When Texas state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, picked out a tie Monday morning, he tried to choose one that was equal parts burnt orange and maroon.
Branch, who is chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, was a highlighted speaker at a joint meeting held Monday by the UT Faculty Council and the Texas A&M University Faculty Senate. The two faculty councils heard updates about issues affecting higher education in Texas at both flagship universities.
“UT and A&M are more similar than they are different,” Branch said. “They measure success with similar yardsticks.”
One major topic of conversation was the push to raise graduation rates.
“If someone has to take longer because they’re working, that’s fine,” Branch said. “But for students who don’t need to take longer, who also need to work, there are opportunities to do that. I personally took 19 and 20 hours some semesters — you don’t hear many people doing that anymore.”
Patricia Roberts-Miller, UT English and rhetoric and writing professor, expressed concern that the push for higher graduation rates and utilization of strategies like massive open online courses would lead to lowered standards of quality.
“I often think pressure to get the degree can result in pressure to reduce quality in all sorts of ways,” Roberts-Miller said.
Branch said any reforms that lead to a reduction in quality will also result in faculty departure.
“If reforms cause public universities to be degraded because quality folks leave, your reform was not the reform you were hoping for,” Branch said. “Faculty can vote with their feet, and so can administrators.”