UT System Board of Regent

In this podcast, Bobby Blanchard, Christine Ayala and Jody Serrano discuss the most recent UT System Board of Regent meeting, the final stages of the abortion legislation in the Texas legislature and the life and death of UT's famous albino squirrel (which isn't really albino). 

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10 things you didn’t know about regent appointees Ernest Aliseda, Jeff Hildebrand

This morning, the Senate Committee of Nominations will have a public hearing to confirm UT System Board of Regent appointees Ernest Aliseda and Jeff Hildebrand.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry made the appointments in February, but they’ve been waiting to be confirmed by the Senate before they can begin serving. Perry also reappointed Paul Foster, who will also appear before the committee this morning.

If confirmed, Aliseda and Hilderbrand would replace outgoing regents James Dannenbaum and Printice Gary. Their terms expired in February.

The appointments come at a controversial time for the board. The regents have been accused of micromanaging the University of Texas and UT President William Powers Jr. Several bills have been filed in the Texas Legislature in relation to limiting the board’s power. One of these bills is sitting on the governor’s desk, awaiting a signature or a veto.

The hearing starts at 8 a.m., and The Daily Texan will be covering it. Follow Jody Serrano at @jodyserrano on Twitter for live-updates, and check back at the Texan later in the day. But, in the meantime, here are ten things you probably didn’t know about Ernest Aliseda and Jeff Hildebrand:

Aliseda:

1). Aliseda received his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. He does not have a degree from a University of Texas system.

2). Aliseda is an assistant municipal judge in McAllen, and a managing attorney at Loya Insurance Group. He has previously served as a judge in Hidalgo County. In 2009, he got the Ethics Award from the Hidalgo County Bar Association. At the time, the Texas House honored him with a resolution.

3).  Aliseda has donated significantly less to Perry’s campaigns than his fellow appointees. According to The Dallas Morning News, he has given just $1,000 to Texans for Rick Perry in the past 13 years.

4). Aliseda is not the only member of his family to be involved in public service. His wife is a member of McAllen’s school board.

5). Aliseda told The Daily Texan in February that if appointed to the board, he would look forward to helping the possible merging of the UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville campuses into a single university.

Hildebrand:

6). Hildebrand is one of the richest businessmen in Texas. Forbes magazine reports that he has a net worth of $5.5 billion. He is ranked 219 on a list titled “The World’s Billionaires”, and according to Forbes he is the 59th richest American.

7).  Hildebrand is the chairman and CEO of Hilcorp Energy Company, an oil and gas production company in Houston.

8). Hildebrand got his bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Texas. He is the only nominee that graduated from a UT System university.

9). Hildebrand has already worked with the University. He is a member of the UT System’s Task Force on Engineering Education and he is on the UT Engineering Advisory Board.

10).  According to The Dallas Morning News, Hildebrand has given more than $300,000 to Texans for Rick Perry in the past 13 years.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry appoints UT System Board of Regent members who donate to his political campaigns — a reality that his gubernatorial campaign quickly points out doesn’t distinguish him from his predecessors.

But his predecessors aren’t running for governor, and Perry’s tendency to appoint donors is particularly notable: Eleven current and former members of the board have donated more than $1.5 million to Perry, coming to an average donation of $140,000 per regent, according to data from The Texas Tribune. Statewide, the picture is similar; of 171 university regents appointed, 91 have donated to Perry, and all regent donations add up to $5.8 million.

Perry’s opponent, Democratic nominee Bill White, has seized the issue as an opportunity to slam the governor for his record of financial favoritism.
Ally Smith, a campaign spokeswoman for White, recently told The Daily Texan, “It’s clear that for Rick Perry, appointments aren’t about serving Texans but about building his own self-serving political machine.” She adds that White will make sweeping changes — a promise we’ll believe when it is delivered.

The reality is that governors often appoint regents who support them. In an interview with The Daily Texan, UT President William Powers Jr. diplomatically dealt with the issue.

“Most political appointments in every state and in Texas historically have been people that ... the governor has confidence in,” Powers said. “I’ve watched them work, and they have the University’s interests at heart.”

The Board of Regents — the governing body for the UT System — consists of “nine members who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.” The terms for regents are scheduled for six years each and staggered so that three members’ terms will usually expire on Feb. 1 of odd-numbered years.

In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Robert Rowling, a former regent and one of Perry’s top donors, said that being a UT Regent involves a lot more than just getting good football tickets. Furthermore, he dismissed the notion that anyone who donates to Perry would want to — or could be — a regent because the position requires, as Rowling puts it, “danged hard work.”

His implication: Being a board member is a position one takes on out of the goodness of his heart.

But the Board of Regents brokers tremendous power, not the least of which is helping govern the University of Texas Investment Management Company, UTIMCO, which controls the investments of the University.

Rowling’s perspective is frustrating, because he seems to be whining about the responsibilities that accompany an incredible amount of power — power that has a direct effect on our education.

Perry may not be doing anything extremely unusual, but that excuse has its limits, particularly when put in perspective of the instance in the fall, when former Texas Tech Regents Mark Griffin and Windy Sutton felt pressure to resign for supporting Perry’s former opponent, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Perry not only appoints regents who fund his war chest, but also suppresses those who don’t. The board controls our education and our University’s money. We would prefer if they weren’t subjected to every political wind that blows through the governor’s office.