On Monday, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Gov. Rick Perry’s choice for UT System chancellor, Kyle Janek, was being considered by the UT System Board of Regents. Janek, who is currently Health and Human Services executive commissioner, would take the place of Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, who announced his resignation in early February. Janek’s current position as executive commissioner entails managing the state’s Medicaid rolls, integrating technology into health care and maintaining the Health and Human Services Commission. It’s not academia, but for the position of chancellor, it just might be the right kind of experience.
As a doctor and expert in the field of health management, Janek, if chosen, could help guide the Dell Medical School through its early years. Though the forthcoming medical school has a more-than-able dean in the recently chosen Dr. Clay Johnston, having a doctor in the System’s leadership could prove to be beneficial to the medical school as it finds its place in the massive System network.
On the other hand, while Janek has the basic qualifications, he’s done nothing remarkable to deserve the position of chancellor. His tenure as a Texas senator was nothing if not mediocre.
Janek’s legislative record seems innocuous enough. He authored bills on things such as asbestos claims and reductions in mandatory appraisal increases for property tax. Janek’s time under the dome shows his ability to craft measures to appease Republican Party leaders, but did nothing to mark him out as the sort of person fit to lead a massive university system.
And while Janek’s undistinguished time in the Senate doesn’t throw up any red flags, his performance as executive commissioner of the human services commission has been more concerning.
As commissioner, Janek refused to believe census data showing that more than a quarter of Texans don’t have health insurance. Accordingly, he did little to stop the problem of under-insurance in the state.
Though it’s no surprise a Republican has skewed perceptions of health care, it’s still worthy of criticism. Janek’s views may mirror those of older Texans, but what if he were to continue to ignore the more progressive views of younger Texans as chancellor? The University would not benefit from an out-of-touch older man pushing vestigial norms on today’s students.
We should also be wary of anything Perry pushes for in the System. He has shown on several occasions his disregard for the University’s interests in favor of pursuing his own warped ideas for what higher education should look like. Perry might not see Janek as the best man for the job so much as he sees him as the best man to achieve his agenda.
Though Perry’s endorsement carries clout with the regents, all appointed by him, it’s no guarantee. Perry’s last endorsement fell on deaf ears as the board ultimately went with Cigarroa instead of his proposed candidate. Janek isn’t the worst choice, but he leaves a lot to be desired. Hopefully the regents can come up with a more compelling candidate to move UT forward.
Breland is a Plan II senior from Houston.