Spirit and Traditions Council

Jim Nicar, former Texas Exes director of history and traditions, was fired Monday after 20 years of service as a part of a strategic planning process the organization is undertaking.

The Texas Exes dismissed Nicar and two other employees Monday as part of the organization’s efforts to increase advocacy, student development, alumni relations and strategic partnering with UT. Leslie Cedar, Texas Exes executive director, said Nicar was involuntarily terminated because the organization is repurposing some staff positions to better deliver Texas Exes’ priorities in new and innovative ways.

Cedar said the organization began its reorganizing efforts after she joined the Texas Exes as executive director in 2011. She said the group has since evaluated its core purpose and decided Texas Exes will lead the charge to help UT be a first class, leading research and teaching public university in the country.

“The new strategy is more updated and focuses on making alumni very active in becoming a formidable force [at UT],” Cedar said.

Cedar said since July 2011, four people including Nicar have been involuntarily dismissed and five roles within the organization have been eliminated. Texas Exes now has a total of 49 employees. In addition to serving as director of history and traditions, Nicar also served as the Texas Exes liaison and advisor to the Spirit and Traditions Council, an umbrella group for many different spirit groups on campus. She said the organization wishes Nicar the best.

Admissions counselor Lisa Lockhart said she heard about Nicar’s firing via email from a student who is a member of a club Nicar mentored. Lockhart said Nicar has spent several decades serving UT working, researching, writing articles and giving presentations on UT history and traditions. She said students who worked for her were always thrilled when Nicar taught them something new about UT’s history. Lockhart said discharging an individual with Nicar’s longevity, knowledge and integrity is outrageous and damaging. She said she spoke to Nicar after he had been fired about what he would do next.

“We spoke of his future plans,” she said. “[Whether] to return to school or finish working on a book about UT’s history and traditions. I do not know what reason was given to him but he did mention poor morale and high turnover at Texas Exes.”

With regard to rumors of canceling and disbanding Texas Exes programs, Lockhart said to follow the money.

“Are new, middle management positions being created?” she said. “Did these jobs exist before? Are programs being sacrificed to provide salaries?”

Cedar said 11 new positions have been added and eight people have been promoted since July 2011 in efforts to align resources and talents and deliver on strategic priorities.

Matt Portillo, Spirit and Traditions Council co-chair, said his organization was shocked when they learned of Nicar’s termination. Portillo said he found out from Nicar himself and confirmed the news with an email from Tim Taliaferro, Texas Exes vice president of communications and digital strategy. Portillo said Taliaferro told him to direct any questions and concerns about the Spirit and Traditions Council to him from now on. He said Taliaferro also told him Texas Exes is currently assessing the council’s future within the organization and the council should hold no meetings or activities without a Texas Exes staff member present. Portillo said he was told the council could not meet until after they met with Texas Exes leadership in a meeting after spring break due to legal and liability considerations.

Portillo said he thinks the Texas Exes’ restructuring and Nicar’s firing is due to a budget shortfall within the organization. He said the council may be rolled into the Texas Exes Student Chapter organization. Portillo said the council is open to change, but he is concerned that Texas Exes has not involved the group in any discussions about the proposed changes.

“There’s been some miscommunication and I think everybody is in a somewhat turbulent state,” Portillo said. “But what’s important right now is for students and the Texas Exes leadership to come together and work towards solutions that will benefit everyone.”

Although the Spirit and Traditions Council receives approximately $6,000 in funding from the Texas Exes, Portillo said it is a registered student organization and he believes it is free to act according to the will of its student membership.

Cedar said despite rumors Texas Exes was cutting programs and clubs, no such entities have been eliminated.

“We will continue on with all of our traditions,” Cedar said. “We have the opportunity to build on top of these. How do we continue on? That’s the task we were charged with when I came in.”

Additional reporting by Nick Hadjigeorge.

Printed on Friday, March 9, 2012 as: Texas Exes' restructuring results in loss of jobs