UT Board of Regents

The UT System Board of Regents will discuss issues relating to the external investigation of UT’s admissions process by Kroll Associates, Inc., a risk mitigation response firm, at a meeting over telephone conference call Monday. 

The board will discuss a Sept. 8 letter from state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, and Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, announcing their intention to attend or monitor all interviews conducted by Kroll. Following the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations’ censure of Regent Wallace Hall on Aug. 11, the committee announced Martinez Fischer and Larson would continue to monitor the System. 

“While we know that there have been allegations of legislative influence on admissions, we believe that every member of the Legislature is responsible for his or her own actions, and our requests are made solely as part of our official duty as monitors of The UT Board of Regents, The UT System, and UT component institutions,” Martinez Fischer and Larson said in the letter. 

The System conducted its own inquiry into legislative influence over the University’s admissions in July 2013, after Hall brought up issues with two emails he uncovered from one of his record requests to the University. Releasing its report in May, the inquiry found no evidence of a structured system of favoritism or wrongdoing, but determined letters of recommendation sent by legislators to President William Powers Jr. or a dean likely influence the admissions process. 

In June, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced the System would launch a full external investigation of University admissions because of remaining concerns about the process. 

According to the contract between Kroll and the UT System, the firm will complete the investigation by Oct. 15. 

The letter from Martinez Fischer and Larson comes months after board Chairman Paul Foster asked the Texas Legislature in July not to attempt influencing board

“The point is the board has a role,” Foster said after the board’s July meeting. “It’s not political. We’re not politicians. I believe we should be left alone to do our business.”

Photo Credit: Crystal Marie Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

With UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa having turned in his resignation in February, the UT Board of Regents has begun its search for the next Chancellor of the UT system. Like many executive level administrative positions at universities, the qualifications for the position are somewhat ambiguous, with the only clear continuities between past chancellors at UT being their maleness, their business prudence and their masochistic desire to work in close proximity with the regents. 

One large responsibility of the chancellor is to outline a strategic vision for the system in the form of an “action plan.” Chancellor Cigarroa’s was entitled “Framework for Advancing Excellence” — following the common naming principle of picking a present participle and adjective out of a cowboy hat. The plan generally involves some nods to ensuring accessibility and maintaining rigor with a main focus on strategies to make the University more “efficient” and “productive.”

As part of his effort to increase four-year graduation rates, Cigarroa also oversaw the $10 million investment in MyEdu — a company with close ties to former System Chancellor William Cunningham — that students have hailed as a less complete, less useful version of Rate My Professor. 

To help appoint the new chancellor, the regents have contracted Wheless Partners, a consulting firm that locates and recommends individuals for leadership positions, to help with the selection. The regents have also invited students, faculty and staff to make nominations via an anonymous and private suggestion box provided to the public on the Regent’s website.

I, for one, have taken it upon myself to mull over potential candidates and to ultimately make my official recommendation to the regents by entering my candidate’s name into the inviting white abyss that is the aforementioned suggestion box. 

That candidate? Beyonce.

A native Texan and mother of aspiring Longhorn Blue Ivy Carter, Beyonce has what it takes to meet the challenges UT faces today. Voted No. 17 on Forbes list of the most powerful women in the world and sitting atop a net worth of over $350 million, it is clear that Beyonce has the political clout and business knowledge required to lead UT. She is so important to the Ivory Tower that Rutgers University offered up a course dedicated to the study of her and her work alone. Not only would Beyonce be an adequate prop in promoting the system’s core purposes of printing degrees and researching military weaponry in the legacy of her predecessor, but she would succeed in the places he fell short. 

During his tenure as chancellor, Cigarroa identified a major problem area for the UT system: Students just won’t leave, keeping the system’s four-year graduation rates alarmingly low. After all, it is widely recognized that four years is precisely the amount of time it takes for an undergraduate’s head to be filled with knowledge and that an additional period of sustained binge drinking beyond this time frame will cause irreparable damage to the central nervous system. But Beyonce would be able to fix this difficult problem through the power of song. 

First lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to end childhood obesity, for example, has had success by remixing Beyonces “Get Me Bodied” and releasing it in 2011 under the new name “Move Your Body.” Some people, like myself, have suggested that it was the catalyst behind the 43 percent reduction in childhood obesity for kids aged 2-5. Wouldn’t Beyonce be able to apply the power of her voice to the problems facing the UT System today? 

Her 2007 hit single “Check On It” could easily be reworked as “Degree Progress, Check On It” — a college anthem with a sexy beat that would both remind us to keep on track with our required coursework and distract us from the regret we feel each time we run a degree audit for taking all of those enriching electives as underclassmen.

Cigarroa wanted to increase blended and online classes? Beyonce could sell these options to students with ease — just change “Independent Women” to “Independent Learning.” Double majors clogging up the System? “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)” becomes “Single Major (Put a Cap on it).” Really, the possibilities of reworking Beyonce songs to motivate students are endless. Change “Bootylicious” to “UTlicious,” and no one will ever want to be an Aggie again. 

The handful of students that continue to act up and resist efforts to perfect the corporate university will ultimately be made quiet with the adaptation of Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” to “Run the World (Administration).” 

And in the end, given that the UT Board of Regents seems to prioritize just about anything else over allowing students to enjoy a rich and diverse education, will Beyonce’s deficit of academic credentials be any worse than the likely lack of love for education in the chosen candidate? And wouldn’t her power as a marketing tool for just about anything, including the corporatization of education, be a benefit? With that in mind, I ask you to join me in making the UT System the coolest, most capitalist system around. #Beyonceforchancellor.

Griswold is a government senior from Indianapolis.

Editor’s note: Per the TSM election code Section 7.45B, Daily Texan editor-in-chief candidates have the opportunity to publish two columns during their campaigns. The candidates were asked to write one column on the topic specified below and another on a topic of their choice. The columns had to be between 580-620 words. The candidates were responsible for writing their own headlines. For their second column below, the candidates wrote on a topic of their choice.

It’s hard to know exactly how to navigate the West Mall during election season, which ends when voting closes this Thursday at 5 p.m. As the campaigners pass out fliers, call out names and wave signs, it seems as if most students are occupied by questions more along the lines of  “Is it appropriate to throw a flyer away immediately after I receive it?”, “Where the hell is the nearest recycling bin?” and “If I put headphones in, will they leave me alone?” than the question of who they should vote for. 

The student frustration with elections is understandable. In the past week, I’ve been campaigning for campus wide office as a candidate for editor-in-chief of this paper, and in that week, I’ve become newly aware of how difficult it is to reach and interact with students on all corners of campus. It’s understandably hard for the average student to feel a part of a campaign when he or she is one in over 51,000 students, and the low number of students who actually vote reflects this sentiment. Last year, only 8 percent of students voted in the Executive Alliance election. Granted, last year’s election seemed to involve every type of scandal short of drug running and national treason, but the turnout for the previous year was low as well, with only 16 percent of students voting for Student Government president and vice president.

The problem is, whether students vote or not, persons outside our University will look to our elected student leaders to explain, defend and represent this campus. If our Student Government president might be appearing on the nightly news to talk about what UT students want, we might as well elect him or her as the entire 40 Acres and not as a voting block that spans around four acres in all.

Historically, the ability of student leaders to stand up for UT’s values when forces challenge those values has been incredibly important. Back in 1900, for example, Texas Gov. James Ferguson’s disdain for the campus uphill from the Capitol nearly resulted in UT’s closing. When Ferguson vetoed the bill that appropriated funds to UT and attempted to fire the current UT president, student leaders conspired with the president to hold a rally against the governor. Students got their way. Ferguson backed down; our doors are still open today.

In the 1960s, Student Government voted 22-2 to integrate the dormitories, setting the stage for a showdown with the integration-opposing UT System Board of Regents. Students in the same representative positions you’ll elect Wednesday and Thursday cast those 24 votes. And again, the students won, though the battle was hard-fought.

More recently, when the UT Board of Regents started talking about cutting funding for research, then-Student Government president Natalie Butler, along with other student leaders, spoke eloquently about student opposition to such changes in interviews with the media and in an open letter to the Board of Regents.

You may be skeptical that the candidates have the power to bring about promises like better food in dining halls or more parking options on campus. And the truth is, we won’t know if they can until they take office. But one thing’s for certain. Student Government has its greatest moments not when it’s making good on platform points but when it’s standing up for UT students. When changes come to the UT campus, be they from the Tower, the Legislature, or the governor’s office, elected student leaders will be called upon to speak for you. Voting is your chance to make sure you like what they’re saying.

Wright is a Plan II junior from San Antonio.

Deloss Dodds and Bill Powers recommend extending Mack Brown contract

Athletic Director Deloss Dodds and University President Bill Powers recommend on Tuesday to the University Board of Regents that Mack Brown’s contract be extended.

“We want Mack Brown to be The University of Texas football coach for as long as he wants,” Dodds and Powers said in a joint statement. “Consequently, we are recommending that the UT System Board of Regents extend Coach Brown’s contract an additional four years, taking it to 2020.”

Brown’s contract, which expires in 2016, is the only topic on the UT Board of Regents agenda on Thursday. Brown is 141-39 in his 14 years as head coach, and has averaged 10 wins a year during that time. Brown also won a national championship in 2005, and it is safe to say that his impact on the program has been immense in terms of both overall on-field success and financial gain. 

“He has achieved a level of success rare in college athletics and has done so with the class and integrity that embodies The University of Texas at Austin," Dodds and Powers said. “Our football program is in a great place thanks to Mack’s hard work. Mack is as energized as ever, has a great staff and an exciting young team. Our future is very bright.”

“We’re proud of everything Coach Brown does for us and, with this recommendation, are thrilled to have him leading our football program for years to come.” 

State Senator José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, is looking to work with the Board of Regents and the UT System on establishing a set of procedures that will assure cooperation with local officials regarding safety concerns for future events.

Boxer Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. defeated opponent Andy Lee in the seventh round at the Sun Bowl on UT-El Paso’s campus last weekend without any reported incident of drug cartel violence. In May, the fight was cancelled by Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, who cited a “higher than normal” risk assessment with holding the event. It was later reported by the Associated Press that this risk was a concern about cartel presence at the match.

After Cigarroa cancelled the fight, the local El Paso community protested, upset that no local officials had been consulted. Officials like Rodríguez also claimed the town was being discriminated against because it is a border town.

Eventually, Cigarroa said he would allow the fight as long as additional security measures were added and alcohol was not sold at the event.

After the incident, Rodríguez sent a letter to the Board of Regents requesting a set of procedures requiring collaboration with local officials. Rodríguez said the board replied with a desire to work with Rodríguez in the future.

“What I’m basically saying is, ‘Look, if you have concern about another event like this here on our college campus, check with the local authorities, check with the local officials, check with the federal officials before just making a decision,’” Rodríguez said.

Rodríguez said almost 14,000 people attended the fight, which was fewer than UT–El Paso expected. Prior to Cigarroa cancelling and then resuming the fight, as many as 20,000 people were expected to attend.

“We think if they had been allowed to sell beer, then they would have had more people there,” Rodríguez said. “My view is there would have been more people there had there not been that negative publicity on it.”

Authors of a recent Forbes article generated considerable buzz when they promoted a plan for the aggressive privatization of university services. While elimination of state political control may appeal to those put off by the latest rumors of the UT Board of Regents’ dangerous partisanship, sweeping privatization of our campus invites trouble.

Successfully raising donations sufficient to compensate for the elimination of state funding is not the plan’s only hurdle. The predatory practices of the banks and financial firms that now hold contracts with almost 900 colleges and universities—including Arizona State University and Texas A&M University—demonstrate the dangers of excessive privatization.

The Boston-based U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) released a report last month that shed light on the complicated financial and legal issues inherent to universities’ relationships with banks and financial firms. Essentially, financial institutions offer schools incentives, including signing bonuses and direct payments, to privatize financial and administrative functions. The most basic partnerships allow a bank or financial firm to manage “closed loop” monetary functions of student ID cards. These systems, similar to Dine In Dollars or Bevo Bucks, turn student IDs into prepaid cards used to pay for on-campus services.

But most partnerships don’t stop there. Banks and firms are increasingly adding “open loop” functions that tie a student’s ID to his or her bank account and transform it into a debit card. In addition, students with accounts at their university’s partner bank can access financial aid funds more quickly than they could through another bank or traditional checks.

In order to withdraw those funds, however, students often have to pay an ATM fee. These transactions raise a difficult ethical question: Is it acceptable for banks and financial firms to charge students to access taxpayer-provided money? Certainly, any process that funnels tax dollars into corporate coffers should be thoroughly and critically evaluated.

Even more disconcerting, this system acts counter-intuitively by charging unnecessary fees to financial aid recipients, the students by definition least able to afford those fees. In addition to ATM withdrawal fees, many banks and firms charge per-swipe and inactivity fees, forcing students to pay regardless of whether they use their card or not.

The PIRG report also raises concerns about banks’ and firms’ deceptive marketing practices. A partner institution will often “co-brand” on student IDs, placing its logo next to the university’s seal or mascot. Many students register this as their school’s implicit endorsement of a particular bank, and automatically trust that bank more than its competitors. Some bank partners also gain the exclusive rights to table in common areas and give out “freebies” like sweatshirts or mugs. These strategies have the potential to turn naive college students into captive consumers, their choices influenced by what they see on campus and on their own IDs.

Some schools even force students to activate a card by refusing to disburse overpayment refunds, such as excess financial aid, through accounts at any bank other than their partner institution. Finally, PIRG speculates that some universities’ distribution of student information to banks violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

On the bright side, the report notes that UT-Austin is the largest public university without such a contract. Jamie Brown, Department of Student Financial Services spokesman says UT decided not to partner with a specific bank because, “It doesn’t make sense for us to participate in these kinds of programs, especially if we’re trying to educate students on smart spending.” UT follows a traditional financial aid disbursement protocol. The University will either deposit funds directly into a student’s account, at any bank, or simply write the student a check. Although more conventional and less streamlined than a bank partnership, this approach remains the most ethical and straightforward method to distribute financial aid and overpayment refunds.

For most students, college offers the first opportunity to manage their own finances. University-bank partnerships discourage smart shopping and responsible financial practices by limiting choices and normalizing excessive, unfair fees. More universities should follow UT’s example by resisting financial incentives that come at the expense of following through on their responsibility to students.

Lorenza “Lori” Rodriguez, the first Hispanic editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan, was found dead in her home last week. She was 62.

Rodriguez was editor-in-chief from 1971-72, an era when the newspaper was under pressure from the UT Board of Regents. During her tenure, the Texas Students Publications’ 50-year contract neared expiration, and the Board of Regents attempted to push a new contract that would give the them more control of the editorial board. In 1971, the Board of Regents also reduced funding for the Texan.

Despite the obstacles she faced, many who knew her said she dealt with the controversies calmly.

After serving for one year as editor-in-chief of the Texan, Rodriguez went on to work as a columnist and reporter for the Houston Chronicle in 1976. She was one of the first Hispanics on city staff at the Chronicle and retired in 2008 after 32 years of service.

“There was a great deal of uncertainty about the future of the student newspaper and the extent to which students would continue to have a free hand in covering the news and commenting on the news,” said David Powell, who was an assistant editor to Rodriguez in 1971 and succeeded Rodriguez as editor-in-chief the following year. “There was a lot of concern that the regents were trying to stifle the paper from covering the news and commenting on it.”

Although she was outspoken about issues on campus, Powell said Rodriguez was a wonderful person to be around and had a great laugh.

Griff Singer, a senior lecturer at the UT School of Journalism, said when Rodriguez was a student, she asked for advice about how to cover certain issues, not whether they should or shouldn’t be covered.

“I do not recall Lori ever coming to me to bounce a question about editorial or coverage policy,” Singer said. “That was just Lori, and I understood and respected that. She was an outspoken person. You knew what she believed in, and she sought to carry out those beliefs.”

On June 10, 1971, the Texan editorial board wrote under Rodriguez’s leadership in favor of a rule that would prohibit the regents from changing the Texan’s editorial board. In the editoral, the board stated the Texan will resist the regents’ attempts to take Texas Student Publications’ assets.

“The Texan reiterates that we are not going anywhere if it can be prevented,” the editorial said. “If the Texan were to be forced off-campus, it would have to be just that — forced.”

In an editorial later in the summer, the editorial board promised to fight for its rights as an independent newspaper.

“We are not the Athletic Council,” the editorial said. “We are not the Texas Student Union. We are a student newspaper. We are a free and independent press which always has been and still is under the direct management of Texas Student Publications, Inc. And the Daily Texan will fight to remain so.”

Tony Pederson, a former managing editor of the Houston Chronicle, said Rodriguez was a stylist and a storyteller with words.

“She proved to be an invaluable asset in creating a bridge between a mainstream city newspaper and the rapidly growing Hispanic community,” Pederson said. “She wrote stories that no other reporter could get or write and always handled them with sensitivity, taste and style.”

Pederson said his favorite memory of working with Rodriguez was a conversation he had with her in the late 1980s.

“She was incredibly passionate in explaining to me that, in her view, being a writer was the highest calling one could have,” Pederson said. “And she viewed it in the artistic sense of being able to craft a story of meaning and relevance and with a stylistic approach that would please readers.”

Pederson said answering this calling gave Rodriguez personal satisfaction.

“Young journalists should take her passion to heart,” Pederson said. “Even in the digital age, if we forget style and writing, shame on us. Lori would tell us that it’s still storytelling that matters.”

At its meeting Monday, Faculty Council discussed a new University policy, issued Jan. 11, prohibiting camping on University property. Few in attendance doubted what triggered the policy change: the Occupy movement, which is moving nationwide to campuses.

The University cited its commitment to a “clean, aesthetically pleasing, healthy and safe work, educational and living environment” as its rationale for implementing the new rule. Some University officials expressed doubt that UT’s sudden allergy to camp-outs and the Occupy Wall Street Movement were linked, but irrespective of any immediate reasons for the change, its imposition may have worrisome consequences for students’ First Amendment rights in the future.

UT has a long and significant history of student protest, as chronicled by UT Watch.

In October of 1944, when then-University President Homer Rainey fired UT economics professors whose teachings upset the UT Board of Regents, 8,000 students, faculty and staff marched down the Drag in objection to his decision.

Some 15 years later, the first student-led civil rights protest in the University’s history occurred in March of 1960, when black students picketed a Board of Regents meeting to object to their exclusion from much of University student life. A strong and lasting civil rights movement at UT grew and flourished in the ensuing years. In 1961, students staged successful sit-ins in protest of the segregation of the Drag. In October 1965, Students for a Democratic Society held the first student-led, anti-war protest at the University. After the The Daily Texan editorial board supported the march, Frank Erwin, then-chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, threatened to abolish the board.

In 1970, police fired tear gas at the 3,000 UT students, staff and faculty marching in honor of the four students shot by the U.S. National Guard at Kent State University. In response, University officials added landscaping to the West Mall to prevent large groups from congregating in the area.

More recent examples speak to the continued tradition of protest. In 1986, more than 180 people were arrested on the Main Mall after they rallied in a call for more free speech on campus.

In 1997, a UT law professor’s claims that African-American and Mexican-American students were not academically competitive spurred more than 7,000 students, staff and faculty to rally. And fewer than 10 years ago, in 2003, 3,000 students walked out in objection to a potential war in Iraq. The walk-out occurred after students bearing tents and signs camped out for three nights on the Main Mall.

The preceding list is by no means exhaustive, but it makes clear that UT students’ rights to free speech in the form of physical protest constantly defined the social and physical grounds on which UT exists today.

The new anti-camping policy’s stated purpose is that it “allows the University to control University buildings and grounds consistent with the rules and regulations of the Board of Regents ... prohibiting the use of University property or buildings for purposes unrelated to the regular programs and activities of the University.” Some argue that the stated purpose of the Occupy movement is less clear and that the cost of connected campsites to host grounds are clearly high. But this new policy, which excepts University authorized artistic performances, tailgating and camping in times of natural disasters, could be twisted in the future to silence student protest. Without student protests in the past, this University would be a very different place today.

So far, overall student response to the new policy has been nil. Whether you support the Occupy movement or have plans to camp on campus, University officials have daringly revoked your option to do so without much noise made in protest. That itself is cause for alarm. 

Many students, especially during the rushed chaos of registration, have familiarized themselves with the Austin-based website MyEdu.com, an online tool that offers professor reviews, schedule planners and an active forum for students to discuss and exchange recommendations and advice on different courses. The site plays on our generation’s gravitation toward social media, as “more than 75 percent of undergraduates at Austin are already registered with the service,” said MyEdu Senior Vice President Frank Lyman, according to a recent article from Inside Higher Ed. The private company’s growing popularity with students, in combination with the ever-present desire to increase the University’s four-year graduation rate, influenced the UT Board of Regents to partner with My Edu, making a hefty investment of $10 million — 22.5 percent of the entire company.

The investment is wrapped up in the rhetoric of student democracy; positive verbal feedback about MyEdu in general has been used to justify the recently exposed deal. However, two main issues reveal a flawed decision-making process. The investment was made without any prior consultation with UT faculty, and its benefits are grossly overstated, as no substantial evidence about how successful MyEdu would be in improving graduation rates.

“MyEdu will help our students graduate in less time and significantly reduce their overall cost of education,” Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa insisted in a statement. This explanation for the investment heavily simplifies the solution to lingering and complex problems facing the University. Moreover, it is troubling that UT President William Powers Jr., who emphasized the need for higher graduation rates in his State of the University Address, does not support the $10-million investment. According to the Austin American-Statesman, in a speech to UT Faculty Council, Powers stated he would have had “different priorities” for the $10 million and that the decision was one “of the board, not a decision of the campus.”

Additionally, UT faculty are upset that they were not included in the dialogue. Last week’s Faculty Council meeting reflected key concerns expressed by the members. Some faculty members said the information on MyEdu has been “inaccurate” or “out-of-date,” and the site’s emphasis on the historic grade distributions for different courses and professors might encourage students to chart a path of least resistance.”

Although the idealistic notion is that this investment will improve the accuracy of MyEdu, such a considerable investment in a private company should be done with the reassurance that the company is already well-established and known to be effective. From a student’s perspective, the concern about students relying on the grade distribution can be pacified with the knowledge that many students look at more than just this distribution, sharing advice about whether the professor provides useful resources, gives interesting lectures and is generally fair, likable and interested in the success of his students. However, faculty reserve the right to be concerned about what specifically this investment will do. Since it was initially undertaken in such a clandestine manner, there is no reassurance that there will be financial transparency in the specifics of the money distribution.

The decision of the UT Board of Regents to invest in the private company MyEdu appears impulsive, poorly deliberated and, most controversially, exclusive to key officials. Members of the board are scrambling to defend the investment as generous and rationalize the perceived benefits as valuable to professors, students and the reputation of the University. However, even if the decision was made with honorable intentions, the failure to include all previously listed interests in the decision-making process undermines its potential success. More representative debate prior to the investment could have resulted in a decision that ensured the University has its priorities straight in its persistent struggle to tackle issues such as less-than-acceptable graduation rates.

Manescu is an international relations and journalism freshman.

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Rick O'Donnell | Daily Texan Staff

The University of Texas System will pay $70,000 as part of a settlement with a former Board of Regents adviser who officials say was planning to sue the system following his dismissal in April.

Former adviser Rick O’Donnell was employed from March to April and was dismissed by UT administrators following controversy over statements he made criticizing university research efforts. According to the terms of the settlement, the UT System will pay O’Donnell $70,000 and issue him a letter from the Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell stating O’Donnell was inaccurately portrayed by his critics.

“Much of what you were hired to do ... was, as you know, mischaracterized by some and the subject of controversy that was not of your making, a controversy that deflected attention from the mission of your important work,” Powell wrote in the letter.

O’Donnell indicated he had plans to sue if he was unable to reach a peaceful resolution with University officials, UT System Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Barry Burgdorf said in a statement to the Austin American-Statesman Monday.

“It was very clear that he was going to sue the UT System and he had the backing to do it,” Burgdorf said to the Statesman. “It would have cost me a lot more to defend that lawsuit and get it dismissed than we ended up paying.”

Under the settlement, neither O’Donnell or University officials will admit any wrongdoing and both parties agree not to take further legal action against one another.

Powell’s decision to hire O’Donnell on March 1 sparked much controversy as he was set to receive a $200,000 yearly salary during a period of budget cuts and hiring freezes in the UT System. The Board of Regents later shifted O’Donnell from his role of advising University administrators on efficiency and effective teaching techniques to a temporary position scheduled to end on Aug. 31.

O’Donnell’s affiliation with local think tank the Texas Public Policy Foundation also received public criticism. In 2008, O’Donnell wrote a policy paper for the organization criticizing publicly funded academic research and claiming it has “few tangible benefits.”

“I looked at the return on scientific research as measured by available data such as income royalties and licenses on patents,” O’ Donnell said in a letter to the Board of Regents on March 25. “Whether we want the attention or not, it seems clear that questions on productivity, efficiency, and accountability for our research universities and research expenditures are being asked.”