• UT opens four edX courses to registration

    UT has opened four free massive open online courses for registration.

    The University's edX courses, which will begin in September, are: Ideas of the 20th Century; Introduction to Globalization; Bench to Bedside: Introduction to Drug Development and the Commercialization Process; and Energy Technology and Policy. 

    The online courses are free and available to anyone and are part of a partnership with edX, a nonprofit. In October, the UT System Board of Regents pledged $10 million to edX, which offers free online courses. Founded by by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last year, edX has also partnered with the University of California at Berkeley, Rice University and several other higher education institutions.

    Next spring, the University will add five more courses including: Jazz Appreciation; Foundations of Data Analysis; Mathematics and Effective Thinking; Introduction to Embedded Systems; and Linear Algebra.

    The classes are created by UT professors and students who take the class receive a certificate of mastery or completion but receive no university credit. Students can register online at: www.edx.org/university_profile/UTAustinX.

  • UT professor behind hit-and-run, police say

    Police say a UT professor is behind a hit-and-run incident that left one bicyclist injured on North Lamar Boulevard near West 10th Street on Tuesday afternoon.

    According to the arrest warrant, communication studies professor Richard Cherwitz hit a bicyclist while driving on North Lamar Boulevard and fled the scene. He was charged with failure to stop and render aid.

    Witnesses at the scene said around 3 p.m. a bicyclist was struck by Cherwitz's vehicle as he turned onto West 10th Street. Cherwitz did not stop and left behind a license plate which authorities found was registered to Cherwitz, the warrant said.

    Cherwitz told officers at his home that he saw someone make a rude gesture at him while at 10th and Lamar and that he kept driving, according the same warrant.

  • Lawmakers attempt to limit UT System Board of Regents through budget measures

    Texas lawmakers took steps Thursday to prevent the UT System Board of Regents from conducting another investigation into the UT Law School Foundation by prohibiting regents’ from spending money on the investigation.

    Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee and serves on a joint committee to investigate regents’ governance methods, filed a series of amendment to limit the UT System’s spending power.

    One amendment would prevent the System administration from using any of the $23.5 million in proposed state funds for the upcoming biennium to pay for investigations into individual institutions within the system and the administrations of those institutions. It would also prevent the System from spending to request open records from those institutions.

    In 2011, President William Powers Jr. instructed Larry Sager, then dean of the School of Law and current faculty member, to resign as dean after Sager received a forgivable loan of $500,000 from the foundation. Last week, the regents voted 4-3 to conduct an additional external review of the foundation. The System would spend about $500,000 toward the investigation.

    An internal audit of the foundation conducted by Barry Burgdorf, UT System general counsel who resigned earlier this month, found the loan was awarded inappropriately. The attorney general’s office largely concurred with the report’s findings.

    The amendment would also require the System to submit an annual report to Gov. Rick Perry’s office and the Legislative Budget Board detailing the System’s investigations into individual institutions and their administrations. The System would have to list the intent of the investigation, evidence to justify conducting the investigation, the cost of the investigation and the findings of the investigation.

    An additional amendment, co-filed with state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who also serves on the joint committee, would trust the System’s $23.5 million to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The coordinating board would transfer those funds back to the System pending approval from the Legislative Budget Board and Gov. Rick Perry’s office.

    Another amendment would limit the System administration’s share of revenue from the Permanent University Fund, a state endowment that funds the UT and Texas A&M University Systems that typically funds infrastructure and construction projects. However, the amendment would allow UT to continue accessing the fund.

    A final amendment prevents the System from paying for transportation and lodging of regents who have not been confirmed by the Senate.

    The amendments follow a week of criticism by lawmakers over the regents’ decision to conduct the additional investigation.

    Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Wednesday that if regents decided to conduct a “duplicative investigation,” they should use Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office to prevent spending additional tax dollars. A letter signed by 18 senators sent to board Chairman Gene Powell on Tuesday asked the board to seek the attorney general’s assistance if regents insisted on continuing what the senators called “an unnecessary probe.”

    Powell responded in a letter Wednesday and said the board’s General Counsel Francie Frederick informed the attorney general’s office of the board’s possible actions prior to last week’s meeting. He said Frederick would brief Abbott and his first assistant Daniel Hodge if the board decided to investigate the foundation further.

  • Members of UT community: UT System Board of Regents' behavior harming UT

    The UT System Board of Regents is engaging in behavior that could potentially diminish the reputation of its flagship institution, members of the UT community and Texas Exes told Texas lawmakers Wednesday.

    Testifying to the Senate Higher Education Committee in favor of a bill that would limit the powers of university boards of regents statewide, Michael Morton, Senate of College Councils president, said the University has faced increased micromanagement from the board. The Senate of College Councils is a student legislative organization that focuses on academic issues at the University.

    Morton said the board has interfered through extensive open records requests that have made it more difficult for the University to conduct its regular business and by continuing an investigation into the UT Law School Foundation’s relationship with UT. He said this climate is driving away potential faculty and administrators.

    “I’ve seen our university lose and struggle to recruit top-notch faculty members and administrators because of the political turmoil between our system’s board of regents and our institutions,” Morton said. “I’ve seen our student and alumni networks join together to support our university and our president against attacks from the group that, by the Texas Education Code, is supposed to preserve institutional independence and enhance the public image of each institution under its governance. Our Board of Regents has failed to uphold both of those roles.”

    The bill, filed by state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo and committee chairman, is in response to ongoing tension between the regents and President William Powers Jr. It would amend state laws to allocate all duties and responsibilities not specifically granted to university systems or governing boards to the individual institutions of that system. The committee took no action on the bill, but will take it up again next week.

    The bill would also prohibit regents from voting on personnel and budgetary matters until they undergo ethics training offered annually by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

    Texas Exes CEO Leslie Cedar said an unnamed regent has repeatedly expressed displeasure through emails and phone calls with how the alumni association has openly supported Powers and criticized regents. Cedar said she does not believe regents’ scrutiny regarding the association’s contracts with the University result from that criticism.

    “The role of the alumni association is to champion the University, and we support administrators who line up directly with the mission of the University, so we feel like it is our duty to speak up for and on behalf of the mission of the University,” Cedar said.

    The testimony came a week after the regents voted 4-3 to conduct a new external review of the UT Law School Foundation’s relationship with UT as part of an ongoing investigation of the foundation. In 2011, Powers instructed Larry Sager, then dean of the School of Law and current faculty member, to resign as dean after Sager received a forgivable loan of $500,000 from the foundation.

    An internal audit of the foundation conducted by Barry Burgdorf, UT System general counsel who resigned earlier this month, found the loan was conducted in an inappropriate manner. The Texas Attorney General’s Office largely concurred with the report’s findings.

    A letter signed by 18 senators sent to board Chairman Gene Powell on Tuesday implored the board to seek the assistance of the Office of the Texas Attorney General if regents insisted on continuing what the senators called “an unnecessary probe.”

    Powell responded in a letter Wednesday and said the board’s General Counsel Francie Frederick informed the attorney general’s office of the board’s possible actions prior to last week’s meeting. He said Frederick would brief Attorney General Greg Abbott and his first assistant Daniel Hodge if the board decided to investigate the foundation further.

    “Please be assured that no decisions will be made on proceeding with this issue until this previously planned briefing of and discussion with the attorney general occurs,” Powell said.

  • Student Government supports Sen. Kel Seliger's bill to limit Regents' power

    Student Government voted to support a bill in the Texas Legislature that proposes limiting the UT System Board of Regents’ power within UT institutions.

    The legislation states the regents’ primary duties are to advise and approve institutional policy, not micromanage each institution.

    The Texas Senate bill, filed by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would limit responsibilities not specific to the System, to fall under the control of the individual institutions.

    The Graduate Student Assembly and the Senate of College Councils both recently passed similar legislation

    Michael Redding, Graduate Student Assembly president and a Texas Student Media contract employee, said Student Government’s support helps voice the opinions on campus to the Texas legislature.

    “This would show a united front for our support of the Senate bill,” Redding said. “This shows students are paying attention and do care about what is happening at the University.”

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