UT System Board of Regents in limbo with expiration of three terms

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Paul Foster, vice chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, was appointed Sunday to lead the efforts to study the System’s policies regarding employee-student relationships. There’s only one problem: Foster’s term as a regent technically expired last week.  

The terms of three of the nine voting members of the Board of Regents expired Friday, though all will retain their status until new regents are appointed by Gov. Rick Perry and approved by the Texas Senate. Foster, Vice Chairman James Dannenbaum and Printice Gary all saw their terms conclude at the beginning of the month. 

System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said that because the governor often allows regents to remain in their seats for several months after their terms have ended, Foster’s expired term did not factor into his appointment as leader of the policy review. 

“It is not unusual to task a [regent whose term has expired] with a project, particularly when that project is set to begin immediately, as is the case with this review,” LaCoste-Caputo said.

LaCoste-Caputo added that because UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and Board Chairman Gene Powell can appoint anyone to lead initiatives like the review, Foster could feasibly continue the work even after he is replaced as regent. 

Representatives from the governor’s office declined to say when the governor might announce his candidates for the three open regent positions. 

“We are still going through the appointments process,” deputy press secretary Lucy Nashed said. 

Michael Morton, president of the Senate of College Councils, said the individual makeup of the board can have significant implications for the University. 

“It takes a great deal of time for a university to be built up to the stature that UT-Austin has, but it does not take very long for it to be brought down to the ground,” Morton said. “The regents can drastically change the framework of the University.”

Morton said he hopes Perry will make his next appointments using a new criteria that does not involve politics. 

“There has been a reasonable cause for concern with the governor’s most recent selections,” Morton said. “They have been questionable both in terms of their outlook on the University and in terms of where their interests lie.” 

Texas Exes President John Beckworth sent a mass email to students Monday acknowledging the central role of Texas in the national debate over the purpose of higher education. Beckworth stressed the role the regents play in maintaining “a university of the first class.” 

“We ask you to remain engaged and to call on our governor and elected officials to appoint and confirm capable, thoughtful and objective regents,” Beckworth said in the email. “A university of the first class deserves first-class regents.”

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group of business and community leaders that formed during the higher education debates in 2011, released a statement imploring Perry to choose his nominees in a swift manner. 

“The coalition encourages the governor to nominate candidates in a timely fashion, allowing the Senate Committee on Nominations to observe the established statutory process to ensure that candidates meet the highest standards of governance and ethics.”

Printed on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 as: System BOR in limbo with expiration of three terms