Powers’ merit; the University's improved academic standards, enriched general endowment and new medical school all testify to the president's tremendous resourcefulness and diligence.
However, Powers' job is being threatened not because of his past performance or even his ability to maintain his (excellent) standards of operation going into the future. He is being attacked politically, at a time when the University of Texas desperately needs a president who is brave enough to weather personal political affronts in honor of what is best for the University. Thankfully, Powers has withstood the challenge.
For years now, the Texas Legislature has decreased public funding to the University of Texas in opposition to the University's ambition to become the best public research university in the country. Non-Longhorns (like our longtime governor) wonder why it is so important to the state for The University of Texas to aspire to such great heights. They scratch their heads and envision the University of Texas at Austin lowering its admissions standards and issuing cookie-cutter degrees in contravention of its core mission. Surely, these non-Longhorns are unfamiliar with the motto on our university's seal, "Disciplina Praesidium Civatis." (Translation: A cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.)
I find that phrase intriguingly applicable to the situation in which Powers finds himself today. At a time when Powers is committed to bettering the University and providing a superior environment for the cultivation of minds, UT System Regent Wallace Hall is leading an undemocratic witch-hunt to oust him. The Board of Regents apparently does not believe that it needs to abide by the instructions of state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, which has specifically said not to fire Powers during a current investigation.
Interestingly enough, Hall, who so desperately wants to oust Powers, is currently at risk of being impeached himself for wrongdoing in the investigation of Powers. Perhaps foreseeing the end of his own career has motivated Hall to hasten his groundless attacks against Powers in the middle of summer while students are away from their studies.
When students do return to campus, though, they will inevitably pass the Tower countless times. Whenever they do, even if they do not take notice, they will pass on the southwest corner of the building an engraved inscription describing the University, "Core Purpose: To transform lives for the benefit of society." If you have not yet watched Admiral McRaven's 2014 Commencement Address, I suggest you go do so on YouTube as soon as possible. If you have, perhaps you will remember that Admiral McRaven posited that the Class of 2014 alone can change the lives of 800 million people if each individual graduate changes the lives of but 10 separate people. (For my part, I am first working on making my bed more often.)
I am confident that the University of Texas will continue to transform lives for the benefit of society whether or not Powers survives the upcoming Board of Regents meeting. That said, I am equally convinced that more lives will be transformed for the better if Powers retains his current position. Personally, I experienced both the ups and downs of being a student-athlete at The University of Texas, and I know that the rest of my life will be profoundly affected for the better by my past three years in Austin. I understand that Powers is not solely responsible for the overwhelming pride I possess for my alma mater, but I also appreciate what a fine job he has done and will continue to do as the president of the school.
Longhorn pride runs deep in my family, with both my parents and several other relatives having graduated from the University. Next month, my younger sister will enroll in the Business Honors Program as a part of the Class of 2018, and I hope that she, too, will be able to spend the majority of her time on the 40 Acres with Powers at the helm. If retained, he will continue to lead the University of Texas at Austin to a bright future in accordance with its motto, core purpose and mission, which is "to achieve excellence in the interrelated areas of undergraduate education, graduate education, research and public service."
Powers has refused to resign, and I support him. I implore anyone else with an ounce of burnt orange in his or her blood to join me in resisting the Board of Regents' unreasonable call for Powers’ resignation/termination. Sign the online petition that already has 7,500+ signatures at the time of this writing. Publicly support the man who has publicly supported the University of Texas so well over the past eight years that he was elected by other university presidents to be the chairman of the Association of American Universities.
This May, I received my final email as an undergraduate student at the University from Powers. He concluded it by saying, "From teaching to nursing, accounting to the arts, engineering to journalism, and in so much else, what starts here changes the world." Powers has repeatedly done everything he can do to improve the University of Texas at Austin — and in turn, change the world. Therefore, we do not need to change presidents. If you disagree, revise what Davy Crockett once famously said to end with, "... and I will stand by Bill Powers."
B.A. English 2014
B.A. History 2014
Plan I Honors
Longhorns Baseball, 2012-2014