• Declarations of love and conspiracy theories were common at Monday’s Senate Nominations Committee hearing.

    Senators grilled UT System regent nominees Ernest Aliseda, Jeffrey Hildebrand and current UT Regent Paul Foster for four hours Monday, which may be the longest time spent interviewing candidates this session.

    The hot topic was the board’s relationship with UT-Austin President William Powers Jr. and whether there were any plans to force him out of office. Below are the Texan’s picks for the top five quotes from the hearing. 

    1. Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, expresses her support for Powers.

    “Do you understand that Bill Powers, the president of UT-Austin, is not only respected and admired, but I would dare say loved by members of legislature?” she asked the nominees.

    2. Senator Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, does not want to hear about the conflict between the UT System Board of Regents and Powers any longer.

    “I’ve heard more about the University of Texas System than I have ever wanted to in my life this legislative session. No, Senator Zaffirini, actually that’s not because I’m an Aggie.”

    3. UT Regent Paul Foster on tenure for university professors.

    “I think tenure is important but I think it could stand to be reexamined from time to time. I don’t it needs to be a lifelong right. It should be earned. Don’t professors know how to do that?” he said.

    4. Senator Zaffirini said the UT System has made open records requests very difficult for her office, citing the system put password locks on records she requested so she could not print them.

    “It was such a difficult process, it was like pulling teeth. Typically we get the documents just before 5 o’clock on Friday, typically we’re gone just before 5 o’clock on Friday,” she said. “What are they hiding, Regent Foster?

    5. Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, tells the nominees he thinks they and the board are on a mission to fire UT’s President Powers.

    “So gentlemen, this morning if I had to vote (on your confirmation) I would vote no, because I don’t want to play any role in the replacing of Bill Powers,” Whitemire said. “First of all, he’s an outstanding human being, he’s recognized in this nation as a leader in the academic field, he has an impeccable integrity.”  

  • Members of the Senate Nominations Committee interrogated three nominees to the UT System Board of Regents on whether there was any plan to fire UT President William Powers Jr. for two hours Monday morning.

    Committee members took turns questioning nominees Ernest Aliseda, Jeffrey Hildebrand and current UT regent Paul Foster, who was reappointed by Gov. Rick Perry, on how they felt about Powers' leadership and whether there are plans to force the president out of office.

    Foster acknowledged the rift between the board and Powers, but denied any conspiracy or hidden agenda to fire the president. In recent months, the board has been accused of trying to micromanage UT-Austin and force Powers out. 

    “Every day of my life I hear someone talk about the termination of Bill Powers, but what I’m saying is it’s never been discussed by the board,” Foster said.

    Regents are appointed by Perry and must be approved by the Senate. Aliseda is a graduate of Texas A&M University, works as an attorney for Loya Insurance Group and acts as a municipal judge for the city of McAllen. Hildebrand graduated from UT-Austin and is the CEO of Hilcorp Energy Co.

    Foster has been been on the board since 2007 and is the current vice chairman. All three have contributed money to Perry over the years.

    If approved, Aliseda, Hildebrand and Foster would serve until Feb. 1, 2019. The committee will meet again today to question the regents before voting.

    “If I had to vote this morning I would vote no because I don’t want to play any role in the ousting of Bill Powers,” said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.

    Foster said he believed in Powers, but has issues with Powers being stubborn by not working with the board.

    “He has been very difficult for the regents to work with,” Foster said. “My concern is that in some instances the controversies and issues surrounding him are so overwhelming and so significant it frustrates the whole process and detriments the entire system.”

    Foster said every time some issue with Powers comes up there is a very organized campaign of public outcry, including a flood of phone calls and editorials, that frustrate the regents.

    Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Sen. Juddith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, led the charge in cross-examining the regents. Watson asked Foster how he would vote if asked to take a vote of confidence in the president. Foster said he would vote in favor of Powers.

    Watson also brought up an email from UT regent Alex Cranberg, in which Cranberg said Powers was trying to be a hero figure instead of trying to get things done.

    Zaffirini asked the nominees to each name five specific steps they would take to close the rift between the board and Powers. Some nominees said they would meet with UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and the regents to establish the goals they want to accomplish.

    Nominees also said they would meet with Powers to understand his side in the controversy and meet with the students and alumni groups that support him.

    Zaffirini said any plan to fire Powers would be detrimental to UT and the state.

    “If Bill Powers were fired, all hell would break loose,” she said.

    Correction: This article has been updated to correctly attribute a quote to Paul Foster, not William Power Jr.

  • This morning, the Senate Committee of Nominations will have a public hearing to confirm UT System Board of Regent appointees Ernest Aliseda and Jeff Hildebrand.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry made the appointments in February, but they’ve been waiting to be confirmed by the Senate before they can begin serving. Perry also reappointed Paul Foster, who will also appear before the committee this morning.

    If confirmed, Aliseda and Hilderbrand would replace outgoing regents James Dannenbaum and Printice Gary. Their terms expired in February.

    The appointments come at a controversial time for the board. The regents have been accused of micromanaging the University of Texas and UT President William Powers Jr. Several bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature in relation to limiting the board’s power. One of these bills is sitting on the governor’s desk, awaiting a signature or a veto.

    The hearing starts at 8 a.m., and The Daily Texan will be covering it. Follow Jody Serrano at @jodyserrano on Twitter for live-updates, and check back at the Texan later in the day. But, in the meantime, here are ten things you probably didn’t know about Ernest Aliseda and Jeff Hildebrand:

    Aliseda:

    1). Aliseda received his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. He does not have a degree from a University of Texas system.

    2). Aliseda is an assistant municipal judge in McAllen, and a managing attorney at Loya Insurance Group. He has previously served as a judge in Hidalgo County. In 2009, he got the Ethics Award from the Hidalgo County Bar Association. At the time, the Texas House honored him with a resolution.

    3).  Aliseda has donated significantly less to Perry’s campaigns than his fellow appointees. According to The Dallas Morning News, he has given just $1,000 to Texans for Rick Perry in the past 13 years.

    4). Aliseda is not the only member of his family to be involved in public service. His wife is a member of McAllen’s school board.

    5). Aliseda told The Daily Texan in February that if appointed to the board, he would look forward to helping the possible merging of the UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville campuses into a single university.

    Hildebrand:

    6). Hildebrand is one of the richest businessmen in Texas. Forbes magazine reports that he has a net worth of $5.5 billion. He is ranked 219 on a list titled “The World’s Billionaires”, and according to Forbes he is the 59th richest American.

    7).  Hildebrand is the chairman and CEO of Hilcorp Energy Company, an oil and gas production company in Houston.

    8). Hildebrand got his bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Texas. He is the only nominee that graduated from a UT System university.

    9). Hildebrand has already worked with the University. He is a member of the UT System’s Task Force on Engineering Education and he is on the UT Engineering Advisory Board.

    10).  According to The Dallas Morning News, Hildebrand has given more than $300,000 to Texans for Rick Perry in the past 13 years.