William Powers , Jr.

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

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.

UT President William Powers Jr. at the Dell Medical School groundbreaking April 21, 2014. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

On Sept. 22, President William Powers, Jr. delivered his final state of the university address. In that speech, he laid out nicely the path ahead. 

Among UT’s “serious challenges,” he finds “[t]oo many families are being left out of higher education because they can’t afford it.” Affordability is a national issue. President Barack Obama has called on universities to restrain tuitions and make themselves more accountable to students. Tuition increases nationwide over the past quarter-century have outstripped inflation and healthcare cost increases, and forced students to amass historic debt, which, for the first time, exceeds credit-card debt. In 2011, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board commissioner warned, “If we keep going the way we are, a baccalaureate degree at a public university will cost $100,000 at some institutions in five years. We can’t go there.”

To increase affordability, the Powers administration has employed “technology to develop online and blended courses, flipped classrooms, and MOOCs.” His successor would do well to build on this. This might include examining the recently launched Affordable Baccalaureate Program. This online, competency-based program targets a group highlighted by President Powers’s observation that the “demographics and needs of our students are changing.” The new majority of students seeking postsecondary education are “nontraditional”— over 25, and/or working fulltime, and/or supporting families. All programs won’t work everywhere, but the affordability crisis should prompt UT’s next president to examine this innovation’s applicability. 

Also contributing to declining affordability are declining teaching loads. Researchers William Massy and Robert Zemsky find this decline a logical response to the fact that faculty promotions are based primarily on publications, which also enhance a school’s ranking. Here UT’s next president might consider THECB’s proposal to “improve credit hours produced per full-time equivalent faculty member by 10 percent.” Any such effort must be, says President Powers, “consistent with [UT’s] soul”— with its “tier-one teaching and research” mission. 

To achieve consistency, UT’s next president might consider raising the teaching loads of tenured faculty who have not been publishing for some time, thus increasing teaching without hindering research. 

Another tuition-inflation driver is exploding administrative budgets. Benjamin Ginsberg’s 2011 national study finds that, from 1947 to 1995, “[a]dministrative spending … increased by a whopping 235 percent. Instructional spending, by contrast, increased only 128 percent.” UT should be praised for steps already taken under President Powers to reduce administration. The new UT president might consider expanding them.

A national Pew survey finds 75 percent of prospective students deem college simply unaffordable. How to address their concerns? State funding is not the recourse it once was. As President Powers observes, “Other demands [e.g., Medicaid and K-12] on diminishing public resources are growing.” Given these straitened circumstances, restoring affordability must come through university budget-cutting, just as families have had to do this past decade.

Important as affordability is, President Powers rightly notes that UT’s “real goal is increasing the student’s abilities to think critically and communicate.” Hence educators are troubled by the results of the national study, Academically Adrift, which employed the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) to measure undergraduate learning. It finds that, after four years in college, 36 percent of students demonstrate “small or empirically non-existent” gains in critical thinking and written communication.

To address this, roughly 200 universities administered the CLA last year. Although the Washington Post reports that UT-Austin scores in the lowest quartile among peer schools on the CLA, the UT System should be commended for caring enough about student learning to pioneer the CLA’s use. Reformers hope to make UT the model for the state, proposing legislation requiring public universities to administer the CLA to all students, and publish institutions’ results annually.

Another transparency-in-outcomes measure the next UT president might consider involves grading. Why? Professors Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy’s research demonstrates that, in the early ‘60s, an A constituted 15 percent of grades nationwide. Today, an A is the most common grade (43 percent); 73 percent of all grades today are A’s or B’s.

For Rojstaczer and Healy, students are grade inflation’s victims, because they are being deceived. That said, when I was in college, I loved grade inflation! I was wrong. It can take years post-graduation to grasp fully that the professors who challenged you to work harder than you thought capable were your best friends, because life after college grows increasingly difficult. As President Powers cautions, “Global competition is increasing.”

To enhance grading transparency, a number of universities now place on student transcripts, next to the grade the student received for each class, the average grade for the class awarded by the professor. This aids job applicants whose hard-fought A’s currently get lost in a plethora of mostly-A’s-and-B’s transcripts.

These outcomes-measurements would help answer President Powers’ charge to examine “improv[ing] student success.” In the process, UT’s next president would faithfully build on his predecessor’s accomplishments. 

Lindsay is the director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and editor of SeeThruEdu.com.

William Powers, Jr., UT President

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

1) William Powers, Jr., UT President

While the top pick here is obvious, it is easy to forget the breadth of responsibility and influence of the man at the top. Since stepping into office in February 2006 after a stint as dean of the School of Law, Powers has helped the University’s budget grow from about $1.6 billion to about $2.2 billion last year, kicked off a $3 billion fundraising campaign and opened 20 new buildings. Additionally, with seven years under his belt, Powers has set the vision he wants of the University, as every high-level administrator — from deans to vice presidents — has either been hired or re-hired by Powers.

But as is the case of all public figures, one’s grasp of power is not simply measured by his or her ability to do a job, but rather an ability to keep a job — and in that regard, Powers’ reign may be the most impressive. A man who took the job hoping to guide UT to become the top public university in the country found himself having to defend the value of a university to society, all in the face of declining revenue, hostile regents and health problems, including a pulmonary embolism in 2011.

And so while it may not come as a surprise, it does come with certainty that Powers heads the powers that are at the University of Texas.

2) DeLoss Dodds, Men's Athletics Director

During Dodds’ 31-year tenure as Texas’ men’s athletics director, the Longhorns have won 14 national titles, 106 conference championships and have become the most profitable athletics program in the country. The Longhorns’ football program alone generated $103.8 million during the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to USA Today, the first time a college football program brought in $100 million of revenue. Since the launch of the Longhorn Network, which Dodds says is one of his five best accomplishments at UT, Texas has struggled. The football team is 22-16 over the last three years, while the men’s basketball and baseball squads failed to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the late ‘90s. Can Dodds push the right buttons and pull all the strings to rebuild the juggernaut he created?

3) Kevin Hegarty, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Some understand budgets, while others understand people. And then there are people like Hegarty, who understand both well enough that they can toe the line and serve as a translator for both worlds. The former Dell executive and current vice president and chief financial officer not only oversees the University’s $2.2 billion operating budget, but is UT’s go-to guy for dealing with messy situations. Hegarty sits on the influential University Budget Council and the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee and has headed reorganizations in information technology and development offices. Most recently, Powers named him the point person to implement the $490 million worth of cost savings recommended by the Committee on Business Productivity in its report — a process that will take a healthy understanding of budgets and of people.

4) Mack Brown, Football Coach

It’s easy to retain power when you’re the highest paid public employee in the state. If the athletics department wanted to part ways with Brown, they’d have to swallow a $2.75 million pill for the buyout. Brown remains the face of not only Texas Athletics but also the entire school. The perennial success of Brown’s program, along with his ascension to national recognition, is the chief reason Texas is one of eight not requiring university financial assistance and also the main bait for ESPN in the groundbreaking deal to form the Longhorn Network. Brown might not make the decisions, but if it weren’t for him, Dodds wouldn’t be making them, either. Now, if only he could beat Oklahoma. 

5) Gage Paine, Vice President of Student Affairs

Paine joined the University in August as the first woman appointed as Vice President of Student Affairs. At first glance, the role may not seem particularly powerful, but Paine oversees 14 of the University’s largest non-academic units, including the University Health Services, the Office of the Dean of Students and the residence halls. With extracurriculars making up so much of the overall college experience, from recreational sports leagues to dining hall pizza to student organizations, Paine has the ability to greatly enhance or hurt the UT vibe that is so appealing to incoming freshmen.

UT’s response to the 2010 shooting in the Perry-Castañeda Library is considered a success. This perception was strengthened last week by comparisons to UT’s late and disorganized response to a bomb threat made on Friday, September 14th that led to an evacuation of campus buildings.

Leaders tend to fight yesterday’s war. In this case, yesterday’s war was an overreaction to the 2010 shooting that turned UT into a war zone in a matter of two hours, complete with tanks and a SWAT team in pursuit of a possible second shooter.

Now, only two weeks from the second anniversary of the PCL shooting, another emergency response by the administration is criticized, this time for its under-reaction. Are we being unfair?

Do we want more deliberate public statements? Yes, but this time we have the luxury of critiquing the public relations mistakes because there were no casualties. One hopes that the debate over the caller’s “Middle Eastern accent” is not the main takeaway from this week, although cultural sensitivity and accuracy are necessary in situations like Friday’s.

Do we want more informative text messages? That might help. Within 15 minutes of the 2010 shooting, the sirens were sounded, and within 20 minutes texts detailing the situation were sent out and the school was  locked down. This time they waited for an hour and a half and the texts, when they finally arrived, were vague and confusing to most students. To be fair, the university can do little for students who chose to wait near buildings instead of getting “as far away as possible,” as they were instructed. Students should have taken the extra precaution of walking another block or two away from campus.

Do we want a measured reaction? The administration seemed to improve in that regard by waiting to confirm the threat before evacuating a campus of 75,000 students and staff, and they gave themselves time to think about their situation instead creating another war zone. However, their abrupt evacuation only 15 minutes before the threatened explosion demonstrated the opposite of an “abundance of caution.”

UTPD refused to comment on its internal procedures, so I asked an officer in the Houston Police Department whether he thought 15 minutes was sufficient. “It’s hard enough to evacuate a two-story building in 15 minutes,” I was told, “let alone a university campus. You might ask your local police department about their procedures, but from my personal experience, I highly doubt it.”

UT President William Powers, Jr. spoke at a noontime press conference on the day of the bomb threat. He implied that, after much deliberation, UT administrators remained unsure whether the threat was a hoax or a real danger. Since they had no definitive answer, their hedging is understandable.

It would be unrealistic to demand that Powers reveal details of his conversations with staff or that UTPD give us a detailed timeline of their procedures. Making such information public could give an advantage to those intent on harming us. Transparency doesn’t require that the media have every detail; transparency requires that we are informed on the basics of procedure in order to report honestly the UT community. We must know that either 15 minutes is a long enough period to evacuate all campus buildings—a position that defies common sense and thus requires further explanation from the decision makers—or that the university did not find the threat credible.

North Dakota State University, which received its own threat an hour after we did, didn’t have the luxury of reflection. Their caller did not give specifics regarding time. NDSU’s administration acted quickly—within 15 minutes—by sending an evacuation notice to the 14,000 students and approximately 6,000 staff members on its two campuses.

We are not NDSU; we are one of the largest public universities in the nation. But it seems that we had ample time to both evaluate and evacuate.

I commend the UT administrators for their calmness. I’m glad they avoided the unnecessary hype of having SWAT teams in every building and a tank rolling down the street. But while I wasn’t privy to the evaluation process and am reluctant to second guess the administration, I would remind them to uphold their end of the contract with UT students. We should be willing to trust our leaders to make important decisions regarding our safety, but that trust needs to be earned. In the words of Ronald Reagan: “Trust ... but verify.”

Communication studies professor Dana Cloud, English professor Snehal Shingavi and Coordinator for the Texas State Employee Union Jim Branson wait to deliver a petition in the lobby of President Power’s office Wednesday before noon. The petition, with over 400 signatures, calls for charges to be dismissed against Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition protestors who were arrested in April.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

President William Powers, Jr. got a surprise delivery Wednesday as representatives of the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition brought a petition to his office with more than 400 signatures.

The petition demands that criminal trespassing charges brought against 18 members of the coalition during a peaceful sit-in at Powers’ office last spring be immediately dropped. Powers does not have the ability to drop the charges himself and has said the case is now in the hands of the County Attorney.

“It got turned over to the [County Attorney], and that is the County Attorney’s business,” Powers said.

However, the coalition members believe Powers could influence the County Attorney and ask for dismissal of the charges on their behalf.

Corby Holcomb, assistant trial director for the Travis County Attorney’s Office, said last week that the victim or entity in a criminal trespassing case normally has a say in the charging and sentencing decisions.

“Normally, on a criminal trespass case, say, the property owner where the person was trespassing, they would definitely have input,” he said.

Holcomb declined to comment on the specific influence the University would have in this case, as it is currently ongoing.

The coalition members participated in the sit-in last spring to try and convince the University to join the Worker Rights Consortium, an organization that monitors the working conditions of factory employees internationally. Powers announced in July that UT would join the consortium to monitor conditions at some of the factories that manufacture UT apparel. The students will face trial on the charges Friday in Travis County Court, where they will have to either take one of two pleas offered to them or continue to fight the charges.

Government junior Lucy Griswold, who was arrested at the sit-in, said she believes the charges should be dropped because the sit-in was of a peaceful nature and held as a last resort effort.

“We were peacefully protesting, and this was after years of escalation in the campaign where we had used all of the democratic avenues offered on campus to have a dialogue with the University,” she said.

Griswold said if the University remains silent, it will also send a negative message to the rest of the campus community.

“We feel the charges should be dropped to reserve the right of protests on campus,” she said. “Essentially, this has always been about freedom of speech.”

Dana Cloud, associate professor of rhetoric and writing, said even if the charges are not dropped and the students stand trial Friday, the coalition will continue efforts to have the charges dismissed.

“We are not going to let this go down without a fight,” she said.

Printed on Thursday, September 13th, 2012 as: Petition requests Powers to drop case

Photo Credit: Natasha Smith | Daily Texan Staff

UT President William Powers, Jr., one of the state’s highest paid educational executives, could receive a bonus of more than $60,000 under a new incentive pay plan approved by the UT System Board of Regents.

The new incentive pay plan will give UT System presidents an additional 10 percent of their base salary if they meet certain performance goals that could include four-year graduation rates, philanthropic efforts and degree affordability. The pay-for-performance bonuses, common in the business sector, could reach the peak high of 15 percent if all goals are met or surpassed.

Powers is one of the highest paid academic presidents in the UT System, earning $613,612 in base salary. His take-home pay already totals almost $150,000 more than his base salary.

UT spokesperson Gary Susswein said it is too early to predict whether four-year graduation rates, one of the University’s most prominent initiatives, will be part of Powers’ performance metrics, but they remain an important priority for the University. He said the UT System is still developing the metrics to determine how much or how well students are actually being educated.

“President Powers is focused on helping UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa develop the metrics of his incentive plan, which will be created in cooperation with the campus’ goals to create a rational system,” Susswein said.

Some presidents of the System’s health institutions are paid much more than presidents of the academic institutions. UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center President Ronald DePinho’s salary is $1,404,000, but could reach $1,614,600 if awarded a 15 percent bonus.

Last week, UT-Pan American President Robert Nelson told The Texas Tribune he will not accept any bonus he receives through the new incentive pay system. Nelson makes $300,000 a year and is the lowest paid UT System president in official capacity.

He will donate any bonus he earns under the new program to an existing discretionary fund at UT-Pan American, which funds campus speakers and events, according to his interview with the Tribune.

Susswein said Powers, who is already paid more than twice of Nelson’s salary, has not discussed what he will do with his bonus.

Approved by the UT System Board of Regents at its August meeting, the incentive pay plan is one of the nine pillars that make up Cigarroa’s Framework for Advancing Excellence, a UT System action plan adopted last year. The plan calls for compensation strategies to reward and incentivize administration performance.

UT System spokesperson Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said Cigarroa will develop specific metrics and performance goals for each campus with help from Pedro Reyes, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Kenneth Shine, executive vice chancellor for health affairs.

“Our external compensation experts state that this plan was possible thanks to the clarity of purpose of the framework allowing us to measure progress and performance goals,” Cigarroa said during his report on the framework’s progress at the regents’ August meeting.

Texas Association of Business president Bill Hammond said increasing the rate of degree-completion within the state’s largest university system outweighs concerns over the plan’s similarity to bonus distribution models common in the private sector.

“We are not talking about turning the UT System on its head,” he said. “We are talking about a system focused on its decreased productivity rates that provided no incentives to increase these rates.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a non-profit conservative think tank with ties to Gov. Rick Perry, has supported measuring university efficiency systematically in the past.

Chuck DeVore, TPPF’s vice president of communications, said setting the performance goals will benefit the System.

“You typically get more of what you incentivize, so incentivizing the leadership of UT, for example, for higher graduation rates is a good thing,” he said. “However, we believe that perhaps the most important metric is being omitted, which is assessing whether the UT system is doing a good job of actually educating its students.”

The regents have yet to approve performance goals but will review the metrics at their November meeting.

Printed on September 5, 2012 as: "System approves incentive plan"

UT’s honor code will see changes and clarification in the upcoming months in efforts to increase its effectiveness and implementation.

UT officials set up a University Honor Code Task Force this past spring to evaluate the statement and determine its effectiveness at UT. Following the release of a report by the task force last week, UT President William Powers, Jr. said there are plans to change the honor code itself and increase student involvement in its enforcement.

Powers said none of the changes have been specified yet, but the new honor code will focus on academic integrity and honesty to match other institutions that have specific and concise honor codes. Texas A&M University, Rice University and Texas State University are among the schools in Texas which have an honor code.

Powers said while the current honor code addresses issues such as pride, respect and cultural tolerance, which are very important to UT, he believes they should be addressed by a broader set of University values.

Adopted in 2004 by UT President Larry Faulkner, the current honor code reads as follows: “The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity and responsibility. Each member of the university is expected to uphold these values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness and respect toward peers and community.” In a statement in 2004, Faulker said he wanted to create an honor code to remind students, staff and faculty of their interests in matters of integrity and civility.

“Currently, the honor code is very broad,” he said. ‘I’d call it more a statement of values that are very important to the University, but that goes beyond what most honor codes address.”

Powers said he wants to increase student presence in implementing the honor code by involving students from the Senate of College Councils and Student Government.

“One thing needed was more student involvement in the implementation, or what you might call enforcement, of the honor code,” he said. “I think a lot of universities have student panels and groups that help complement the honor code, and it seems like a fruitful idea.”

Jessica Laberge, a recent UT graduate and former Student Government member, said she sees both pros and cons to increasing student involvement in the enforcement of the honor code but that ultimately it is a good idea.

“It gives students more direct control and input into what is happening in their own lives,” she said. “Because we have such a limited student government, it could be a negative, but as long as there are continued efforts to involve students, it will ultimately benefit them.

Michael Morton, journalism senior and president of the Senate of College Councils, said he sees this as a positive move.

“I think it’s good whenever you can get students involved in academic affairs on campus and whenever you can call more attention to them,” he said.

The University may see changes to its honor code when President William Powers, Jr. reviews a recently completed report on its effectiveness.

UT officials created a University Honor Code Task Force this past spring in order to evaluate the effectiveness of UT’s honor code and recommend any necessary changes. The task force is made up of faculty, students and administration and is overseen by the Academic Integrity Committee, an organization that works to increase the visibility of the honor code and promote integrity on campus.

Linda Golden, Honor Code Task Force chairwoman and professor of marketing administration, said the report was delivered to Powers last week, and what comes next will be up to him. Golden refused to release any details about the report or background on the task force.

Adopted in 2004 by UT President Larry Faulkner, the current honor code reads as follows: “The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity and responsibility. Each member of the university is expected to uphold these values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness and respect toward peers and community.”

Until recently, all UT students learned about the honor code during orientation. This year, officials sent out the honor code to students to read as a part of their pre-orientation assignments.

Michael Morton, journalism senior and president of the Senate of College Councils, said the main issue that led to the task force being created was lack of student knowledge about the honor code.

“[The University] has done surveys and gotten student opinions on the matter, and the fact is that not a lot of students know what our honor code is or that we even have one,” he said.

Morton said the general goal of the report is to increase student involvement and increase the effectiveness of the honor code.

“It was just realizing that academic integrity required a stronger presence than it now has on campus,” he said. “The task force has taken a lot of steps to make sure that we are increasing the availability of the code, including looking at the student misconduct process and possibly revising the code itself.”

Andrew Clark, international relations and global studies junior and a member of the Honor Code Task Force, said the task force is more than an organization working on policy; it’s a symbol of UT’s dedication to integrity.

“The honor code is critical, because it serves as a guiding principle at our institution,” he said. “It serves as a standard that all students should uphold, and I think the creation of this task force is great because it shows that this code is still so important to UT.”

Peter Wong, a computer science sophomore and co-chair of the Academic Integrity Committee, said the honor code’s importance to UT is vital, making the work of this committee extremely important.

“The honor code is the standard that students abide by,” he said. “Whenever they’re engaged in academic activities throughout campus, in their daily routine or elsewhere, it’s a set of values and ideas that really strengthens why we’re Longhorns and why we’re at UT.”

Students participate in the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition’s lay-out protest in front of the tower Thursday afternoon. The group hoped to raise awareness for the working conditions in factories that produce University merchandise.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

Students chanted, “When workers are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back,” as they walked up the steps of the Main Building in an attempt to gain an audience with President William Powers, Jr. to protest UT’s apparel manufacturers.

Students with the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition organized a lay-in protest on the Main Mall in order to raise student awareness of working conditions in factories that produce University apparel. After laying on the ground, they attempted to march to the President’s office to hand him a letter with their demands, but were met by Kathy Bartsch, executive assistant to the President, who said Powers was not available to receive them, but that she would relay their message.

The Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition is working in conjunction with United Students Against Sweatshops to ensure better working conditions in the factories that produce University apparel. The organization’s main demand of the University is that they switch from working with the Fair Labor Association, who currently inspects the factories that produce the apparel, to the Workers Rights Consortium, who they believe will produce unbiased reports of the conditions in the factories.

Bianca Hinz-Foley, plan II junior and United Students Against Sweatshops affiliate member at UT, said Coalition members have tried to voice their concerns to the administration in the past, but the responses have been less than accommodating.

“We have been left waiting to receive responses,” Hinz-Foley said. “We contacted donors and alumni to tell them it is not acceptable to ignore students and alumni called in with their concerns.”

Hinz-Foley said student responses to the protest have been relatively positive because students feel powerful when it comes to making a change.

“The group has grown tremendously since some of the protests,” Hinz-Foley said. “I think students like to be part of something that sees tangible victories like this.”

Geoscience senior Nathan Van Oort said they planned the lay-in in order to raise the administration’s awareness of their group’s demands this semester.

“We want to set a precedent for the administration for what to expect this semester,” Van Oort said. “We want them to know that they can’t ignore us.”

Van Oort said he wants students to learn they have a unique leverage to make a difference at the University.

“Students have the power to influence the administration with their demands,” he said. “I want them to take away a sense of passion and education on the matter and I believe doing actions will influence more than words.”

Sociology senior Melissa Tran, who happened to be walking by at the time of the protest, said she thought the protest was good because it brought awareness to something that students take for granted everyday.

“I think the protest will affect what you think about when you buy the clothes,” Tran said. “I think it will also change the mind-set of students.”

A student smokes outside of the Communications plaza Thursday evening. The university could lose millions of research dollars from one of its top research funders if it does not adopt a tobacco-free policy by March 1.

Photo Credit: Shea Carley | Daily Texan Staff

Fumes from the University’s tobacco policy have ignited conversation over the future of the substance on UT grounds.

Because of a new provision from one of the University’s top research funders, UT will need to enact a tobacco-free policy or risk losing millions of research dollars.

The Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, a voter-mandated organization that awards millions of research dollars each year to entities pursuing cancer research, released a statement on Feb. 2 stating it will now require all current and future grantees to create tobacco-free workplaces as a condition for accepting the Institute’s funds. UT currently receives approximately $31 million for cancer research from the Institute and is applying for $88 million this year.

The Institute has given UT until March 1 to make appropriate policy changes.

In a campus-wide email on Wednesday, University officials said they will be meeting with various organizations on campus — including Student Government, Faculty Council and Staff Council — over the next two weeks to discuss policy options. University spokeswoman Adrienne Howarth-Moore said losing this money would be detrimental to the University’s research endeavors.

Howarth-Moore said if the University adopts a tobacco-free policy by March 1, it will seek to support current tobacco users by providing education and resources.

“Education, communication and helping people understand the reason behind the change is going to be a challenge,” Howarth-Moore said. “We don’t just have a focus on research, but cancer research. We want to be able to eradicate cancer.”

If adopted, the smoking ban will also restrict smoking and tobacco during times of sporting events and tailgates, Howarth-Moore said. Exceptions will only occur in special circumstances, such as when tobacco is used for research or as a prop in a fine arts production.

Current UT policy on tobacco only addresses smoking tobacco, which is not allowed in any University-owned or leased building or vehicle, but is allowed on campus as long as it is 20 feet away from a building entrance. UT-Arlington, UT-Brownsville and the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio are currently tobacco-free. Austin Community College, Huston-Tillotson University and Texas State University all banned tobacco use on campus last year.

In March 2011, UT President William Powers, Jr. said he opposed a campus-wide ban on smoking during an address to Staff Council. Powers said such a ban would overstep the limits a University should impose on its community.

“What we’re doing is saying we are going to limit the freedom of the person who wants to smoke for the benefit of the people who don’t want to be in a smoke-filled office or room,” Powers said in the address, according to a March 2011 Daily Texan article.

Student Government passed a resolution in 2011 declaring UT to become generally smoke-free campus over a period of seven years. The resolution called for the creation of a taskforce to decide policy implementation and an expansion of the University Health Services student smoking cessation program “Quitters” to extend to faculty and staff. SG and the Student Organization Safety Board recently co-sponsored “Tobacco Talks,” a series of conversations with professionals and students on campus to discuss the negative effects of tobacco.

Philip Huang, medical director for the Austin-Travis County health and human services department, spoke at Tobacco Talks on Thursday and said many entities around Austin have implemented tobacco-free policies, including City of Austin libraries, Capital Metro and Austin Parks and Recreation centers. Huang said 70 percent of people surveyed by Travis County said they wanted to quit smoking and 60 percent of all litter in 32 Austin parks comes from tobacco, equaling to approximately 23,000 cigarette butts.

Huang said a tobacco-free policy is a step in the right direction for UT and that in four years incoming students will know no other policy.

“A lot of it is changing social norms,” Huang said. “A lot of people put up with other peoples’ smoke but they hate it. People have more of a right to breathe clean air than smokers have the right to smoke.”

Alfred McAlister, public health adjunct associate professor, said the Institute’s decision will encourage administrators to consider a new tobacco policy. McAlister advised the UT Texas Public Health student organization in conducting a recent survey to gauge student opinion of smoking on campus.

Of the 1,551 respondents, 77 percent indicated they want a stronger tobacco policy at UT. Among the people who identified as smokers and took the survey, approximately 33 percent said they wanted stricter limits on tobacco use.

“I imagine the survey results will convince President Powers that there is a lot more support for a new tobacco policy than he might have supposed,” McAlister said. “It’s been a bit embarrassing for this University to be one of the last schools that’s not tobacco free.”

McAlister said some of the benefits of a tobacco-free campus would include less exposure to second-hand smoke and less tobacco litter. He said a ban would also help encourage smokers to quit and prevent some students from starting to smoke.

Thomas Haviland, public health senior and president of the UT Texas Public Health Organization, said there is a definite possibility UT will implement a tobacco-free policy on campus. Haviland said he has seen people violating the current policy all over campus and smoking within 20 feet of buildings, some of which contain ashtrays five feet away from their entrance.

Haviland said even though the Institute’s decision plays a huge part in the administration’s actions, the issue has been building up and needed to be addressed.

“They had to do something,” Haviland said. “On top of student desire, health benefits and financial savings, a lot of people on campus really do want it.”