Arizona State University

Texas Men’s Athletic Director Steve Patterson sat down with Texas Monthly to discuss Texas' future.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

In the latest edition of the Texas Monthly Talks interview series, Texas Men’s Athletic Director Steve Patterson sat down with Texas Monthly Editor-in-Chief Brian Sweany at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on Monday evening to discuss his vision for Longhorn athletics and his role as athletic director. 

Patterson, who was featured alongside football head coach Charlie Strong on the cover of Texas Monthly’s September edition, shed light on topics ranging from Strong’s now-famous five core values to his plans for expanding the Longhorns’ global brand. 

Throughout the interview, Patterson drew upon his experience in both professional sports and as the athletic director at Arizona State University to answer questions. 

Arguably his most important decision in his first months as athletic director was hiring Strong. Patterson said, while the success of the football team is critical to the athletic department, he was not overwhelmed by fear of failure in making the decision.

“I’m not unmindful of the fact that, if the football team doesn’t play well, at or above expectations, you’re not going to be able to successfully drive the business, and I think everybody understands that,” Patterson said. “But I don’t go into the day being afraid that, ‘Oh God, this is gonna blow up and this is gonna be the end of the world.’ I go in trying to gather as much information as I possibly can, look at the criteria, see who fits that criteria for a particular position.” 

Patterson also outlined his plan for creating endowments for all UT sports, which would entail raising money for individual sports to make them self-sustaining. He said he hopes to build the global brand of the Longhorns by playing international games, such as the mens’ basketball game scheduled for China in 2015. 

“The University athletic teams really are the front porch of the University; it’s the way we tell our stories to the world,” Patterson said. “There are four, five, six potential international brands in college athletics. We’re one of them. If we don’t leverage it, we haven’t done our job.”

FILE - In this March 20, 2013 file photo, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the company's annual shareholders meeting, in Seattle, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

On June 15, Starbucks announced its College Achievement Plan in partnership with Arizona State University. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and many news headlines, including the company’s website, lauded Starbucks as offering “full tuition reimbursement” for Starbucks employees who are completing a bachelor’s degree at ASU. Unfortunately for these working students and us at UT, who are also facing privatization, that promotion is false.

The Starbucks plan only applies to Starbucks employees pursuing an online degree, which has consistently fallen short of goals around retention, passing, metrics of learning and degree completion.

Starbucks will bear no more than 30 percent of any student’s four-year tuition and fees. There are two parts of the Starbucks plan: a scholarship that reduces the sticker tuition amount and reimbursements for out-of-pocket payments. The scholarship is funded by ASU, not Starbucks, and reduces tuition about $6,500 from the $30,000 for freshman and sophomore years, and $12,600 from $30,000 for junior and senior years. After that, a student may have his or her tuition further reduced by federal grants, military education benefits or need-based aid. Then, juniors and seniors must pay out-of-pocket (or take out loans) for what remains. If they complete 21 credits, which costs about $10,000, within 18 months, Starbucks will issue a reimbursement for that amount. Starbucks will not reimburse any tuition for freshmen and sophomores, meaning that ASU’s scholarship for those first two years is essentially paying students to work while they are in school.

Working students consistently have higher levels of stress, lower academic outcomes and less time for extracurricular activities. These conclusions are consistent across scholarly studies of this issue, but are also obvious to most students, especially since the average student is working more than 20 hours a week. The Starbucks plan is only available for students working there 20 hours a week on average. A recent survey showed that students who work 20 or more hours a week typically have to reduce their academic course load to deal with the stress. However, Starbucks will not reimburse tuition unless a student completes 21 credits within 18 months, which puts working students in quite a precarious position.

Starbucks is not doing this for charitable reasons. It has two profit-related goals, the first of which is broad public relations. This is evident from the Starbucks press release and a variety of major news headlines falsely stating that Starbucks will fully reimburse their workers’ tuition — one headline even states that Starbucks is paying them to get a degree! Starbucks, like most retail companies, consciously attempts to remove the negative sting of profit-making and capitalism by selling an image of intimate relations to its customers and workers. The second goal is to advertise the Starbucks brand to the college. The ASU-Starbucks contract shows that ASU will be fulfilling most of the responsibilities to run the program, but it also requires ASU to assist Starbucks with marketing projects such as joint press releases, promotional “swag,” social media communications, and online advertising for anyone on Starbucks wifi. Starbucks advertising will be present even within educational spaces: ASU must work with Starbucks to develop a mandatory, one-week, non-credit course for students in the Starbucks plan, develop coursework such as “modules on retail management”, construct ASU study spaces inside Starbucks stores, and deliver coursework over Starbucks wifi. They want students who are working at a Starbucks store to also complete their college education there, with a few tasty beverages to get through the boring videos and all-nighters.

Starbucks is a company in a capitalist economy; its bottom line is the profit-motive, and its plan for ASU students is privatization, which has been hitting universities across the nation, including UT Austin. In reaction to the undemocratic attempt by the UT System Board of Regents to fire UT President William Powers Jr., there were outpourings of support for Powers from the Texan and other papers. All of these evaluated his record incredibly positively, but without any mention of the waves of privatization over which he has presided. Most recently, Powers has begun pushing for a privatization overhaul of student services, staff jobs and faculty recruitment as part of the “Smarter Systems” plan. UT hired the consulting company Accenture to develop this plan, despite its notorious failures with the state of Texas. After a 2005-2006 privatization contract with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Accenture was denounced by the Texas Comptroller for forcing unnecessary “massive state worker layoffs.” Smarter Systems advocates UT implementing “Shared Services,” a controversial administrative centralization plan which UT students, staff and faculty have opposed due to staff layoffs. Smarter Systems advocates restricting faculty recruitment and research to “corporate leaders” and areas with greatest “commercial success” — essentially, applying the profit motive to education. Like the Starbucks plan, Smarter Systems seeks to profit from students: it advocates privatizing student dorms, food and parking.

This would mean that Jester, other dorms, and all of the subsidized UT cafeterias and parking lots would be run by private companies, and thus also have higher costs, euphemized in Smarter Systems as “market rates.” Under Powers, UT has already implemented the in-store study spaces part of the Starbucks plan — the Student Activity Center and Texas Union are food-monopolized by private companies (with a Starbucks in each).

The current capitalist era is one with Gilded Age levels of inequality. This comparison also holds in terms of higher education and affordability. Industrialist  Andrew Carnegie was one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, with annual earnings thousands of times greater than those of his company’s steelworkers, and yet he maintained his image with philanthropic endeavors in higher education, as well as in other areas. Similarly, Starbucks has one of the highest CEO-to-worker pay ratios in the country, with CEO Howard Schultz making $28.9 million annually while the average full-time barista makes $17,580 — that’s 1,644 to 1. The robber barons are not interested in lessening the affordability gap, and it’s not just a problem at ASU. Half of UT Austin students graduate with debt, the average amount being $26,097, and are entering a job market that is still unfriendly to the idea of paying off that debt. The Texan, to its credit, recently published a series on student debt and affordability. However, we have to start talking about the cause of these problems: an unequal economy which forces students to work while they study, take out loans and pay more with each privatization scheme.

Rathi is a computer science honors junior from Austin.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

Newly appointed men’s athletic director Steve Patterson said he looks forward to the opportunity to return to Texas, but does not plan on making any significant changes to the program. 

“I don’t see it as a situation where we need a dramatic turnaround,” Patterson said. “I don’t anticipate monstrous changes.”

At a press conference Tuesday, UT President William Powers Jr. officially welcomed and introduced Patterson and his family to the University. He said finding an individual who is a “great fit” for the University is paramount to the success of the athletic department. 

“Jim Collins famously said that the key to an organization’s success is getting the right people on the bus and get them in the right seat,” Powers said. “We had the right person on the bus with DeLoss Dodds, we have the right person on the bus with Chris Plonsky, and now we have the right person on the bus with Steve Patterson.”

Powers said Patterson’s interview process did not include conversations about any of the University’s current athletic programs.  

“We did not discuss plans or make plans for any existing programs in any specific sense,” Powers said.

Patterson said his departure from Arizona State University will come as a disappointment to some, as has received criticism from some ASU officials for leaving the program after a little over one year. 

Mark Killian, vice chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, said he disapproved of the financial motivations he thought were behind Patterson’s decision.

“We’ve devolved in our society — that money speaks louder than words,” Killian said. “And that’s a damn shame.” 

Patterson said discussions between he and Powers were never centered around compensation.

Patterson, who has family and friends residing in Texas, did not deny his compensation at UT as being substantial. 

“My wife’s got family in Houston, my mother and my brother live here in Texas, [and] I have a lot of great friends and business associates here,” Patterson said. “I’m not going to deny that I’m well compensated. I’ve been well compensated as an executive for a lot of years. I could’ve stayed at ASU, but this is really a homecoming.”

Women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky said the department is very excited about Patterson’s move to Austin.

“This will be a strong transition,” Plonsky said. “You can see his passion for college athletics [and] he was somewhat taken with the thought that he was home. A guy who has had that much experience in the professional ranks, to still see the great stories that come out of dealing with the student athlete population and to be moved by that enough to stay in it and assume the role that he is at a great University — I think that speaks volumes about the man.” 

After weeks of speculation on who would replace longtime athletic director DeLoss Dodds, the school has announced that current Arizona State University athletic director Steve Patterson will take the position at Texas.

Here are five things you need to know about the Longhorns’ newest athletic executive.

Connection to Texas                                  

While Patterson, 55, was born and raised in Wisconsin, the athletic director attended UT as an undergraduate student between 1976-1980. In addition, he graduated from UT’s law school in 1984. Patterson’s son, Austin, is also a student at Texas.

Patterson has lived in the Lone Star State on numerous occasions during stints with multiple Houston professional sports teams.

Resume at Arizona State

Patterson is coming to Texas after numerous years with the Sun Devils. He was the chief operating officer for the Sun Devil Athletics and managing director of Sun Devil Sports Group before becoming athletic director. In that position, Patterson was responsible for Arizona State’s athletic business operations, development and stadium operations.

In March 2012 he took the role of vice president of University Athletics and athletic director. There he controlled many major ASU developments. Along with leading a $300 million renovation of the Sun Devil football stadium, Patterson also developed the new site for a baseball stadium and the creation of a 425-acre sports facilities district near the university.

Experience past ASU

While Texas’ new AD has had only limited time at collegiate level athletics, he has worked with four different professional sports teams since 1989. In that year, Patterson became the general manager for the Houston Rockets, where he stayed until 1993. With the Rockets, Patterson was responsible for gathering the franchise’s first NBA Championship team along with hosting the 1989 NBA All-Star game.

After his stint with the Rockets, Patterson became the general manager and chief operating officer of the Houston Aeros hockey team, before joining the Houston Texans in 1997. With the Texans, he helped lead the effort to become an NFL franchise and build Reliant Stadium while also negotiating for Houston to be the home of Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004.

Patterson’s final professional experience before his time in Arizona was as president of the Portland Trail Blazers. While he led only mediocre teams in Oregon, he drafted and started the NBA career of All-Star and former Longhorn LaMarcus Aldridge.

Late addition to the AD race

Last week, Patterson reportedly denied all rumors that he was interested in the role while Texas officials stated they had yet to even interview him or offer him the job. However, after interviewing for the position this past weekend, Patterson emerged as the new frontrunner.

The frontrunner to take over for Dodds, who announced in October that he would retire after 32 years at Texas, was originally current West Virginia AD Oliver Luck. Many expected Luck to be offered the job after interviewing with Texas officials, but Tuesday afternoon he was told that Patterson would be given the offer instead.

Texas responsibilities

Patterson comes to the 40 acres at the same time Texas athletics has taken a plunge from its tall expectations. One of his biggest decisions will be the fate of head football coach Mack Brown and basketball coach Rick Barnes, who have both had diminishing seasons in the past few years.

Meanwhile, Patterson will be a vital part of the decision to build a new basketball arena if the Frank Erwin Center gets torn down as a part of the plans for the new Dell Medical School. In addition, Patterson will be responsible for the largest athletics budget in the nation at more than $160 million.

In April 2011, UT System Board of Regents chairman Gene Powell released a memo outlining his goals for the UT System and UT-Austin in particular. Powell proposed UT increase undergraduate enrollment by 10 percent per year for four years and cut tuition costs in half. It was immediately apparent that his recommendations failed to answer some basic questions: Where would the extra students sleep? Where did he plan on finding professors willing to teach for free? Additional state funding was out of the question — Powell’s math didn’t add up.

But the UT community’s response to Powell’s proposal had undertones of something darker. Students, alumni and faculty all attacked the idea that we should make our school a little more affordable and open to a wider demographic. “There are already dozens of online colleges and dime-store diploma mills scattered across this country and this state,” railed one Daily Texan editorial, “but there is only one University of Texas at Austin.”

Opponents of Powell’s proposal directed a significant part of their criticism at Arizona State University. In the past decade ASU has undergone a radical transformation and now dedicates itself to “matching excellence and access in the same institution,” in the words of ASU president Michael Crow. Despite detractors’ claims, since Crow’s arrival 10 years ago, Arizona State has been doing a lot of things right. Minority enrollment has nearly doubled and nine times the number of low-income Arizonan students are enrolling per year now than in 2002, according to Time Magazine. At the same time, research funding granted to ASU more than tripled from $120 million to $373 million between 2002 and 2011, says ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Rather than cutting costs across the board like critics had predicted, Arizona State has begun several research initiatives that are attracting national recognition. These include a Biodesign Institute that looks to nature for insights into issues such as disease prevention, green energy and national security. There’s also ASU’s one-of-a-kind School of Sustainability in which multi-disciplinary faculty and students devote themselves to solving problems related to  water overuse, nonrenewable energy and out-of-control urban development. I would compare these institutions to their counterparts here at UT, but none exist.  

Due to these successes, ASU has been steadily climbing in the rankings to become one of the nation’s better-regarded state universities. Nobody’s saying it’s as good as UT yet, but it’s closing the gap.

When the critics of Powell’s proposal for UT single out ASU, they single out a school that, in many respects, is remarkably similar to their own. Both UT and ASU are enormous universities that are mainstays on every “top party school” list. Both offer thousands of classes taught by high-profile professors in just about every discipline imaginable, and the two campuses themselves are practically interchangeable. There’s even a man-made reservoir called Town Lake in close proximity to both. And, as someone who has attended both schools, I can personally attest that the only difference I’ve noticed so far, academic or otherwise, has been the color of the shirts people wear on game day. Although I’m thrilled to be here, and will be immensely proud to have the UT letterhead on my degree; I also couldn’t be happier with the education I received at ASU.

Despite all of ASU’s achievements, some people won’t give it a fair hearing. At the height of the Powell memo controversy, former UT Student Government President Natalie Butler sent a letter to the Board of Regents, aghast at the possibility that UT might start emulating ASU’s new policies. “ASU wanted to be an institution defined by its high degree of inclusiveness and ability to manufacture a significant number of degrees at a low cost,” Butler wrote. “UT-Austin, rather, is defined by its academic rigor, excellence, and support for the intellectually curious.”

According to Butler’s logic, Arizona State doesn’t strive to challenge its students or be “excellent,” whatever that means, and its students are not intellectually curious. Another way of phrasing that would be that ASU students are ignorant and stupid. The letter continues, “I wanted to be challenged, to grow intellectually, and to go to a school where I would be surrounded by students with similar drive. I knew I would find none of these things at ASU.” Add “lazy” to the list of Butler’s adjectives for ASU students.

In her letter, Butler offered no evidence for these arrogant and insulting claims beyond her own “general impression.” The temptation to invite her to jump in a lake aside, her dismissive attitude is symptomatic of a larger problem.

Public universities are far too concerned with class size, exclusivity and other such antiquated and elitist measures of what makes a school good. A bad professor teaching a class of 10 students is not preferable to a good one teaching a class of 200. Public universities should pride themselves on how many students they’ve given a quality education, not how many they’ve denied one.

It’s a shame that Gene Powell is the face of the push for affordable degrees at Texas public universities, because his support for the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s infamous “Breakthrough Solutions” has forever branded him as a political reactionary. But we shouldn’t so easily dismiss the idea because of its source.

Stroud is an international relations major from San Antonio.

In 2008, high school senior Abigail Fisher was in a position to which many of us can relate: She had applied to UT and was anxiously awaiting the school’s reply. She didn’t qualify for automatic admission because she wasn’t in the top ten percent of her graduating class. But she had great test scores, extensive extracurricular activities and good essays, so she had little reason to worry. Until she was rejected.

Abigail and her lawyers surmised that she had been unfairly denied in favor of applicants from underrepresented minorities who were equally or less qualified than her. They blamed this on UT’s admissions policies, which are meant to promote greater diversity on campus and in the classroom. She sued the University under the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment, and this October her case will be heard by the US Supreme Court.

In 2011, before I even knew who Abigail Fisher was, I also found myself awaiting word of my admission into UT. Just before my senior year, the magic number had shrunk to eight percent, leaving me just outside the pool of automatically admitted applicants. But I had a great SAT score, two essays that several professional writers assured me were top-notch and good grades, so I figured I was golden. I’ll admit that in my hubris I even considered UT my “safety” school. So it surprised me when the letter arrived and told me I wouldn’t get to be a Longhorn in the fall. Adding insult to injury, immediately after I’d sent in the application, my high school updated my class rank and I moved up a couple of spots into the top eight percent. Citing this change as evidence, I sent a letter to the UT Appeals Committee, which denied my plea for reasons they apparently couldn’t be bothered to explain. With no other options that would put me on the Forty Acres, I accepted Arizona State University’s offer of admission and moved to Tempe.

I’m not writing this to invite pity, or thumb my nose at the UT Admissions Office (tempting though that may be). Nor am I writing this to express my solidarity with Ms. Fisher. Those are the easy options. I’m writing this to say that while I completely sympathize with her frustration, I’m throwing my support behind the University instead.

UT’s policy is officially intended to promote campus diversity based on the Grutter v. Bollinger decision, in which the high court ruled that diversity in public universities serves “a compelling interest.” But my opinions are not based upon by court precedent, and the reason I support the University’s policy is about fairness. Because while I was woefully unlucky with UT Admissions, I hit the jackpot on the day I was born.

I was lucky enough to be born to a comfortably middle class family of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants in the wealthiest nation in the world. My parents were both employed. They had the luxury of choosing where we lived, and so for my entire life I went to excellent schools. Due to my astounding good fortune, I have never gone hungry. I have never slept without a roof over my head. I have never been called a racial slur. I have never been in the minority. And until I was denied by UT, I never had to work for anything.

My academic qualifications came about not in spite of my circumstances, but because of them. I’ve known from the time I knew what the word meant that I was going to college. After all, everyone in my family on both sides had gone to college as far back as we could remember. That was just what you did after high school. It was a shock when I found out that wasn’t true for everybody.

According to a report by the American Council on Education, the year before Abigail Fisher applied to UT, 45 percent of college-age whites were enrolled in higher-education institutions, compared to 33 percent of African Americans and 27 percent of Hispanics. That vast discrepancy isn’t because we’re smarter. It’s because of centuries of slavery, segregation and the kind of institutionalized discrimination that kept black students from UT until 1956. In the race to the top, Ms. Fisher and I have enjoyed a 350-year head start.

Affirmative action programs like UT’s admissions policy don’t tilt the playing field in favor of minority candidates; they return the already-tilted field to level ground. As far as I’m concerned, Ms. Fisher and I are unfortunate but inevitable casualties in the morally justifiable struggle for equal opportunity. I’m okay with that, because my denial by UT was the first time that things didn’t roll my way, and it was about damn time.

After my rejection last year I could have sued on the same grounds as Ms. Fisher if I’d wanted to. But in retrospect that rejection was the best thing that ever happened to me. For the first time in my life, I was tested. At Arizona State University, I pulled all-nighters, studied for tests, avoided the world-famous ASU party scene and worked to keep my GPA as high as possible. I tried once more to get into UT, and this time, the hard work paid off. I can now look everybody on campus in the eye knowing I actually worked to get here. That wouldn’t have happened if they’d let me in the first time.

I can’t speak for Ms. Fisher. Maybe this is the latest in a lifelong string of setbacks and adversities for her. But one fact remains as true for her as it was for me: She could’ve studied a little harder in high school to make it squarely into the top ten percent.

Stroud is an international relations and global studies major from San Antonio.

(Left to right) Marleen Villanueva, Amanda Nelson, Shanya Cordis and Giovanni Batz discuss the obstacles they face on campus as students of Native American or indigenous heritage. The Uniting the Eagle and the Condor symposium will take place today and Saturday.

Photo Credit: Shannon Kintner | Daily Texan Staff

Native American students make up a small percentage of the campus community, but seven students speaking out this afternoon hope to show administrators the true significance of their heritage.

While UT provides centers and spaces welcoming many cultural communities, the University offers no home base for students of American Indian or indigenous heritage, said ethnic studies senior Roberto Flotte. Flotte, who identifies himself with the Jumano Apache people, will present his concerns at the Al Kiva Auditorium in the Sanchez Building from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. today. Each student presenting identifies with a different American Indian or indigenous community, and agreed to speak during a symposium regarding the issues they face as college students and ways UT could improve outreach and involvement to these communities.

The symposium is a part of the first ever Uniting the Eagle and the Condor Native American and Indigenous Student Symposium, presented by the Native American and Indigenous Students Assembly. The conference runs from 1 p.m. today until 2 p.m. Saturday and will also include a Native American blessing, art show, keynote speakers from several tribes, fundraising reception, medicinal workshop, indigenous games and an Aztec traditional dance.

Flotte said he wants the event, which he hopes will continue annually, to unite UT students who identify as American Indian or indigenous and give them a chance to show administrators the actual size and strength of their community. With the lack of a designated cultural center for these students, Flotte said he was presented with a cultural dilemma upon entering UT.

“I think I felt invisible at many times, that I didn’t exist,” Flotte said. “I am also Mexican-American, and there were spaces for Mexican-Americans, but no spaces for Native Americans. I couldn’t find that place where I felt comfortable being myself completely.”

Shannon Speed, associate vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, is the co-director of UT’s Native American and Indigenous Studies program, which began five years ago to support research into the languages, cultures and history of indigenous people in Texas and across the world. The program offers an undergraduate certificate and graduate and doctoral portfolio curriculum, in addition to supporting the student symposium. Speed said she agreed that UT could become more involved in providing a place for American Indian and indigenous students on campus.

“For students who have interest in indigenous studies, I think we have an outstanding number of courses, but I don’t think as an institution the University does a particularly good job of addressing American Indian students,” Speed said. “Across the board at institutions, you will hear them all talk about black students and Latino students, but Native American students are not even mentioned. They are really left out, and American Indian students are really conscious of it.”

Speed said because there are only three federally recognized American Indian tribes in Texas, University administrators have not focused on recruiting students from American Indian backgrounds. What administrators should realize, she said, is the huge number of American Indians living in Texas who are affiliated with federally unrecognized tribes.

“Because the state is only thinking about the federally recognized tribes, I think the legislature has not seen Native Americans as a significant constituency,” Speed said. “When the University began paying attention to underrepresented groups, it happened because people were putting pressure on the legislature. Native Americans are only .02 percent of the student body — there aren’t enough to put on the pressure.”

Speed said administrators have only recently enhanced their efforts to recruit American Indian students by creating an admissions position to reach out to different tribes.

Flotte said he hopes administrators will receive positive pressure to increase efforts in recruitment and community building from himself and other students at the Eagle and the Condor Conference. Although the percentage of students identified as American Indian or indigenous is small, Flotte said the University population is actually greater than reflected because of how census data is considered. When determining University diversity, if a student chooses to identify as Native American and another race or ethnicity, they will automatically be counted in the second category.

Anthropology graduate student Shanya Cordis, who identifies with the Arawak people and is one of the symposium’s seven speakers, said this system concerns her.

“There’s no real point in them counting Native Americans because they’d rather cut their losses in order to make other minorities look bigger,” Cordis said. “As someone who identifies as indigenous and black, for them to categorize me as strictly African-American is to completely disregard my ethnic identity and upbringing.”

At Arizona State University, race determination is based on the same census system, but recruitment of American Indian students has been an important aspect of admissions since at least the early ‘90s, said Annabell Bowen, projects and operations coordinator for American Indian Affairs at ASU. Bowen serves the campus community alongside Diane Humetewa, special adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs.

“ASU made history because I think we’re the only major university that started that position to create a special adviser,” Bowen said. “Because of what we did, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University have created the same position and we have a group that meets together about every two months to discuss how we can collaborate.”

Bowen said ASU sends student ambassadors to the 22 American Indian tribes of Arizona in efforts to reach out to middle school and high school students and create a campus community even before students enter college. In addition to her office, the university also offers resources like tutoring, study lounges and special convocation and awards ceremonies through American Indian Student Support Services. ASU is also home to 16 student organizations celebrating these cultures, including a Native American sorority and fraternity.

Bowen said it is through efforts like these made by her office, AISSS and multiple organizations that American Indian and indigenous students have found a home on ASU’s campus like the one Flotte hopes UT can create. 

Printed on Friday, April 27, 2012 as: Indigenous students express UT concerns

There are massive inefficiencies and areas for cost-savings within Texas higher education. They aren’t in research budgets. They aren’t in ethnic studies departments. They come from some of the offices that are trying to tell us such inefficiencies don’t exist.

Last August, the Goldwater Institute published a study entitled “Administrative Bloat at American Universities” that criticized colleges and universities for the skyrocketing increases in spending on administrative and other non-educational areas over the last 15 years. The study found that at UT, the average salary for administrators was $123,136, compared to $85,910 for faculty.

In response to the report, the UT System office published its own comments on the findings last December. The System’s report extolled that, although the System’s administrative costs had drastically increased over the studied period, they increased at a slower rate than the national average. Interestingly enough, one of the worst offenders was Arizona State University, the same college upon which the current batch of Regents place so much esteem. ASU increased the number of administrators per student by 94 percent over the same period.

However, this type of “we’re bad but not as bad as them” mentality is little more than a finger-pointing contest in a head-in-the-sand attempt to ignore one of the crucial issues facing higher education in this country.

The office of the UT System oversees the nine universities and six medical and health centers that comprise the UT System. Last year, the System offices employed 752 people whose job, according the System’s website, is “to add value on behalf of the UT academic institutions by undertaking certain central responsibilities that result in greater efficiency or higher quality.” Among those employees are a plethora of executive chancellors, vice chancellors and assistant and associate chancellors, 32 of who draw a six-figure salary. All in all, 130 system employees earn more than $100,000 a year.

Furthermore, there is significant overlap in the duties of the System’s various offices and those of the individual universities. The System employs its own staff, for matters such as payroll, information technology and budgeting. Here at UT, we already pay administrators and staff to do essentially the same jobs.

That’s not to say that universities don’t need some degree of business acumen within their administrations. But at what point do those hired to make this University more efficient become a source of inefficiency themselves?

Perhaps the most interesting salary statistic is that the System’s 751 employees cost the state $56,047,537 last year in payroll. The total decrease in state funding the University will experience, depending on which version of the state budget in finally passed, will be between $51 and $63 million.
Last February, the Board of Regents hired Rick O’Donnell and although most of the controversy has revolved around O’Donnell’s proposed reforms, not enough attention has been given to the fact that, while supposedly coping with paralyzing budget cuts, the Regents thought it expedient to create a new high-salary position. Paying a “special adviser” $200,000 to push a political agenda at a time when faculty is being laid off and financial aid is being cut is inexcusable. O’Donnell’s salary vastly surpassed the school’s funding for the Center for East Asian Studies, the Humanities Institute or the Center for Eastern European Studies, all of which had their university funding entirely cut for next year. Or it could have paid for 20 one-year scholarships, which would be sorely appreciated given the anticipated cuts to TEXAS Grants by the state Legislature. Or rather, it would have paid for 20 scholarships this year. The Regents are likely to raise tuition and fees for next year because, after all, times are tough and we all have to make little sacrifices.

There’s no problem with having a discussion about the future of UT and the other six universities within the system. In the future, there may come a time when “blended online learning” or “results-based contracts” are needed to increase the quality of education offered by Texas universities. However, the process of implementing those changes needs to involve all relevant stakeholders, including students, faculty, administrators and residents of this state. A single nonvoting student regent does not constitute student input any more than the nine regents appointed by the governor are reflective of this state’s 25 million constituents.

Instead, these “reforms” are being pondered behind closed doors away from the prying eyes of the affected parties, by a Board and System who seem grossly disconnected with the dollar-and-cents realities that each decision spawns.

The cuts will continue, and inevitably some parties will be left angry and bitter. But those are debates which should be taking place in the public sphere.

All Texans deserve a seat at the table for this conversation. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Regents and their office, it’s invitation only.

— Dave Player for the editorial board 

Student leaders sent a letter to the Board of Regents on Monday urging them to increase transparency and consider student input in the discussions of possible changes to the UT System.

The regents are considering substantial changes to higher education at institutions in the System that would ultimately diminish the quality of education offered by these institutions.

Senate of College Councils President Carisa Nietsche, Student Government President Natalie Butler, Graduate Student Assembly President Manuel Gonzalez and 10 college council presidents signed the letter that identified key discussions and student responses to them.

The most controversial of the reforms threatens research and questions its value. One “reform” proposes separating teaching budgets from research budgets — a change that would prove devastating to faculty and students at the University, a top research institution.

In response, the letter reads, “The value of our institution rests on its cutting-edge research and world-class faculty. ... Diluting the role of research in undergraduate education at UT would decrease the value of the degrees sought by students and would diminish the competitiveness of Texas’ students when applying to jobs and graduate schools across the country.”

This excerpt alone shows that student leaders understand both the significance of research at UT and, more importantly, that the Board of Regents is ignoring student, faculty and alumni input, much of which denounces the suggested reforms.

The little value the regents place on student input was made clear after Butler wrote a letter to the board following a trip to Arizona State University with regents Alex Cranberg and Brenda Pejovich. In her letter, Butler denounced the attempt to model UT after ASU. Shortly after she sent her letter to the Board of Regents, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa wrote to ASU’s president apologizing for Butler’s letter and clarifying that her views do not reflect those of the UT System.

Many of the proposed reforms to the UT System have been embraced by ASU. ASU’s model is attractive for political leaders, including Gov. Rick Perry, who has called for a $10,000 bachelor’s degree plan that would necessitate more online learning to lower the cost of education.

Additionally, the controversy surrounding the hiring and subsequent dismissal of Rick O’Donnell reflects yet again the lack of transparency and consideration of students, administrators and alumni of the UT System. It seemed as though the board heard their criticisms when it dismissed O’Donnell, a former senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation who was hired as a special adviser to the Board of Regents. O’Donnell supported a number of changes to the System, including the separation of teaching from research.

However, just one day after O’Donnell’s dismissal, the board replaced O’Donnell with Sandra Woodley, the former chief financial officer and chief planning officer for the Arizona University System.

At a time when the regents are considering significant changes to the UT System, it is important that students take a stand together in defense of the quality education that UT offers.

Ideally, student opinion would be advocated to the regents through the student regent. Perry recently appointed John Davis Rutkauskas, a Plan II, business honors, finance and French junior, to serve as a student regent from June 1 through May 31, 2012.

But last week, Rutkauskas told The Daily Texan, “The [student regent] position is not about approaching the board as an activist but as an intermediary presenting the students' opinion, rather than demanding action.”

In the face of threats to higher education, his refusal to “demand action” is disconcerting, as the crucial role of a student regent is exactly that.

While it appears Rutkauskas has no plans to advocate for students, it is relieving that student leaders at UT are speaking out against the regents and in support of preservation of quality higher education. The letter is a significant stride toward presenting a united student voice against the suggested reforms.

The regents have made it clear that they only want supportive feedback, but with more students and alumni denouncing the reforms and demanding more transparency, their input will grow increasingly difficult to ignore.

A visit to Arizona State University

“Officials at ASU made it clear that ASU wanted to be an institution defined by its high degree of inclusiveness and ability to manufacture a significant number of degrees at a low cost.”

— Student Body President Natalie Butler on her recent trip to Arizona State University with regents Alex Cranberg and Brenda Pejovich, according to a letter Butler sent the UT System Board of Regents. ASU president Michael Crow has implemented reforms to the university, such as offering more online classes, consolidating academic departments and increasing enrollment in an attempt to build the “New American University.”

“UT-Austin, rather, is defined by its academic rigor, excellence and support for the intellectually curious who are looking to answer the world’s questions.”

— Butler, who grew up six miles from ASU, said she chose to attend UT for its reputation of academic excellence.

“From a student perspective, I value having researchers teach my classes, and my courses in the vast array of disciplines have added immeasurable worth to my education.”

— Butler on the importance of research in the classroom.

Perry speaks

“I’m amazingly happy with the boards of regents across the state of Texas.”

— Gov. Rick Perry on the extreme joy that the boards of regents have brought him, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

“I’ll be honest. I’m not spending a lot of time looking for new forms of revenue in the state of Texas.”

— Perry on the budget and non-tax revenue, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Debating concealed carry

“Frankly, I do not hold sway over the person standing next to me in the produce aisle whether or not they get to go to medical school. Here at the University of Texas, I do.”

— Associate biology professor Molly Cummings on the implications of concealed carry in the classroom at a debate held by TIP scholars Wednesday night, according to The Daily Texan.

“The funny thing [is], these people who have these licenses are so law-abiding.”

— Kory Zipperer, vice president of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.