Senate of College Councils backs bill to limit regents, elects president

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Student Regent Ashley Purgason expresses her dedication to the students and the university as a whole during a student Senate meeting Thursday evening.

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

The Senate of College Councils showed unanimous support Thursday for legislation to limit the powers of university system boards of regents across the state and elected a new president after the previous president-elect resigned earlier this month.

A bill filed in the Texas Senate 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 resolution passed minutes after Student Regent Ashley Purgason spoke to the student Senate regarding the regents’ relationship to UT, among other topics. 

The vote also came one day after the UT System Board of 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, to resign as dean after Sager received a forgivable loan of $500,000 from the foundation. Sager still holds a faculty position in the Law School. An internal audit of the foundation conducted by System General Counsel Barry Burgdorf, who resigned earlier this month, found that the loan was conducted in an inappropriate manner.

Michael Morton, Senate of College Councils outgoing president, said the investigation into the foundation was valid but the ongoing conflict between the regents and Powers is “petty.”

“At some point, we need to all realize this is not the best interest of students if we’re just spending money trying to dig up information so we can settle a political grudge or what have you,” Morton said.

The Senate will send the resolution to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Straus and higher education leaders in both houses of the Texas Legislature.

Purgason, who was not present at Wednesday’s regents’ meeting and is not a voting member, told the Senate that she stands by her fellow regents’ decision to conduct the additional audit.

“I want to be very, very clear that everyone on the board, and I do mean everybody, loves this campus dearly,” Purgason said. “Truly, we have your best interests at heart. I realize that sometimes it seems that there are tensions or you’re not being put first, but I promise you that every action that’s taken is done out of the love for this University.”

Also during the meeting, the Senate elected Andrew Clark, international relations and global studies and history senior, as the new president in a special election. Clark replaced Ryan Hirsch as president-elect after Hirsch resigned earlier this month.

Clark said he would prioritize staffing the five members of the Senate’s executive board and 16 committee chairs before he and his fellow officers take office April 18.

“There’s a lot of lost time to make up for,” Clark said.