Last month, the University of Texas Board of Regents announced — without much fanfare — the next president of this University: Gregory Fenves, the current provost and executive vice President. This set off a series of falling dominoes, as the University sought to replace the senior administrative post that Fenves would be leaving behind. Soon thereafter, Judith Langlois, the dean of graduate studies and a senior vice provost, was named the interim provost, starting later this month.
At press time, the University had announced no replacement for Langlois within her school. Since the announcement of Powers’ impending resignation as president, several other high-ranking administrators have stepped down or announced they will step down, including former Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Hegarty as well as longtime Vice President for Research Juan Sanchez. These positions will need to be filled with permanent replacements.
These administrative changes have only reassured us that the transition into a new president will be a smooth and seamless one for the University. Outgoing President William Powers, Jr. reportedly appointed Langlois after close consultation with Fenves. Given embattled Regent Wallace Hall’s recent disagreements with Fenves, we are optimistic about his time at the helm of the 40 acres. To put it bluntly, if he is doing something that enrages Hall, then he is probably doing something right.
However, we are reluctant to grant Fenves a blank check considering he has kept a relatively low profile during his time as provost. It’s not enough to anger Hall. Our new president needs to be able to effectively go to war with him and win in a way that Powers did time and again. The new president, provost and other high-ranking officials must also be able to operate effectively under the high-stress and rapidly changing circumstances that come with the jobs.
To the University’s credit, they have made smart choices, but they have done a rather lackluster job at advertising and defending them effectively. In order to best serve the students and broader community here at the 40 acres, both must be done.
Granted, Langlois may not be offered the prestigious position on a permanent basis, as Powers and Fenves will be conducting a comprehensive search for a permanent provost. Odds are, whoever is selected will be yet another internal promotion. This is not a bad thing; Powers, almost universally lauded by competent parties, was himself an internal promotion. But the University will be short-sighted if each and every position is merely filled by our farm system and not candidates from elsewhere across the country.