Issues to watch: Shared Services
On Jan. 29 last year, UT President William Powers Jr. gave a speech called “Smarter Systems for a Greater UT” in which he introduced the UT Shared Services plan — an initiative to help the University operate more efficiently. Based on the report, the University could improve its business practices and increase campus-wide efficiency by eliminating about 500 jobs and consolidating its non-faculty administrative services. Implementing the report’s recommendations could yield net savings of about $30 to $40 million in perpetuity and a gross total savings over 12 years of $280 to $320 million according to the Shared Services Steering Committee’s findings. Numerous administrators on campus, including Powers and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Hegarty, see the plan as a necessary consequence of the University’s declining general revenue, which has shrunk to about 13 percent of UT’s budget. Many students see the plan as furthering the corporatization of education, leading to student protests around campus, including a “sit in” outside Powers’ office last Wednesday afternoon. Shared Services not only has the potential to radically change the University’s operations, but it also has the potential to radicalize the students. Whichever one occurs, the issue is worth your attention.
Issues to watch: UT head football coach Charlie Strong
This fall, UT head football coach Charlie Strong will enter his first season at the helm of the Longhorns. Then, his strict new policies for student athletes will be put to the test on the field. Historically, incoming UT coaches haven’t performed well in their first seasons, but Strong has been proactive in setting a rhythm for the team since he took over for Mack Brown in January. A solid start would do a lot for fan morale, given that the Brown era went out with a whimper — a discontent, disgruntled whimper coming from the stands. Strong came to Texas ready to make his mark. He quickly set his own standard for the team, which included having athletes eat, sleep and study together, while serving up punishment for breaking his rules with extra time on the practice field. Of course, there’s another issue to consider as this story unfolds, which is that regardless of whether he’s made history on the field, Strong has made history at UT as the school’s first black head football coach. Given that Bev Kearney, the only other black head coach the school has ever had, is currently suing UT for discrimination on the basis of her race and gender, what the UT community makes of Strong’s race, and his performance on the field, is surely an issue to watch.
Issues to watch: UT Regeant Wallace Hall
With the May 12 meeting of the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations quickly approaching, students would do well to watch what could be the final chapter in the saga of Wallace Hall, the embattled member of the UT System Board of Regents. Hall is being investigated by the committee for possible misconduct related to massive numbers of open records requests in an alleged attempt to oust UT-Austin President William Powers Jr., and articles of impeachment may soon be on the table. The matter has also been turned over to the Travis County District Attorney Office’s Public Integrity Unit for an investigation into potential criminal conduct. All of this drama has been distracting, damaging and expensive — his records requests may have cost the University upwards of $1 million — and with possible mounting pressure from both prosecutors and the legislative committee investigating him, the end may finally be near.