Last Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry appointed UT-Austin government junior Max Richards as the UT System’s newest student regent. Though the student member of the board of regents is not granted a vote, they still have the ability to provide valuable student perspectives on System policies and actions. Unfortunately, because Richards did not go through the prescribed vetting process, which Perry ignored completely, it’s hard to know what exactly Richards’ perspective is, or how it might match up with other students’. What’s easy to see, however, is that for the second year in a row, Perry has disadvantaged the students of the UT System by choosing a candidate who will best suit his interests as opposed to one who will best represent those of students.
Richards applied for the position through the governor’s office directly. Normally, students apply through their campus’ student government organizations, which then pass on their top applicants to the respective campus president who must approve them and pass them along to the System chancellor who recommends students to the governor. This process results in only the most qualified and involved students — selected by their peers to represent the student voice of the System — being appointed. Although applying to the governor’s office is not against the rules, it allows for applicants that have not been properly vetted to reach the governor’s desk.
Not only is this the second year in a row Perry has selected the student regent from the candidates that applied directly to his office, it is the second year in a row he has selected a UT-Austin student — even though this goes against the System’s own rules for the student regent selection process that the student regent not be from the same campus two years in a row.
Because of Perry’s decision to go against the established policy for selecting a student regent, he has wasted the time of students who applied to their campus’ student governments and also left out qualified students who didn’t realize they were eligible to apply directly to his office. What is the point of having this system to present Perry with the cream of the crop candidates if he is going to ignore anyone who didn’t apply to him directly?
When this board spoke to the current student regent UT-Austin’s Nash Horne, who was also appointed directly by Perry, about his plans for his role and how to tackle issues facing students, his overwhelming answer was that he wasn’t informed and didn’t know how to resolve them. Maybe if Perry had picked another applicant who was recommended by a student government organization, the regent would have been more informed on the problems facing the System.
Because the flagship campus tends to be at the forefront of regent debate, it easily could be seen as a positive that another Longhorn, Richards, will again have a seat at the table. But Perry’s appointment of another UT-Austin student to this position only alienates the students from the System’s other campuses. Their voices and concerns deserve to be heard just as loudly as our own.
Granted no one student alone, no matter how well qualified, will be able to effect change within the system, especially considering the fact that the student regent is a non-voting member. Despite its shortcomings, however, the role is important — it is the closest any one student can be to the regents who chart the course for UT and the 14 other institutions in the System. That Perry’s appointees are routinely not vetted by their own institutions is a testament to how little he believes students should be a part of their University’s governance.