Overview: Perry declines to meet with editorial boards; UT moves up in college rankings

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Perry declines to meet with editorial boards

Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign spokesman Mark Miner recently announced that Perry would not be meeting with the editorial boards of Texas’ major newspapers to seek their endorsements for his re-election campaign. The move is not entirely unexpected; five months ago Perry chose not to meet with editorial boards while he was campaigning against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in last spring’s Republican primary. The snub did not appear to derail Perry’s campaign, as he went on to decisively defeat Hutchison despite major Texas papers such as the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman all endorsing Hutchison.

Perry did meet with editorial boards during his last general election in 2006 against Democrat Chris Bell, and several major papers subsequently endorsed the governor.

Perry’s opponent, former Houston mayor Bill White, criticized Perry’s decision. Not meeting with major editorial boards, coupled with Perry’s refusal to debate White, has drawn claims that Perry is refusing to answer tough questions. According to the Perry campaign, the governor’s refusal to debate White hinges on White’s refusal to release his personal tax returns from the years he worked for the U.S. Department of Energy and as chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. White publicly released his tax returns from his time as mayor of Houston last summer.

Declining to meet with the editorial boards is primarily a symbolic gesture and will probably not have a measurable impact on Perry’s chances in the upcoming election. In the past year, pandering to the “Tea Party” has been Perry’s bread and butter, with the governor taking almost every opportunity to take shots at the federal government in Washington and other facets of the political “establishment” such as the alleged “liberal media.” That disdain seems to have trickled down to the major newspapers of his own state. We can only hope this move does not set a precedent for future candidates, both for the sake of our cities’ newspapers and the quality of future Texas elections.

UT moves up in college rankings

Last week U.S. News and World Report released its eagerly anticipated and controversial “America’s Best Colleges” issue. The magazine uses criteria such as selectivity, retention and graduation rates to rank various universities, colleges and specific programs. U.S. News named UT the 45th best university in the country, tied with the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

UT advanced two spots, maintained its position as the highest ranked university in the Big 12 and leaped ahead of public universities traditionally ranked higher than our school, such as the University of Florida.

UT graduate schools also made a healthy showing with the LBJ school ranking number 10 in public policy and the McCombs’ School of Business snagging the top spot in Masters in Public Accounting.

For some prospective students, rankings play a large part in selecting a university, and we imagine UT administrators are also pleased with the boost for this reason.

We, however, don’t really care. College rankings are like dog shows: Experts may establish standards to determine what constitutes a prize-winning dog, but some people just like terriers, some prefer bloodhounds and very few would actually want the prissy and ostentatiously-groomed poodle the judges deem “best dog.”

Comparison is always a good way to evaluate our school’s strengths and weaknesses, but rankings should be limited to college football and “America’s Most Wanted.”

Powers warns of upcoming budget cuts

On Aug. 12 at a UT System Board of Regents meeting, President William Powers Jr. issued a warning about the potential effects of state budget cuts. “We are already behind our competitors by very large amounts,” said Powers, adding that he expects the budget cuts “will have an impact on the quality of educational offerings and will affect time to graduation.”

The budget cut Powers referenced is mandated by Governor Perry, who dictated that state agencies, including public colleges and universities, cut 10 percent of state funding from their budgets for both the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years. At the meeting, Powers told regents the cut would cost UT $29 million a year and said it would leave UT in a bad place in terms of spending per student when compared to peer institutions such as the University of Michigan.

Powers expressed further concern about the toll the budget cut would take on UT’s ability to maintain its role as a premier research institution. “It has been our philosophy that what we do needs to be at a national research level,” he said. “That will be difficult to sustain. We will not be able to be a major research university in anything like the same way.”

Ultimately, Powers drew the conclusion that private funding would have to make up for potentially trimmed state funding, and this may very well be the case. A 10-percent budget cut would spare no one, and Powers is right to be concerned. But the dialogue surrounding budget cuts has been ongoing for months, and the shouting match, however justified, is jading and leaves those who it will most affect — students — exasperated. Powers’ warning is not unfounded, but it may go unheard.