Ernest Aliseda

Human biology junior Cameron Crane was a finalist to serve as the student regent on the UT System Board of Regents.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Human biology junior Cameron Crane is one of four finalists for the student regent position on the UT System Board of Regents.

Crane is the only current UT student who is a finalist, according to the candidates’ applications obtained from the governor’s office by The Daily Texan through the Texas Public Information Act.

The student regent is a non-voting position on the board, intended to give students representation in board decisions. The student regent is appointed by the governor from applicants from any of the System institutions. The current student regent Nash Horne, a UT communication studies senior, will finish his one-year term on May 31.  

If Crane is selected, he will be working alongside a familiar face, as Regent Ernest Aliseda is his uncle. Crane’s father is a U.S. district judge, his mother is the president of the McAllen Independent School District School Board and another one of his uncles is the city commissioner in McAllen.

Crane listed Aliseda as a reference on his application, though he said he did not consult Aliseda before applying. Aliseda declined to comment on his nephew’s application but said Horne has been helpful to him in his work on the board. 

“It’s important to have a student’s perspective on things,” Aliseda said. “I think that having someone there that would give that perspective … has been beneficial for me. It’s great to have that perspective before having to make a decision that might impact students at all of our institutions.”  

Crane said the student regent position is vital to the board and its decision making process. 

“Regardless of [the student regent’s] voting power, their voice is still heard and is very important to the Board of Regents and the decisions that they make,” Crane said. “I think the student regent is one of the most important positions within [the board] because they are there for the students.” 

Despite recent tensions between the board and President William Powers Jr. over the past few years, Crane said he thinks Powers and the board are resolving their relationship and the existing tension did not affect his desire to apply for the student regent position. 

“I think President Powers is a great president for UT, and I hope that he stays here in the long term,” Crane said. “I think that [the tension] has kind of gone away in a sense. It’s definitely not as heightened as it used to be. I think that President Powers is doing a great job at reaching out to regents, he’s doing a good job at rebuilding and re-establishing a good relationship, which is beneficial for the board and students at UT.”

Crane said as a student regent he hopes to address students’ concerns about higher education costs.

“I think the biggest issue right now, at most institutions, is affordability,” Crane said. “At UT, it’s not just tuition affordability, it’s housing affordability and I think something definitely needs to be done with that … If we want to continue on the cutting edge and being the premier public university system in the country, something has to be done, whether it’s increasing tuition or cutting costs.”

According to his application, Crane is a member of Sigma Alpha Lambda, Alpha Lambda Delta and the Republican National Committee, and he volunteers at St. David’s Hospital. In November 2012, Crane was detained at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after an expandable baton was found in his backpack during a routine baggage screening. Crane — who has volunteered at the McAllen National Airport as an airport operations intern, overseeing internal security, since 2009 — said he simply forgot to remove the baton from his bag.

Senate confirms UT System regent appointees

While some senators described their "aye" vote as "unethusaistic," the Senate confirmed Texas Gov. Rick Perry's appointees to the UT System Board of Regents Friday.

Newly appointed regents McAllen Judge Ernest Aliseda and Hilcorp Energy Company CEO Jeffrey Hildebrand will now begin serving on the board. Current UT Regent Paul Foster was also confirmed, and will continue serving on the board. Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, was the sole senator to vote against the nominees. He said he would do so earlier in the week at a hearing on Monday.

Senators spent more than 30 minutes giving speeches about the appointees. Some senators, including Senator Joan Huffman, R-Houston, expressed support for the appointees. But the majority of the speeches were about the recent controversies that have surrounded the UT System Board of Regents and UT-Austin's President William Powers Jr. Senator Judith Zaffirni, D-Laredo, said she was voting yes "unethusiastically," but is hopeful the tone will change under the new regents. She and Senator Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, also said the regents would be srcutinized going forward.

Powers released a brief statement following the confirmations.

"I look forward to working with Regent Foster, Aliseda and Hildebrand as we move forward and make UT Austin the best public research university in the nation," Powers said in an emailed statement through Gary Susswein, the director of UT's media relations.

The UT System Board of Regents are expected to meet in July. Aliseda, Hildebrand and Foster will serve on the board until 2019.

This article has been updated with a statement from Powers.

The Morning Texan: Thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes possible later today

Late Tuesday afternoon, Central Texas may see thunderstorms, hail and even possibly tornadeos. Photo courtesy of the National Weather Service.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Central Texas may see thunderstorms, hail and even possibly tornadeos. Photo courtesy of the National Weather Service.

Austin might be in for some thunderstorms later this afternoon. According to the National Weather Service, Central Texas may get one to two inches of rain. The National Weather Service also said there is a chance of hail, gusts of winds and even tornadoes. Stay safe.

What is was happening today: Update 12:10 p.m. — The meeting was cancelled. At 1 p.m., the Texas House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations will have a meeting. Representatives from the UT System were expected to testify, and The Daily Texan was planning on covering the meeting.

Yesterday’s most read article: Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Nominations and other senators grilled UT System regent nominees Ernest Aliseda, Jeffrey Hildebrand and current UT Regent Paul Foster for four hours. We picked the five quotes you have to read. This includes: “I’ve heard more about the University of Texas System than I have ever wanted to in my life this legislative session. No, Senator Zaffirini, actually that’s not because I’m an Aggie.”

In case you missed it: While senators we’re busy cross examining new players Aliseda and Hildebrand, the Texan did a little bit of research. Here are ten things you probably didn’t know about the two new UT System regent appointees. For example, did you know Hildebrand is a billionaire, or that Aliseda has family members involved in public service?

What you have to read: Enough with all these blogs and sidebars, check out our full article on the hearing at the Senate Committee of Nominations.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry appointed Ernest Aliseda and Jeff Hildebrand to the Board of Regents in February, and he reappointed Paul Foster. The appointees have to wait till they are confirmed by the senate before they can begin serving.

The Senate Nominations Committee unanimously approved three nominees to the UT System Board of Regents Tuesday after putting them on the chopping block just one day ago and interrogating them about how they felt about UT-Austin President William Powers Jr.

McAllen Judge Ernest Aliseda, energy CEO Jeffrey Hildebrand and current UT Regent Paul Foster need to receive a two-thirds majority vote from the full Texas Senate before they are official regents.

Committee members vetted the nominees for four hours Monday, which officials said is the longest time spent considering nominees this session.

If they are approved, the three regents will play an important role in the ongoing power struggle between the board and Powers. All nominees were appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, who has clashed with Powers on tuition prices and other matters.

Their terms would expire Feb. 1, 2019.

The board has been accused of micromanaging UT and plotting to force Powers out of office. Senators on Monday warned the nominees against planning to fire Powers or making his life difficult to try to force him to resign.

“I believe that any plan to fire Bill Powers, any plan to arrange an exit, graceful or otherwise, any plan to force him to resign, any plan to make him so miserable that he or his wife should decide he should resign, would be detrimental to the University of Texas, to our state,” said Sen. Juddith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.

The three nominees denied any plan to oust Powers. Hildebrand said he was an independent thinker and would not have accepted the nomination if he was told he had to vote in a certain way.

Foster said although Powers was stubborn and difficult to work with, the board has never had any conversations on forcing him out. However, Foster said the board has discussed Powers voluntarily resigning at his own time.

“There is no conspiracy effort [to fire Powers] or hidden agenda that I’m aware of,” Foster said.

All nominees said they would work to fix the rift between Powers and the board if approved.

Earlier:

Members of the Senate Committee of Nominations put three nominees for the UT System Board on Regents on the spot Monday for four hours and hammered them with questions on the job security of UT President William Powers Jr.

Senators spent the majority of the meeting interrogating current UT Regent Paul Foster, who was reappointed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, on whether there was any board plan to fire Powers or force him out of office. Legislators also expressed frustration at the public scandal between board and Powers and demanded regents move on.

All university regents are appointed by Perry and must be confirmed by the Senate. Nominations committee chairman Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, said he expected to have a decision made by late Monday or Tuesday.

Foster acknowledged there was a rift between Powers and the board, and even said the regents – albeit informally - spoke about him voluntarily resigning.

“There have been discussions about him transitioning out at some point when he’s ready on his terms, not on anything else,” Foster said.

He said the board has never had any conversations on forcing Powers out.

Legislators asked nominees Ernest Aliseda and Jeffrey Hildebrand if they were brought in to join in the witchhunt against Powers. Both said they did not have any plans to fire the UT president.

All three nominees have donated to Perry over the years. Aliseda currently has two kids at UT-Austin and is a graduate of Texas A&M University. He is the managing attorney for the Loya Insurance Group and acts as a municipal judge for the city of McAllen.

Hildebrand graduated from UT-Austin and is the CEO of Hilcorp Energy Co. Foster has been on the board since 2007 and is the current vice chairman. If approved, they would serve until Feb. 1, 2019.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Sen. Juddith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, were some on the most outspoken members in Monday’s cross-examination. Watson asked Foster about an email sent last year by UT Regent Alex Cranberg, which criticizes Powers.

“I actually expect (Powers) to hold out an olive branch if he is smart and wants to accomplish something,” Cranberg said in the email. “I’m idealistic and keep forgetting that his agenda is egotistical, to be a hero figure and not a doer.”

Zaffirini praised Powers and said she believes there is an ongoing effort by the regents to fire Powers or force him to resign. She warned the regents against this, saying such a move would have a negative impact on UT’s reputation and on the state of Texas. 

“Do you understand that Bill Powers, the president of UT-Austin, is not only respected and admired, but I would dare say loved by members of legislature?” Zaffirini asked the nominees.

“If Bill Powers were fired, all hell would break loose,” Zaffirini said.

Foster said every time some issue with Powers comes up, there is a very organized campaign of public outcry, including a flood of phone calls and media coverage, which frustrates the regents. However, Foster said he is willing to move past the drama and work with Powers.  

Nominations Committee Chairman Hegar closed the meeting and urged the nominees to focus on the students and the UT System, not on the scandal between the board and Powers.

“Move beyond the controversy because I can tell you as a legislator, I’m tired of hearing about this issue,” Hegar said.

Contact Jody Serrano at jserrano@utexas.edu or follow her on Twitter @jodyserrano.

Senate committee interrogates UT regent nominees on Powers

Members of the Senate Nominations Committee interrogated three nominees to the UT System Board of Regents on whether there was any plan to fire UT President William Powers Jr. for two hours Monday morning.

Committee members took turns questioning nominees Ernest Aliseda, Jeffrey Hildebrand and current UT regent Paul Foster, who was reappointed by Gov. Rick Perry, on how they felt about Powers' leadership and whether there are plans to force the president out of office.

Foster acknowledged the rift between the board and Powers, but denied any conspiracy or hidden agenda to fire the president. In recent months, the board has been accused of trying to micromanage UT-Austin and force Powers out. 

“Every day of my life I hear someone talk about the termination of Bill Powers, but what I’m saying is it’s never been discussed by the board,” Foster said.

Regents are appointed by Perry and must be approved by the Senate. Aliseda is a graduate of Texas A&M University, works as an attorney for Loya Insurance Group and acts as a municipal judge for the city of McAllen. Hildebrand graduated from UT-Austin and is the CEO of Hilcorp Energy Co.

Foster has been been on the board since 2007 and is the current vice chairman. All three have contributed money to Perry over the years.

If approved, Aliseda, Hildebrand and Foster would serve until Feb. 1, 2019. The committee will meet again today to question the regents before voting.

“If I had to vote this morning I would vote no because I don’t want to play any role in the ousting of Bill Powers,” said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.

Foster said he believed in Powers, but has issues with Powers being stubborn by not working with the board.

“He has been very difficult for the regents to work with,” Foster said. “My concern is that in some instances the controversies and issues surrounding him are so overwhelming and so significant it frustrates the whole process and detriments the entire system.”

Foster said every time some issue with Powers comes up there is a very organized campaign of public outcry, including a flood of phone calls and editorials, that frustrate the regents.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Sen. Juddith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, led the charge in cross-examining the regents. Watson asked Foster how he would vote if asked to take a vote of confidence in the president. Foster said he would vote in favor of Powers.

Watson also brought up an email from UT regent Alex Cranberg, in which Cranberg said Powers was trying to be a hero figure instead of trying to get things done.

Zaffirini asked the nominees to each name five specific steps they would take to close the rift between the board and Powers. Some nominees said they would meet with UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and the regents to establish the goals they want to accomplish.

Nominees also said they would meet with Powers to understand his side in the controversy and meet with the students and alumni groups that support him.

Zaffirini said any plan to fire Powers would be detrimental to UT and the state.

“If Bill Powers were fired, all hell would break loose,” she said.

Correction: This article has been updated to correctly attribute a quote to Paul Foster, not William Power Jr.

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.

Following several days of comments from state legislators about the proper role of the UT System Board of Regents, Gov. Rick Perry appointed three members to the board Thursday.

Perry appointed Ernest Aliseda of McAllen and Jeff Hildebrand, a UT alumnus from Houston, and reappointed Paul Foster, who currently serves as vice chairman of the board. The appointments are for six-year terms.

The appointments come just one day after State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo and Senate Higher Education Committee chairman, filed a bill that would clarify the role of the Board of Regents and reserve all responsibilities not specifically stated in law as the duties of University Systems or Governing Boards for the institutions themselves. 

Nine senators co-authored the bill, including four who sit on the higher education committee.

Before replacing the current regents, the appointees will need to be confirmed by the Senate. Robert Haley, director for the Senate Committee on Nominations, said the process might not begin for several weeks. 

“It won’t be this Monday, I can tell you that,” Haley said. “We’ll also try to find a date when all three nominees can be here.” 

Haley said in the 10 years he has held his position, he does not recall any occasions in which the nominee for a regent position was not confirmed. 

“I don’t think there’s ever been a regent rejected by the committee or the full Senate,” Haley said. “I just couldn’t say when these nominees will appear.”

If confirmed, the appointees will replace regents James Dannenbaum and Printice Gary, whose terms expired earlier this month. Dannenbaum and Gary will continue serving until the new regents are confirmed.

Aliseda is a municipal judge for the city of McAllen and was nominated by Perry for his previous positions as state district judge for the 139th and 398th State District courts. He said at this point he is not ready to definitively say what the role of regent entails.

“Obviously it’s a position I’m going into that I’ll need to learn about if confirmed,” Aliseda said. “I will look for guidance from the current board members, from the administration and the presidents, and I look forward to working with all of them. I would think the primary purpose of a regent is to set policy for the UT System, but there’s going to be a learning curve on my end.”

Aliseda said he does not have specific goals in mind for the University if his nomination is confirmed but that he would value the chance to work on the merger of the UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville campuses.  

“My goal is to do the best job possible, and if you ask me six months down the road, after I’ve had the opportunity to evaluate the direction the University’s going, I might have a clearer idea,” Aliseda said. “But an obvious goal is to see the merger happen. There are some great changes occurring in my area of the state and some very positive opportunities to increase access for quality higher education.”

Hildebrand, the other new nominee, is chairman and CEO of Hilcorp Energy Company. He is a member of the UT System’s Task Force on Engineering Education for Texas and sits on the UT Engineering Advisory Board. Of the three nominees, he is the only UT alumnus.

Published on February 22, 2013 as "Perry names three to join regents upon Senate vote".