Michael Morton

MyEdu CEO Michael Crosno and Vice President Deepak Surana present to the UT System's Board of Regents in July.

Photo Credit: Will Crites-Krumm | Daily Texan Staff

MyEdu claims students support changes made by the company in the past year, but former student leaders doubt the changes are beneficial or worth the $10 million the UT System invested in the company. 

At the UT System regents meeting earlier this month, MyEdu showcased new features providing career services to the company’s website. MyEdu executives cited student satisfaction in their short presentation, which elicited few comments from the regents, but the company’s new career services options may not be the best direction for students, said Michael Morton, former Senate of College Councils president and UT alumnus. 

"I haven’t really been impressed with MyEdu and their communication with students on what exactly they’ve changed in their product," Morton said. "There’s a long way to go in order for MyEdu to be an effective company."

In October, MyEdu began offering career services on its website, as well as a “student profile” service. In an interview with The Daily Texan, Frank Lyman, chief product officer at MyEdu, said the profile gives students a place to showcase their skills to employers.

The partnership between UT and MyEdu began in 2011, when the UT System made a $10 million investment into MyEdu, a website that helps college students select their courses and professors online. John Cunningham, one of the company’s founders, is the son of former UT-Austin President and UT System Chancellor William Cunningham. The UT System Board of Regents were aware of the connection when the investment was made.

“MyEdu has always been an academic platform that helps students plan and succeed in college,” Lyman said. “What we recognized is that for a lot of students, the goal was really broader than just their academic success.”

However, Morton and former Student Government President Thor Lund both said they were concerned with MyEdu’s new focus on connecting students with employers. While in office, Lund and Morton were the only student members on UT’s MyEdu steering committee. 

“It presents a lot of ethical dilemmas when there’s a partnership between the UT System and MyEdu if students’ information is being giving to employers,” Morton said. “It really presents a lot of questions regarding what information is being used and how employers are having their jobs targeted toward students.”

The committee, also made up of faculty and staff members, meets with MyEdu representatives every month during the regular semesters to discuss ideas and issues with the company’s product. 

Lund said MyEdu’s job matching service is not the best place for UT students to find jobs. Lund pointed out that there are already Career Services offices and job fairs offered on campus.

“I don’t think that’s how the job process should go,” Lund said. “I don’t think people should be picked out for jobs based on what activities they’ve been in or how they did in certain classes. I think each person is a unique case, and you can’t judge them based on an online profile.”

Not all members of the steering committee share these concerns. Brad Englert, UT chief information officer and head of the steering committee, said students can choose not to use MyEdu if they do not want to use the service.

“We’re all for students getting jobs,” Englert said. “I’m not sure what the concerns would be, but you opt into it. It’s not that you’re required to use it.”

Englert said more than 90 percent of UT-Austin students have a MyEdu account.

The company also made changes to its professor review feature. Previously, the website allowed students to write both positive and negative reviews of professors and rate them on a five-star scale. According to Lyman, MyEdu removed the negative reviews and star-ratings as part of the company’s decision to move to an objective review method. Lyman said the site now offers questionnaires about professors’ classes.

“We changed our professor [review] model to a recommendation model,” Lyman said. “Every semester, we do a customer satisfaction survey with all of our students across the country. I specifically looked at the UT-Austin feedback for the April survey and there were zero negative comments around professor reviews and recommendations.” 

However, Lund said the company’s previous professor review system better served UT students.

“The reason I go to MyEdu is because I want to know how a professor teaches,” Lund said. “If they really wanted to be a successful company, they would bring back honest professor reviews. But for some reason, the company has decided that they’re a job hunting company.”

Michael Redding, former Graduate Student Assembly president, also expressed his frustrations with the company. Redding said while serving as GSA president, his attempts to contact MyEdu representatives about expanding the company’s services to graduate students were unsuccessful.

“My impression was that they weren’t very responsive when it came to working with students,” Redding said.

In a March letter to Rep. Roberto Alonzo, R-Dallas, Redding called the company an “unproven system.” Shortly after, he received an email from MyEdu CEO Michael Crosno regarding his comments. Redding shared the email exchange with The Daily Texan.

“We have worked very hard over the last year to build a partnership with all the System campuses and especially UT Austin,” Crosno wrote in the email. “Hopefully, you will take the time to learn more about what we are doing at UT Austin to work cooperatively with the administration, students and faculty.”

According to Crosno’s email, Crosno discussed Redding’s comments with UT Provost Steven Leslie.

“That was something that I’ve never seen before: The CEO of a company calling me out for calling his company out,” Redding said.

Lyman said Crosno always takes an interest with any student public opinion on MyEdu. 

“In this case he reached out to Michael Redding to invite him to lunch and try and better understand his thoughts on MyEdu,” Lyman said.

Redding and Crosno were unable to schedule a meeting with each other. 

“None of the other student leaders I have worked with like MyEdu,” Redding said. “I would definitely say that it is not the case that students, at least the elected student representatives at UT-Austin, like it.”

Responding to Lund, Morton and Redding, Lyman cited a MyEdu survey that found 96 percent of UT students surveyed expressed satisfaction with the company’s product.

“That suggests to me that most students are really pleased with what we are doing,” Lyman said.

In the future, Morton said the UT System must find a new way to make its partnership with MyEdu more beneficial to students since it now cannot take back its investment, 

“I can think of about 10 million areas that are better spent for the $10 million,” Morton said. “But you have to move forward. The money is spent. If [MyEdu and the UT System] can find a way that will improve how students find the courses that they need, and how they plan for their four years at the University, then that’s the key.”

Follow Jacob Kerr on Twitter @jacobrkerr.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Trying to navigate the course schedule during orientation can be an overwhelming experience for freshmen, but the Senate of College Councils is helping students choose with grouped courses.

Incoming students will be able to register for one of 10 course curriculum streams — which are grouped courses with a connecting theme — starting this summer. The streams consist of two or three classes including an undergraduate studies course and can accommodate at least 180 students in the pilot semester in the fall.

Michael Morton, Senate of College Council president, said the Senate proposed the initiative and chose the course streams. Morton said the streams, which were supported by the School of Undergraduate Studies, will help guide new students toward academic areas of interest, give insight through various courses and help them decide whether to pursue that subject.

“It’s a way to get students off on the right track academically at the University and acquainted with college-level thinking,” Morton said. “Through different subjects, they can see how one area ties into another area. They’ll have a more concrete view of why the core curriculum is important.”

Morton said the streams will help students get several core credits in early, while also receiving a deeper educational experience.

Patricia Micks, undergraduate studies program coordinator, said although the streams are geared toward freshmen, similar to First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs), the streams will not operate the same way.

“FIGs emphasize assisting with the transition from high school to college, streams seek to bring cohesion to some core curriculum requirements through the use of themes,” Micks said.

Applied learning and development freshman Lauren Ayala said she didn’t enjoy her experience in a FIG because the classes were unrelated to education and pushed the students to interact outside of class with meetings and various group activities.

“I didn’t enjoy my FIG because I got put in one that didn’t pertain to my major at all and the meetings were pointless,” Ayala said. “I am not always the most social person. I’ve never really had a ton of friends that I shared my academic struggles with and that is how my FIG was run, but I think everyone should take core classes in a cluster to make things easier when registering.”

Morton said unlike FIGs, the curriculum streams would not have a social aspect with a weekly meeting led by a student mentor to help students adapt to college life or require students to be in the same section of the course. Morton said the Senate is hoping to eventually add a discussion section to allow students to discuss how the courses relate, to draw deeper meaning from the information learned in class. 

Freshmen are not required to join a FIG or stream. Micks said any remaining seats will be offered to all other students on campus.

Although the streams are currently geared toward freshmen, Morton said he hopes they can eventually be expanded to all students.

UT System Regent Wallace Hall Jr. failed to disclose his involvement in at least six past lawsuits in his December 2010 application to serve as a regent, according to documents obtained by The Texas Tribune.

Hall, who has been vocal about his desire for more transparent leadership at UT, did not mention six state and federal lawsuits on his application or during the 2011 nomination process.

“I think it’s another sign that we as students need to be continuously watching the actions of the regents,” Senior Michael Morton, Senate of College Councils president said. “It’s a little hypocritical of Hall to not disclose this information yet also be making all these data requests and be engaged in the micromanagement of the University. It’s a hypocritical action and one I’m glad members of the legislature have already begun to speak out against.”

Hall has made several efforts to increase UT administration’s transparency in the last several months, making far-reaching requests for boxes worth of open records. At a recent hearing about the relationship between the UT School of Law and the Law School Foundation, Hall defended the board’s decision to continue an external review of the foundation by saying the System continues to receive documents not included in his initial open records request. 

System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo declined to make a statement on behalf of the Board of Regents and said all questions should be forwarded to Hall.

UT System Regent Wallace Hall failed to disclose several past lawsuits during application process

UT System Regent Wallace Hall Jr. failed to disclose his involvement in at least six past lawsuits in his December 2010 application to serve as a regent, according to documents obtained by The Texas Tribune.

Hall, who has been vocal about his desire for more transparent leadership at UT, did not list six state and federal lawsuits on his application and did not mention them during the 2011 nomination process. 

Michael Morton, Senate of College Councils president, said its “a little hypocritical” for Hall to demand transparency from the University while not disclosing his personal information.

“I think it’s another sign that we as students need to be continuously watching the actions of the regents,” Morton said. “It’s a little hypocritical of Hall to not disclose this information yet also be making all these data requests and be engaged in the micromanagement of the University. It’s a hypocritical action, and one I’m glad members of the legislature have already begun to speak out against.”

Hall has made several efforts to increase UT administration’s transparency in the last several months, making far-reaching requests for boxes worth of open records. At a recent hearing about the relationship between the UT School of Law and the Law School Foundation, Hall defended the board’s decision to continue an external review of the foundation by saying the System continues to receive documents not included in his initial open records request. 

System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo declined to make a statement on behalf of the Board of Regents and said all questions should be forwarded to Hall.

Members of UT community: UT System Board of Regents' behavior harming UT

The UT System Board of Regents is engaging in behavior that could potentially diminish the reputation of its flagship institution, members of the UT community and Texas Exes told Texas lawmakers Wednesday.

Testifying to the Senate Higher Education Committee in favor of a bill that would limit the powers of university boards of regents statewide, Michael Morton, Senate of College Councils president, said the University has faced increased micromanagement from the board. The Senate of College Councils is a student legislative organization that focuses on academic issues at the University.

Morton said the board has interfered through extensive open records requests that have made it more difficult for the University to conduct its regular business and by continuing an investigation into the UT Law School Foundation’s relationship with UT. He said this climate is driving away potential faculty and administrators.

“I’ve seen our university lose and struggle to recruit top-notch faculty members and administrators because of the political turmoil between our system’s board of regents and our institutions,” Morton said. “I’ve seen our student and alumni networks join together to support our university and our president against attacks from the group that, by the Texas Education Code, is supposed to preserve institutional independence and enhance the public image of each institution under its governance. Our Board of Regents has failed to uphold both of those roles.”

The bill, filed by state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo and committee chairman, is in response to ongoing tension between the regents and President William Powers Jr. It would amend state laws to allocate all duties and responsibilities not specifically granted to university systems or governing boards to the individual institutions of that system. The committee took no action on the bill, but will take it up again next week.

The bill would also prohibit regents from voting on personnel and budgetary matters until they undergo ethics training offered annually by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Texas Exes CEO Leslie Cedar said an unnamed regent has repeatedly expressed displeasure through emails and phone calls with how the alumni association has openly supported Powers and criticized regents. Cedar said she does not believe regents’ scrutiny regarding the association’s contracts with the University result from that criticism.

“The role of the alumni association is to champion the University, and we support administrators who line up directly with the mission of the University, so we feel like it is our duty to speak up for and on behalf of the mission of the University,” Cedar said.

The testimony came a week after the regents voted 4-3 to conduct a new external review of the UT Law School Foundation’s relationship with UT as part of an ongoing investigation of the foundation. In 2011, Powers instructed Larry Sager, then dean of the School of Law and current faculty member, to resign as dean after Sager received a forgivable loan of $500,000 from the foundation.

An internal audit of the foundation conducted by Barry Burgdorf, UT System general counsel who resigned earlier this month, found the loan was conducted in an inappropriate manner. The Texas Attorney General’s Office largely concurred with the report’s findings.

A letter signed by 18 senators sent to board Chairman Gene Powell on Tuesday implored the board to seek the assistance of the Office of the Texas Attorney General if regents insisted on continuing what the senators called “an unnecessary probe.”

Powell responded in a letter Wednesday and said the board’s General Counsel Francie Frederick informed the attorney general’s office of the board’s possible actions prior to last week’s meeting. He said Frederick would brief Attorney General Greg Abbott and his first assistant Daniel Hodge if the board decided to investigate the foundation further.

“Please be assured that no decisions will be made on proceeding with this issue until this previously planned briefing of and discussion with the attorney general occurs,” Powell said.

Senate of College Councils president-elect Ryan Hirsch resigned from her position Wednesday night.

Hirsch, a neuroscience and pre-med junior, also left her post as current executive director of Senate because of personal reasons, according to current Senate president Michael Morton.

Morton said the organization will have to go through the election process again, starting with nominations March 21 and voting April 4.

“She handled this situation very professionally,” Morton said. “This was entirely on her own accord. This was strictly to do with personal reasons. There is no other factor involved or any inappropriate behavior.”

Senate elected Hirsch on Feb. 22.

“Students deserve a seat at the table,” Hirsch said to the councils. “We must continue to grow and develop to better address student concerns and create policy to better the academic lives of students.”

Morton said Hirsch has not made it clear if she will continue as a part of the organization.

“We would love to have her come back to the organization when she is ready,” Morton said. 

Hirsch has not replied for comment.

UT Senate of College Councils president elect Ryan Hirsch resigns

Senate of College Councils president-elect Ryan Hirsch resigned from her position Wednesday night.

Hirsch, a neuroscience and pre-med junior, also left her post as current executive director of Senate because of personal and family matters, according to current Senate president Michael Morton.

Morton said the organization will have to go through the election process again, starting with nominations March 21 and voting April 4.

“She handled this situation very professionally,” Morton said. “This was entirely on her own accord. This was strictly to do with personal reasons. There is no other factor involved or any inappropriate behavior.”

Senate elected Hirsch on Feb. 22. Vice president-elect Kiefer Shenk and finacial director-elect Philip Wiseman will not be officialy appointed until after the new president is elected.

“Students deserve a seat at the table,” Hirsch said during her speech to the councils. “We must continue to grow and develop to better address student concerns and create policy to better the academic lives of students.”

Morton said Hirsch has not made it clear if she will continue as a part of the organization.

“We would love to have her come back to the organization when she is ready,” Morton said. 

Hirsch has not replied for comment.

This story has been updated after its original posting.

UT Senate of College Councils held their elections for next year’s executive leaders Thursday evening. Newly-elected President Ryan Hirsch (center), Vice President Kiefer Shenk (left) and Financial Director Phillip Wiseman (right) expressed their goals for the future of the council in their platforms.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Senate of College Councils elected next year’s president, vice president and financial director Thursday.

Senate elected Ryan Hirsch president, Kiefer Shenk vice president and Phillip Wiseman financial director. The Senate is a legislative student organization that represents students through the 20 college councils of the University. Each college council was allotted one vote to select its leaders.

Current Senate president Michael Morton said the executive positions require certain qualities to help interact with all the councils and committees in the organization.

“They really need to be good listeners,” Morton said. “They need to be compassionate and just never stop.” 

Hirsch, a neuroscience and pre-med junior, said as president she plans to increase student involvement for new project ideas on campus and to improve academic policies. Hirsch said she would also work to better inform the student body of Senate initiatives and projects. 

“Students deserve a seat at the table,” Hirsch said. “We must continue to grow and develop to better address student concerns and create policy to better the academic lives of students.”

Shenk, a marketing and physical culture and sports senior, said he would like to focus more on easing the transition to the University for transfer students. Shenk said he would implement team-building workshops to pinpoint priorities, find ways to better allocate current resources on campus and interact with students about difficult issues.

“Contentious issues should be dealt with in a town hall meeting setting, where students can really voice their opinion to impact change on this campus,” Shenk said.

Wiseman, a government senior, said he plans to create an online lender database for the councils and committees to have access to reliable and secure vendors for activities and events. He said he would also like to help financially support council initiatives through corporate sponsorship in a related field. 

“I want to take my experience to secure funding from local businesses, national corporations and even University departments to pool with the resources Senate currently holds so that Senate’s treasures grow just as our initiatives and programs do as well,” Wiseman said.

Published on Februarry 22, 2013 as "Student Senate officials elected". 

A&M Legislative Relations Ambassador Clayton Williford discusses the importance of state funding for higher education during Flagship Legislative Day at the Texas Capital building Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Students from UT, Texas A&M University, Texas State University, Texas Tech University and the University of Houston united at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday to lobby for higher education funding.

The University’s student-run Invest in Texas campaign hosted Flagship Legislative Day for students from the institutions to meet with key legislators and discuss the importance of state funding for higher education. 

“At the beginning of summer, we were looking at how we could make Invest In Texas stronger,” Michael Morton, campaign co-director and Senate of College Councils president, said. “We talked about strategic partnerships with different universities to show the combined effort for higher education, and we wanted to get the flagships involved and show that student leaders across the state are very concerned about this.”

The university representatives were divided into five groups, including one student representative from each university. Throughout the day, each student met with representatives from six legislative offices and discussed how his university would impact the state of Texas. 

UT’s finance junior Nancy Bonds brought up the point that for every $1 the state invests in the University, $18 is generated in the Texas economy.

“We are in a bad budget situation in this legislative session and that makes it a little more desirable to put money back into higher education,” Morton said.

Zachary Haber, a student representative for Texas Tech University, spoke to representatives about the large number of students going to out-of-state schools, raising an issue for the Texas economy. 

“Ultimately, the points we brought up today were valid and need to be discussed at the Capitol,” Haber said. “The representatives were very responsive and overall, we had very positive feedback from all of them.”

Allison Sibley, the Texas State University student body vice president, said even though she was exhausted after walking around the Capitol all day, she was grateful the representatives were willing to take time out of their legislative work and listen to the students.

“As far as Texas State goes, it was very beneficial,” Sibley said. “It was an honor that UT asked us to join them in the Flagship Day, and I do think it is great to be a cohesive body for higher education.”

Published on February 13, 2013 as "Texas universities unite for education funding". 

Paul Foster, vice chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, was appointed Sunday to lead the efforts to study the System’s policies regarding employee-student relationships. There’s only one problem: Foster’s term as a regent technically expired last week.  

The terms of three of the nine voting members of the Board of Regents expired Friday, though all will retain their status until new regents are appointed by Gov. Rick Perry and approved by the Texas Senate. Foster, Vice Chairman James Dannenbaum and Printice Gary all saw their terms conclude at the beginning of the month. 

System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said that because the governor often allows regents to remain in their seats for several months after their terms have ended, Foster’s expired term did not factor into his appointment as leader of the policy review. 

“It is not unusual to task a [regent whose term has expired] with a project, particularly when that project is set to begin immediately, as is the case with this review,” LaCoste-Caputo said.

LaCoste-Caputo added that because UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and Board Chairman Gene Powell can appoint anyone to lead initiatives like the review, Foster could feasibly continue the work even after he is replaced as regent. 

Representatives from the governor’s office declined to say when the governor might announce his candidates for the three open regent positions. 

“We are still going through the appointments process,” deputy press secretary Lucy Nashed said. 

Michael Morton, president of the Senate of College Councils, said the individual makeup of the board can have significant implications for the University. 

“It takes a great deal of time for a university to be built up to the stature that UT-Austin has, but it does not take very long for it to be brought down to the ground,” Morton said. “The regents can drastically change the framework of the University.”

Morton said he hopes Perry will make his next appointments using a new criteria that does not involve politics. 

“There has been a reasonable cause for concern with the governor’s most recent selections,” Morton said. “They have been questionable both in terms of their outlook on the University and in terms of where their interests lie.” 

Texas Exes President John Beckworth sent a mass email to students Monday acknowledging the central role of Texas in the national debate over the purpose of higher education. Beckworth stressed the role the regents play in maintaining “a university of the first class.” 

“We ask you to remain engaged and to call on our governor and elected officials to appoint and confirm capable, thoughtful and objective regents,” Beckworth said in the email. “A university of the first class deserves first-class regents.”

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group of business and community leaders that formed during the higher education debates in 2011, released a statement imploring Perry to choose his nominees in a swift manner. 

“The coalition encourages the governor to nominate candidates in a timely fashion, allowing the Senate Committee on Nominations to observe the established statutory process to ensure that candidates meet the highest standards of governance and ethics.”

Printed on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 as: System BOR in limbo with expiration of three terms