Gregory Fenves

Seven Puerto Rican faculty members sent a letter to President Gregory Fenves asking the University to provide support to universities on the island impacted by Hurricane Maria.

The open letter, available on the College of Liberal Arts’ website, states that the hurricane “has tragically plunged the island into a nightmarish, worst-case scenario” and encourages UT to mobilize and offer immediate help. The letter said the University could provide donations such as lab equipment and textbooks, as well as allow students at affected universities to take their courses at UT.

César Salgado, an associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese who signed the letter, said it is important to recognize issues affecting the sizable Puerto Rican community.

“Acknowledging their plight is something that should be extended to Puerto Ricans as American citizens and as people,” said Salgado, a Puerto Rico native. “To make any sort of gesture to colleagues or students in the Puerto Rican university system, anything that could be feasible, we encourage that.”

The letter was sent on Sept. 28, but the University has yet to openly respond. Media relations director J.B. Bird said in an email that the administration is looking at ways to feasibly support Puerto Rican students.

“There are some constraints on what the University can do unilaterally since costs like tuition are regulated by rules and state laws,” Bird said. “What we can say for sure at this point is that for students impacted by the storm in Puerto Rico, UT will consider academic accommodations for those who seek them.”

Salgado said when he heard about Maria, he knew it would only worsen damage caused previously by Hurricane Irma.

“Having a Category 4 hurricane like Maria ravage the island, we knew it would compound the complications, and it would make the whole infrastructure of the country collapse,” Salgado said. “We had a foreboding sense that we would be confronting a catastrophe.”

Salgado said his family on the island has been heavily impacted following Maria’s landfall on Sept. 20.

Luis Zayas, dean of the School of Social Work, is one of seven signers of the letter. Zayas said seeing images of the devastation, including one of his old high school under water, made him want to give as much material and emotional support as he could. 

“Rivers were going through streets … The levels of water are to the roofs,” Zayas said. “It’s saddening to see. Everybody has been affected. It’s gone across social class and region — everyone’s felt it.”

Zayas said he understands the University’s choice to immediately respond to other disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Harvey this year because of their close proximity, but said it is still important to support Puerto Ricans. 

“Puerto Rico isn’t going to be up and running any time soon so there is time for the University to provide some support,” Zayas said.

Salgado said he feels the U.S. has been slow to respond to the disaster, and he will continue to advocate for relief efforts.

“We will keep Puerto Rico in the headlines so we can make sure Puerto Ricans can get the help they need and that people don’t forget,” Salgado said. “The situation is urgent.” 

In an interview with The Daily Texan, Gregory Fenves, executive vice president and provost, discussed the goals he will have for the University when he takes office as president in June.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

On this week's episode of the Daily Texan NewsCast we discuss Gregory Fenves', the next president of UT Austin, goals as president, an update on regent Wallace Hall's records requests, proposed changes to the Permanent University Fund, and developing news to keep watching over the summer.

Juan Sanchez, vice president for research, will step down from his position in August of this year. 

“It has been a pleasure and a privilege for me to serve this great university of ours as VP for research,” Sanchez said.

Before he started at UT in 1989 in the mechanical engineering department, Sanchez was a materials science professor at Columbia University from 1987–1989 and a renowned researcher worldwide.

During his service as vice president of research, Sanchez established the Office of Research Support to increase faculty research support, extended the University’s research collaboration with the private sector and contributed to the tenfold increase in revenues for technological commercialization, according to the Office of the Provost.

“Dr. Sanchez has led the research enterprise at UT with distinction, and I am grateful for his leadership,” said Gregory Fenves, executive vice president and provost and next UT president, in a statement. “UT Austin has developed a worldwide reputation for successes in research and scholarship by faculty, students and research staff with support from the Office of the Vice President for Research.”

J. Tinsley Oden, associate vice president for research, said Sanchez has raised the school’s reputation as a research university. Under Sanchez, the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, Bureau of Economic Geology, Applied Research Laboratories and several other UT research units have become top research enterprises in their respective areas in the world, according to Oden.

“His remarkable work as vice president of research will have a lasting impact on UT’s research image and record,” Oden said. “He has been an extraordinary administrator, an indefatigable worker, an international spokesman and advocate for UT-Austin and a superb manager during those years.” 

Sanchez will go on to lead a research program as a faculty member, as well as teach in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The search for his replacement will commence in the next few weeks.

In the future of research, the University will build on Sanchez’s successes by expanding opportunities in areas such as medicine and health care to advance the University’s mission to create knowledge, according to Fenves.

“He certainly will leave the office of the [vice president for research] in sound shape and well-positioned to continue its growth and service to UT and the state,” Oden said.

Sanchez’s official last day will be August 31.

In an interview with The Daily Texan, Gregory Fenves, executive vice president and provost, discussed the goals he will have for the University when he takes office as president in June.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

As President William Powers Jr. prepares to step down, UT’s next president, Gregory Fenves, said his goals for the University center around addressing persistent issues, such as increasing access to research opportunities and engaging in more productive dialogue with the UT System Board of Regents.

In an interview with The Daily Texan, Fenves, executive vice president and provost, also said he hopes to explore issues of accessbility and affordability, closely echoing his predecessor.

Fenves said his initial goal will be to manage the cost of education, an issue Powers, UT System Chancellor William McRaven and previous chancellors and regents have acknowledged. 

“I think the most important issue that’s facing the University is, ‘How do we provide high quality education at a reasonable cost?’” Fenves said.

In an interview with The Daily Texan in April, Powers said the solution to affordability is not clear-cut. He said he was sure  that future administrations would continue to grapple with the issue.

“There’s no single bullet,” Powers said. “We just always keep trying [to operate the University] as efficiently and as high quality as you can.”

Fenves said one of his educational goals is to connect undergraduate and graduate students to campus research opportunities. 

“What I feel is the most important theme for education at the University of Texas is how we link our undergraduate education mission with our research mission,” Fenves said.

Fenves said his previous experiences as dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering and as provost have helped him form relationships with the regents and UT administrators.

“I can work with almost anybody, and I’ve had good working relationships with members of the board,” Fenves said. “In my current role as provost, and my previous role as dean, I’ve had a lot of interaction with them through the presidential search process and the selection process.”

One challenge preparing for the presidency poses is that issues and opportunities for change often remain unseen until one actually takes the position, according to former UT President Larry Faulkner.

“I don’t think any president should come in with a firm idea of what all [his or her] goals are,” Faulkner said. “I don’t think that you know enough until you’re in the job, what is really ripe, what are the best opportunities for the institution, and in fact, opportunities will appear while you’re serving.”

Faulkner said he would advise Fenves to take steps to learn more about the University but said Fenves is positioned differently than he was when he first came into the job.

“When I came in, I didn’t know the people, [and] I didn’t know the intricate issues facing the institution, and I had to learn about those,” Faulkner said. “Greg Fenves has been here for years now, and so he is more prepared on that scene than I was.”

Working with the state Legislature night pore a greater challenge for Fenves when he becomes president, Faulkner said.

“What I don’t think [Fenves] has had is an opportunity to talk to people in the state,” Faulkner said. “Even though Greg Fenves would have gotten some of that activity while he was dean and provost, it’s nothing like being president.”

Fenves said he has gained valuable experience working with the Legislature in previous roles at UT.

“I have considerable experience working with the Legislature,” Fenves said. “I’ve been working with the Legislature since soon after I joined the University of Texas. I think I’ve developed great relationships with many members. I understand the legislative process.”

After a months-long search for a new dean of the Moody College of Communication yielded no results, UT Provost and President-elect Gregory Fenves named Jay Bernhardt as interim dean Thursday. 

Bernhardt is currently a professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations. He helped launch the Center for Health Communication and serves as its director. Bernhardt will begin his position as interim dean on Sept. 1. 

Bernhardt said although he has been at UT for about a year, he is impressed with the talent of the students and faculty at the Moody College.

 “As interim dean, I plan to use my academic, government, and industry experience to make sure that Moody College continues on the path of excellence and leadership in all aspects of our teaching, research, practice, and production,” Bernhardt said in an email. 

The dean search committee initially brought three finalists to campus to interview for the position and also planned on interviewing a fourth candidate. According to an email Fenves sent in March, the fourth candidate, whose name administrators declined to provide, dropped from the search process. Fenves announced last week that he would continue the search for a permanent Moody dean. 

Barry Brummett, co-chair of the dean search committee and communication studies professor, said the provost made the ultimate decision to continue the search.  

 “The considerations for the new dean continue to be what they were — that we want the best candidate in the country,” Brummett said. “We are actively recruiting applications.”    

Bernhardt will temporarily replace current Moody Dean Roderick Hart, who has spent more than 10 years in the position. Hart announced his resignation in August 2014 and will step down from his position in May.

Hart said he was influential in recruiting Bernhardt from his position of chair of the Department of Health Education and Behavior at the University of Florida.

“This is someone I have great, great regard for,” Hart said. “I’m glad we were able to get someone of his caliber.”

Bernhardt said he was honored the provost selected him to be interim dean and said he is going to work to that standard.

“My main goal is to be a great listener and spend time with people at every level and from every unit throughout the college and do what I can to help them to be successful in their work and their studies,” Bernhardt said.  

Fenves said the search committee will continue looking for a new dean of the Moody College during Bernhardt’s term.

Judith Langlois will serve as interim provost

UT President William Powers Jr. announced an interim replacement for Gregory Fenves, provost and executive vice president, who was named UT’s next president earlier this week.

Judith Langlois, senior vice provost and dean of undergraduate studies, will serve in the interim provost and executive vice president, while administrators conduct a search for a permanent replacement, according to an email sent by Powers to students, faculty and staff. Langlois will assume the position May 26.

Langlois has served as associate dean and interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and also served as chair of the Presidential Committee on the Status of Non-Tenure Faculty.

In the email announcement, Powers said the search for a permenant replacement for Fenves will begin immediately.

Fenves will begin his term as president June 3.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of UT Austin

The UT System Board of Regents voted to name Gregory Fenves, executive vice president and provost, UT’s next president.

The regents met by phone call for a special meeting Monday to vote on Fenves’ appointment, with eight of the nine regents voting in favor and one abstaining.

Reflecting on an uncertain and, at times, rocky relationship between the Board of Regents and past presidents, Fenves said he looks forward to working together for the benefit of UT.

“As the leader of UT-Austin, I look forward to working with the entire Board of Regents in advancing our great university,” Fenves said.

UT System Chancellor William McRaven said he has become familiar with Fenves in his time as chancellor.

“I’ve had an opportunity to work with Dr. Fenves closely here over the last three-and-a-half months in my time as the chancellor, and I think he is an excellent choice for the job,” McRaven said.

Fenves said his ultimate goal for UT is to move forward and help the University continue to become a world-class institution.

“We want to move forward in a positive way,” Fenves said. “I think we need to agree on a common purpose and a vision for the University, agree on what our goals are and how we’re going to achieve those goals.” 

Regent Alex Cranberg voted against naming Fenves as the sole finalist for the position last month, but he voted in favor of Fenves on Monday. Cranberg said he worried about how Fenves would handle growth at the University.

“I voted against naming Provost Fenves as the sole finalist in the last meeting mostly because of my concerns about the opportunity for growth in undergraduate education at the University of Texas at Austin — balancing extensive growth and desired growth,” Cranberg said.

After conversations with Fenves and UT System chancellor William McRaven, Cranberg said he feels Fenves would lead the University’s growth in the right direction.

“I believe he’ll lead the University forward,” Cranberg said. “I feel that if we choose to embrace enrollment growth that was successfully done with engineering and potentially business — that Dr. Fenves will do a great job leading that.”

Regent Wallace Hall also voted against naming Fenves the sole finalist to be UT’s next President at the meeting in March. Hall said he would prefer UT’s new leadership to have come from outside sources.

“I’ve expressed my strong and unambiguous desire for fresher leadership from outside the University,” Hall said. “This should not be taken as criticism of Dr. Fenves, man or the leader.”

Because of unanswered questions regarding admissions policy at UT, he abstained from the vote Monday, Hall said.

“I look very much forward to working with him as our president in years ahead,” Hall said before the vote. “But due to the lingering and unresolved questions concerning the previous and ongoing admission processes, I will abstain from voting.”

UT-Austin has committed to working with the UT System to resolve issues regarding the admissions process, Fenves said.

“Clearly there are a lot of discussions about admission,” Fenves said. “We have committed as a campus, and I commit as the leader of the University, to work with the chancellor and the board in establishing policies for admission going forward.” 

Fenves will take his position as president June 3.

President William Powers Jr. hopes that the new administration also prioritizes accessibility and affordability.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

As President William Powers Jr. prepares to step down from office, he said he hopes affordability and accessibility remain priorities for the new administration.

Powers said although he has worked to keep cost and access primary focal points during his presidency, there is still work for the next UT president — likely Gregory Fenves, executive vice president and provost, who was recently named the sole finalist for the position.

“We’re always looking for ways [to be] more productive,” Powers said. “It’s not just reducing cost; it’s the relationship between cost and output.”

Improved four-year graduation rates have helped reduce the burden on students and their families who can now pay less in tuition, Powers said.

“There’s a lot of discussion and, rightly so, about affordability and the resources that a family has to devote to public higher education,” Powers said. “We’re sensitive to that.” 

An accountability report UT produced found that between 2000 and 2014, the four-year graduation rate improved by roughly 15 percent.

The use of scholarship money is another valuable tool in taking on the cost of education for students, Powers said.

“One way [to improve affordability] is scholarship money. We’ve raised a lot of it. We use a lot of it,” Powers said. “A quarter of our students don’t pay any tuition. The average student pays about half the full sticker price because of the grants and tuition they get or financial aid they get.”

Undergraduate studies freshman Kayla Potter said that although affordability has not been an issue for her personally, she believes high out-of-state tuition makes attracting talented, non-Texas students challenging.

“I think in-state tuition isn’t ridiculous,” Potter said. “Out-of-state tuition has stopped a lot of my friends from places like California because the tuition is so high.”

Powers said there is not one single answer for making higher education affordable while maintaining a national reputation for quality.

“We want the education to improve — undergraduate curriculum, better advising, better undergraduate studies — and to be a good value for the inputs that we’re putting into it,” Powers said. “There’s no single bullet. We just always keep trying to do it as efficiently and as high quality as you can.”

 UT System Chancellor William McRaven said he shared Powers’ concern regarding affordability and accessibility at a press conference in March.

“A lot of [concern] is about affordability and access in terms of how do we ensure that we get more students in our system writ large across the UT System, make it affordable to them [and] make sure that good education is accessible,” McRaven said.

It is dangerous for UT System institutions to swing too far in either direction with regards to affordability versus the quality of education, McRaven said.

“This is a balancing act — to make education as affordable as can be but still as high quality as it can be,” McRaven said. “Frankly, the students that are looking for a high-quality education, if they don’t think that we’re giving them a high enough quality education, they will go outside the state.”

The UT System Board of Regents is expected to name Fenves as the next president Monday, after he was selected as the sole finalist in late March.

College of Natural Sciences Associate Dean Sacha Kopp addresses students at a town hall meeting on April 7. 

Photo Credit: Jamie Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Are you a CNS student looking to graduate on time? You have every reason to do so: the tuition rebate, the savings in tuition dollars, the constant encouragement from advisers and administrators, an earlier start in the workforce, just to name a few.

But that might become more difficult now that University administrators have decided to end a summer program from the provost’s office that promised additional funds to departments in different colleges if they could “teach more students than their historical target,” according to David Vanden Bout, associate dean in the college and bearer of bad news to department representatives in a meeting Dec. 5.

Provost Gregory Fenves, for his part, explained the cancellation of the Summer Enhancement Program as necessary because it had become “clear that [it] did not have the desired campus-wide impact.”

CNS can continue to fund the extra courses out of its own pocket, Fenves said, but with a flat budget and an ever-growing student body, it won’t be able to pull that off.

What does that mean for this summer? As the Texan reported Friday, roughly one-third fewer classes in the summer of 2015.

For CNS students who need plentiful summer courses in order to graduate on time, this could mean extra money spent on tuition, rebates lost and additional student loan debt piled on.

The college administration has assured the Texan that it is taking great pains to facilitate on-time graduation for all its students. As CNS Dean Linda Hicke told the Texan, “We are being as efficient as possible across the entire college; we make every effort to have classes available for students to graduate on time.”

We don’t doubt Hicke’s sincerity, but with each cut it becomes just that little bit harder for each student seeking a spot in a required class to get through in four years, especially with the growing enrollment of CNS.

We understand that budget issues are a perennial problem for the schools and colleges. But those budget issues, as with CNS, are precisely why the Summer Enhancement Program was needed in the first place. Even if the program wasn’t having quite the desired impact, cutting it altogether sends a message to students that the University’s bottom line is more important than theirs.

This speaks to a much larger issue confronting the University as it prepares to embark upon a new governorship and a new presidential administration. Which of the University’s commonly stated goals is more important: keeping costs down in the face of decreased state funding or increasing four-year graduation rates? And when those priorities are at odds, which one should win out?

For us, it’s clear. The University should find ways for all its students to have the greatest number of opportunities to graduate on time, even if it means cuts from other areas. We hope Governor-elect Greg Abbott, President William Powers Jr.’s successor, the UT System Board of Regents and the Legislature will come to a similar consensus starting in January.

Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication, announced Monday that he will resign from his post in May 2015. Hart has served as dean for 10 years and will return to teach at the university after a year of writing and researching.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

After a decade of administrative service, Roderick Hart, Moody College of Communication dean, announced that he will resign from his post in May 2015, in an email sent to faculty Monday.

Hart said after he completes his tenure as dean, he would most likely spend a year researching and writing before returning to teach at the University.

“I think it’s time for me personally,” Hart said. “I have not been able to teach as much [as dean], and I love teaching.”

Stephen Reese, associate dean of academic affairs at Moody, said serving 10 years in an administrative position is a lot for any dean.

“We’re thankful to have gotten him for more than one [year],” Reese said. “It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of difficult decisions to make. He’s probably been our most successful dean to date.”

Hart has worked at the University since 1979, after serving as a professor at Purdue University for nine years.

During Hart’s tenure as dean, The Moody Foundation donated $50 million to the college in 2013, placing its name on the college. In Hart’s email that announced his resignation, he listed the opening of the Belo Center for New Media in 2012 and the college launching UT3D, the nation’s first comprehensive 3-D production program, as other highlights during his deanship.

After Texas Student Media moved from the Division of Student Affairs to the communication college in the spring, Hart worked to keep The Daily Texan on its five-day-a-week print schedule by requesting transitional funding from President William Powers Jr. to prevent TSM bankruptcy.

Hart said when he took the position of dean of the College of Communication in 2005, the college was lacking in discretionary income to create new programs and construct a new building to provide enough space for the large amount of communication students.

“I set my mind on trying to raise money for a new building, which we were able to do, and to refurbish the Jesse Jones Complex,” Hart said. “It’s just really satisfying that we were able to get all that work done.”

In a joint statement, Powers and Gregory Fenves, executive vice president and provost, said Hart will go down in the college’s history as a pivotal leader and as a favorite with students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“[Hart] has been not only a steady hand in a time of rapidly changing media environments and economic challenge but an active leader who has transformed the college for the better,” Powers and Fenves said.

Hart said he plans to spend his last year as dean teaching a communication and government course, “Voices of Citizenship,” in the fall and continuing to raise money for new programs, such as the Texas Program in Sports and Media and the new Center for Health Communication.

“They’ve gotten started, but they still need more help in raising the sails,” Hart said.

Hart also said he intends to take up men’s basketball head coach Rick Barnes on an offer made 10 years ago, when Barnes personally invited Hart to play point guard in a Longhorns basketball game. Barnes issued the invitation after Hart announced that the only thing that would make him happier than being dean was playing for the University’s basketball team.

“In spite of your lack of speed and agility, we believe you still possess qualities that may be an asset to us,” Barnes wrote to Hart in 2005. “Our players have a lot of pride in what they do, and we are confident that your presence on the team will increase that spirit and energy.”

In an interview with the Texan, Fenves said the University will start looking for the Moody college’s new dean in the next month. According to Fenves, the University will establish a search committee of faculty, staff, alumni, students and members of the UT community to conduct the search.

“It’s an exciting time in communications and [for] so many successful programs,” Fenves said. “I know we’ll be able to identify a great leader for the school.”

This story has been updated since its original publication.