David Daniel

McRaven appoints UT System deputy, vice chancellor

Former UT vice president and provost Steven Leslie and UT Dallas president David Daniel will join the UT System as administrators, Chancellor William McRaven announced Wednesday.

Beginning May 11, Leslie will serve as executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Daniel will join the System July 1 as deputy chancellor and chief operating officer, according to a statement released Wednesday.

Leslie, currently a professor and researcher in UT Austin’s College of Pharmacy, served as provost and executive vice president from 2007 until 2013.

“There are many ambitious initiatives already underway that are bound to have national and even international impact, and I am thrilled to join Chancellor McRaven as we work to position The University of Texas System as the undisputed finest public university system in the world,” Leslie said in the statement.

Leslie will succeed executive vice chancellor Pedro Reyes, who announced in April that he planned to leave the System and return to teaching.

Daniel, a UT alumnus, has served as president of UT Dallas since 2005. During his presidency, UT Dallas has seen increased enrollment and graduation rates, according to the statement.

“David Daniel possesses skills that are transferable across the system in managing and leading people, operations, new construction and technology,” McRaven said in the statement. “Everything he has done as president of UT Dallas prepares him for this new role, and now the entire UT System will be a beneficiary of his leadership.”

The System will immidiately begin a national search for the next UT Dallas president, according to the statement.

Oxford University Vice Chancellor Andrew Hamilton, previously considered the front-runner for the UT presidency, will become New York University’s president in January 2016.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Phil Sayer | Daily Texan Staff

Two finalists are left in the search for President William Powers Jr.’s replacement after New York University administrators announced that Oxford University Vice Chancellor Andrew Hamilton would be their next president.

Hamilton, whom many considered to be the front-runner for the UT presidency, will succeed NYU president John Sexton in January 2016, NYU administrators announced last week. The UT System Board of Regents interviewed Hamilton earlier this month, as did a small search committee.

At this point, Greg Fenves, executive vice president and provost of the University, and UT-Dallas President David Daniel are the remaining finalists in the search for the next UT president, according to sources directly involved with the search committee.

Fenves, who has held his provost position since October 2013, served five years as dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering. As the University’s chief academic officer, Fenves is closely connected to Powers, whose relationship with the Board of Regents has been tumultuous at times.

Daniel, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in engineering from UT, became UT-Dallas’ president in 2005. During his tenure there, UT-Dallas’ enrollment has grown from 13,000 to 23,000 students, and the university has raised more than $360 million in private funds.

Before joining Oxford in 2009, Hamilton worked as a chemistry assistant professor at Princeton University and then as chemistry professor and department chair at the University of Pittsburgh. He also served as provost of Yale University from 2004 until 2008.

Hamilton said he has been a “keen observer” of NYU over the years and was honored to have been considered in the NYU presidential search.

“I am delighted to be selected as NYU’s 16th president,” Hamilton said in a statement. “I am looking forward with great eagerness to working with NYU’s faculty, students, administrators, and staff, and to joining a university that is so manifestly energetic, innovative, and successful.”

Hamilton is the second to drop from the System’s handful of prospective candidates. The list had previously included Joseph Steinmetz, the executive vice president and provost at The Ohio State University, but he withdrew his candidacy in February.

Following the Board of Regents’ interviews with Daniel, Fenves and Hamilton, UT System Chancellor William McRaven recommended the board defer naming a finalist or list of finalists until later this month. The Board must vote to name one or more finalists and then wait 21 days before making an official appointment.

In an effort to raise awareness about how oil production affects the environment, filmmaker John Fiege headed to East Texas to document several locals who are trying to stop the building of a major oil pipeline. 

Fiege, a UT alumnus and documentary filmmaker whose film, “Above All Else,” premieres at SXSW on March 10. The film follows David Daniel, a man from East Texas who is trying to stop the company Keystone XL from building oil pipelines across his land. Daniel gathers environmental activists from around Texas to help protest the pipeline and raise awareness about the affects of tar sands and the pipeline on the environment. As a passionate environmental and social justice advocate, Fiege wanted to capture Daniel’s story and shed light on the consequences of the Keystone XL pipeline on the environment. 

The Daily Texan spoke with Fiege about his interest in the environment and being a radio-television-film Master of Fine Arts candidate at UT.

The Daily Texan: How did you become interested in environmental issues?

John Fiege: All through college and graduate school, I studied environment studies and history. My interest in that goes back to when I was in junior high and I went to some islands called Assateague and the Chincoteague islands and learned about the stuff that Rachel Carson talks about her in book about chemicals polluting the environment. So that was my first experience and it sparked my interest in environmental issues and I’ve pursued it ever since.  

DT: What sparked your interest in the oil industry in particular? 

Fiege: It’s a long process, but it started four and a half years ago when I got cancer. I didn’t know if I was going to live for very long and I started planning a film and I thought it might be my last. I wanted to do something about how the oil industry impacts our culture. The cancer I had wasn’t genetic, it was something environmental, so everything kind of came together in my life, I wanted to figure out a way to deal with oil in our culture and economy. I didn’t know where to tell that story. But, soon after that I went to Louisiana to film the BP oil spill, and my cancer came back. So around that time I heard about Keystone and the protest in Washington, D.C. People were out on the streets protesting before the project was even approved to prevent something like the BP oil spill, and I realized that’s where the story is — how you fight back and change things. 

DT: What do you think the biggest takeaway from the film is, especially in regards to environmental issues? 

Fiege: I think that what the film is really about is how, when we’re dealing with environmental issues, there’s a very important personal side of that fight. That’s what we’re really trying to show, the intimate, personal struggle of taking on such huge issues. It’s a different story than what’s often seen in the media about environmental issues. We’re really trying to go beyond those simple dichotomies around environmental issues and really tackle the intimate issues of what it’s involved in trying go change things. 

DT: What was your experience as a film student at UT like? 

Fiege: It was a really great program for me. It really gave me a lot of freedom to explore film and storytelling. I was able to make a documentary for my senior film, which became a feature film. It was a great opportunity and great experience it really laid the ground for everything I’ve done. 

DT: Why did you want to bring your film to SXSW, and what was it like having your film admitted?

Fiege: We’re very excited to be at SXSW. We were trying to have the film finished in time for SXSW. So, it was the earliest festival we could have played in, and it makes so much sense to play here. I’m from Austin and I think we’re going to get an enthusiastic crowd. And SXSW has become such a prominent festival and we’re very excited to be premiering here. 

Fixed-rate tuition has been implemented at UT System institutions with varying success, UT System officials told Texas lawmakers Wednesday.

The Texas House Higher Education Committee considered a bill, filed by committee chairman Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, that would require universities to offer students a fixed-rate tuition plan as one option among other payment plans. The UT System Board of Regents voted on Feb. 14 to direct all system institutions to offer a four year fixed-rate tuition plan to incoming freshmen beginning fall 2014. 

Currently, a student’s tuition at UT is subject to change year to year. Various lawmakers and administrators — including Gov. Rick Perry — trumpeted fixing tuition as a way of controlling costs for students and incentivizing them to graduate in four years. But, four-year fixed tuition also gives universities less flexibility when dealing with budgetary changes.

Speaking to the committee, UT-El Paso President Diana Natalicio said the university’s optional guaranteed tuition program has not gained significant traction since its adoption in 2006.

“Some of our freshmen, we thought, would be interested in this and, particularly, we thought some parents would be interested in it,” Natalicio said. “What we discovered was that the response was lukewarm, at best.”

Natalicio said many students at UT-El Paso are considered “at-risk,” meaning that they have a low income and work part-time jobs, which may prevent them from making long-term financial plans in regard to their educational career and deter them from taking part in the program. 

UT-Dallas President David Daniel said the University implemented its guaranteed tuition program to act as one component of an effort to increase four-year graduation rates. Daniel said graduation rates at UT-Dallas increased from 32 percent in 2005 to 51 percent this year.

“I readily confess that I’m not sure how important the four-year tuition plan truly was in that, but my sense is that it has been a very important component in sending the message to everyone that this is what we expect,” Daniel said.

UT-Dallas and UT-El Paso are the only universities in the system that offer fixed-rate tuition over four years. UT-Dallas has the highest tuition among public universities in the state. 

Branch said he does not believe implementing the plan would act as a “silver bullet” to high college costs, but said it would help students and their families plan financially for their college careers among other goals.

“This is designed to be a tool in the toolbox to improve certainty, to improve affordability and hopefully to motivate completion early,” Branch said.


Editor’s note: Among the many proposed reforms to Texas higher education are some that would modify or eliminate the current tenure system employed by colleges and universities. We asked UT philosophy lecturer Jeffrey C. Leon and former Wall Street Journal editor Naomi Riley for their views on the tenure system and asked, “Should Texas universities continue to employ the tenure system? Why or why not?”

Send a firing line to firingline@dailytexanonline.com and let us know what you think about the tenure system.

Last month, UT-Dallas President David Daniel appeared on a panel lamenting the state of research universities in Texas. Daniel said the “biggest disappointment” of his lifetime was that people consider higher education an individual benefit rather than a public good. If this is the case, the universities have only themselves to blame. And the system of tenure has done more than anything else to devalue undergraduate education and promote trivial research.

While Daniel and his fellow panelists wondered why there wasn’t support for some new Sputnik-like project, watchers of higher education were wondering how we ended up with universities producing works such as these by UT scholars: “An Archive of Feelings: Trauma Sexuality and Lesbian Public Cultures” or “Indian-Made: Navajo Culture in the Marketplace.” Or this one, which received $300,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation: “Blue Highways: Evaluating Middle Stone Age Riverine Based Foraging, Mobility and Technology Along the Trunk Tributaries of the Blue Nile.” Even if there is an argument for studying the anthropology of ancient Ethiopia, how do you explain to taxpayers or tuition-paying students and parents the most recent study touted on the UT website: “Chocolate Milk Gives Athletes Leg-up After Exercise.” Sputnik this ain’t.

Higher education has become a game of prestige and the only thing that brings prestige is publication. A 2005 report in the Journal of Higher Education found that college professors actually get paid less for every additional hour they spend in a classroom. This finding was true not only at large research universities but at state “teaching universities” and small liberal arts colleges. The institution of tenure encourages this problem. Tenure should be replaced by a system of multiyear renewable contracts for all instructors instead of shifting the burden of teaching to lesser-paid adjunct professors.

Some professors claim the reason we reward publication is that there’s no objective measure for good teaching. We simply know it when we see it. This is plainly false. Good teaching is more than just entertaining in the classroom. It involves preparation for lectures and discussions, extensive work in grading and contact with students. It is something that students as well as faculty and administrators can recognize and reward if they chose, and it requires consistent evaluation. Tenure is a static system of promotion that gives people a permanent job for what they’ve already accomplished. Teaching is a dynamic profession. As any good teacher will tell you, there is no resting on your laurels.

Defenders of tenure claim that it protects academic freedom, but a look at any university campus suggests that’s not true. The system of “departmental majoritarianism” encourages professors to hire and train clones of themselves. To get a job, graduate students keep their mouths shut. Adjuncts who want a tenure-track position keep their mouths shut. The assistant professors who want tenure keep their mouths shut. And after all those years, people are simply not inclined to open their mouths once they get tenure.

A tenured professor at Ohio University recently wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education about how he has resolved to act, now that he has a job for life: “I must try to be less bold in expressing unpopular opinions about campus policies, curriculum goals or the use of increasingly limited resources. ... Against instinct and training, I must try to avoid rocking the boat in a workplace that is hostile toward dissent.” The suggestion that tenure protects dissent doesn’t even pass the smell test. Academic institutions are some of the most intellectually uniform institutions in our entire social landscape.

Ultimately, though, eliminating tenure is vital because it will reduce the faculty stranglehold on universities. Faculty have far too much control over what subject they teach (usually the obscure ones they want to write a book about), who they will teach (only small classes of advanced students, please. Don’t we have adjuncts to take care of the rest?) and when they will teach (Does 11:30 to 1 on Tuesdays and Thursdays sound familiar?). Every battle in higher education — whether it’s over the curriculum, money or politics — is a battle of attrition, and the faculty, thanks to tenure, will always win. They will outlast any president, governor, trustee, regent, parent or student. They are why reform is not possible.

When I asked Ed Larson, former associate counsel for the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, about eliminating tenure, he told me, “Tenure affects the very nature of higher education. Removing it would be like changing the pitching mound or the distance to the bases.” To which I would say, “Great!” Higher education has so many problems right now that it’s time to change the pitching mound and the distance to the bases, not to mention the strike zone, the number of players on each team and the cost of hot dogs and beer.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a former editor of The Wall Street Journal and is the author of “The Faculty Lounges: And Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For.”