Two hundred alumni from UT and Texas A&M joined at the Texas Capitol Tuesday to advocate for strategic investments in higher education.
The sixth bi-annual Orange and Maroon Legislative Day drew the highest volunteer turnout in the event’s history. Alumni from both universities spent the day meeting in small groups with legislators and addressing specific issues in higher education, including those related to funding, budget and research incentives.
The day closed with a reception at the Sheraton Hotel downtown. Representatives from both universities and the state legislature attended the event along with the two hundred volunteers. UT President William Powers Jr., state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo and the chancellors of both school systems were also in attendance.
“We are the two great public flagship research universities,” Powers said. “We have a lot in common. This is setting the stage for a lot of work that we’ll do at the legislature. It helps to have not just me talking about it, or the A&M leadership talking about it, but the broad support of our alumni across the state.”
In an attempt to focus on specific issues, volunteers were briefed on four key issues prior to meeting with legislators.
Volunteers advocated for the restoration of formula funding, the stabilization of long-term funding and the approval of investments for two research centers. The agenda pushed for the support of an Engineering Education and Research Center at UT and an infectious disease research facility at A&M. The initiative called for an increase in research incentives by providing a one million dollar match from the state for every ten million dollars brought into the universities from external research funding.
“What I like about this day is that it is an opportunity for Longhorns and Aggies to show our unity in terms of what is best for the future of Texas,” Zaffirini said. “That unity is important to improving higher education. Alumni can show the legislators who represent the two systems how important it is to address specific issues. I believe that [this day] has been the most successful in history ... because of the enthusiasm.”
Marty Holmes, vice president of the Association of Former Students of Texas A&M, said UT and A&M are unified by mutual concern for the state of Texas.
“This camaraderie isn’t unusual,” Holmes said. “When it comes to the issues, the state of Texas is the most important. We can work together ... we can put aside the other things, at least for today.”