Francisco Cigarroa

President William Powers Jr. is stepping down from his position as president, effective June 2015. Powers has held this position since February 2006.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Members of the UT presidential search advisory committee have begun interviewing candidates to replace President William Powers Jr., who announced in July he would be resigning after the end of this school year.

An advisory committee is working with consulting firm Spencer Stuart in the search for Powers’ replacement. According to a tentative timeline on the UT System website, the committee is conducting first and second rounds of interviews with candidates and will be making recommendations to the Board of Regents by the end of January. 

UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said the committee is on schedule to meet the January deadline; however, the Board of Regents is waiting until February to release the names of the candidates they decided to interview.

The committee is led by Pedro Reyes, System executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Larry Faulkner, UT-Austin president emeritus. The rest of the committee is comprised of members representing the Board of Regents, the UT System, the campus’ Dean Council, faculty, staff and Texas Exes. Geetika Jerath, international relations and global studies senior and president of the Senate of College Councils, represents the student body on the committee. 

In July, Powers announced his plan to resign in a letter to former UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. In the letter, Powers said he would remain at his post through the end of the legislative session in an effort to make the change of leadership more gradual and review legislation he felt would benefit the University. 

“For all these reasons, an abrupt change now would seriously disrupt the progress of UT-Austin,” Powers said in the letter. “A more constructive course of action would be for me to step down as President at the conclusion of the legislative session.”

Powers’ announcement came after the System released findings of its own limited investigation into legislative influence over admissions. That inquiry, conducted by two System officials, found no evidence of wrongdoing, but determined instances where letters from legislators sent directly to Powers or a dean likely influenced the admissions process. Cigarroa initially told Powers to resign by October, but, after students voiced their support for Powers, Cigarroa released a statement stating Powers should remain in his position to complete his last initiatives for UT. However, Cigarroa said that UT was due for a change in leadership.

“While ultimately productive, the past years have not been without struggle and, at times, conflict and controversy,” Cigarroa said.

Cigarroa said that, despite the timing of the call for resignation, there was no single reason behind his decision to ask for Powers’ resignation but rather a series of problems.

“There was no single incident that prompted my decision to ask President Powers for his resignation last week, but a long history of issues with communication, responsiveness and a willingness to collaborate,” Cigarroa said.

In accordance with System rules, the committee will make the final recommendations for potential candidates to the Board of Regents, which will make the final decision on who will replace Powers.

Outgoing Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa will leave his position in January. The UT System Board of Regents honored Cigarroa at a meeting Thursday.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

EL PASO — The UT System Board of Regents honored outgoing Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and approved the establishment of a doctoral nursing program at UT during a meeting Thursday.

Held in El Paso to celebrate the 100th anniversary of UT-El Paso, Thursday’s meeting served as Cigarroa’s last meeting as chancellor, barring any specially called meetings. Cigarroa will step down from his position in December to return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center-San Antonio.

“He’s returning full-time to his first love — transplant surgery,” Chairman Paul Foster said at the meeting. “He never really left it. He’s been the hardest working chancellor in America for the last six years — leading the UT System and performing surgery a few times a month.”

Cigarroa previously served as president of UT Health Science Center-San Antonio before being hired as chancellor in 2009.

“I set out on this remarkable journey with the trust and the support of the Board of Regents, and, for that, I am exceedingly grateful,” Cigarroa said in a speech to the board. “We have truly made higher education in Texas more accessible, and we have made it more affordable to the hundreds of thousands of students who seek a better future.”

Retired Naval Adm. William McRaven will succeed Cigarroa as chancellor in January. McRaven graduated from the University with a degree in journalism in 1977 and is known for overseeing the operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

“He is an experienced and effective leader with impeccable integrity and a long and distinguished career of service to our nation,” Cigarroa said. “Bill McRaven has my full support, and the System will be in excellent hands.”

After honoring Cigarroa, the regents approved to establish a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program at the University.

“This is a professional program, and it is a professional program motivated and designed for workforce needs,” President William Powers Jr. said during a presentation to the board Wednesday.

There are currently 11 doctoral nursing programs in Texas — but none in Central Texas. The program will provide additional doctoral preparation to nurses who will be able to serve as clinical faculty in other nursing programs across Texas. Nationally, only 14 percent of nurses have a master’s degree
or higher.

Powers said the program would start with 12 students but grow to 20. Tuition is expected to start at $30,000 for five semesters. He said the program would be self-supporting, since its revenues are expected to cover all costs associated with the program — including faculty and staff compensation, materials and required University and student fees, according to the agenda book.

At the regents’ meeting Wednesday, Bruce Zimmerman, CEO and chief internal officer of the UT Investment Management Company, announced that System endowment funds invested in stocks, bonds and equity interest had a 15.1 percent return for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31. 

“I am pleased to report such strong investment returns for the previous fiscal year, which generated approximately $4 billion in additional financial resources for the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems,” Zimmerman said. “Over the past decade, investment returns have surpassed
$15.5 billion.”

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa speaks at the Student Government meeting Tuesday evening.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Francisco Cigarroa, outgoing UT System chancellor, addressed Student Government at its meeting Tuesday and said he had fulfilled his goals in his more-than five years as chancellor.

Cigarroa, who will leave his role in January to return to practicing medicine, said he approached his role as chancellor using skills he learned as head of pediatric surgery at UT Health Science Center-San Antonio.

“In order to excel in any administrative position you need to set priorities,” Cigarroa said. “And that was exceedingly important in the role of chancellor because the System is so large.”

When he became chancellor in 2009, Cigarroa said he met with the 15 presidents of the System’s institutions and decided to work toward making UT the finest public university in America, improving the health of Texas, establishing a larger System campus in South Texas and making System institutions leaders in the field of engineering and energy.

Cigarroa said he achieved all of this during his time as chancellor. He especially noted the importance of the Dell Medical School and improvements to the engineering programs in achieving his priorities.

“A school of medicine is such an unbelievable engine for innovations that integrates itself across all fields and disciplines in a great university like UT-Austin,” Cigarroa said.

In 2013, the state combined UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American into a single institution, now known as UT-Rio Grande Valley, which will open fall 2015. Cigarroa said additional plans for a medical school for that campus will help to improve the area and contribute positively to research and the reputation of the System.

“It’s going to change the landscape and the human impact of South Texas forever,” Cigarroa said.

Cigarroa said the engineering program will further improve its environmental efforts as it continues to examine the field in West Texas.

“We really looked at how we are stewarding from West Texas land. … We’re in the process of appointing a world-class director who really knows how to run oil and gas,” Cigarroa said.

These efforts and others combined showed Cigarroa that he had fulfilled his goals at the University and was ready to step down come Jan. 4.

“I think the combination of the Dell [Medical School], our investments in engineering and the additional STARS funding will position the University of Texas at Austin as America’s finest public university,” Cigarroa said.

Cigarroa did not address UT-Austin President William Powers Jr.’s resignation in his speech. Cigarroa received backlash from many students, including SG leaders, when news broke in July that he asked Powers to resign. Powers and Cigarroa later agreed to set Powers’ resignation date for
June 2015.

After Cigarroa’s speech, SG representatives proposed two new pieces of legislation.

The first legislation stated SG is in opposition of Secure Communities, a program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that sets guidelines for the detainment of immigrants for illegal offenses. The assembly sent the address to SG's Legislative Affairs Committee

“It was established to find violent, undocumented criminals, but it has overwhelmingly failed in its mission,” University-wide representative Taral Patel said.

The second resolution states SG stands behind the core values of Longhorn football head coach Charlie Strong and was sent to the Student Affairs Committee.

This story has been updated with information about the resolutions.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

In a public interview with The Texas Tribune on Thursday, UT System Regent Wallace Hall said the Travis County district attorney will take his case to a grand jury to investigate him for his alleged release of confidential student information.

In a room filled with both supporters and critics, Hall said he takes student privacy seriously and denied committing any acts of wrongdoing.

“It would be nicer if they closed the file and moved on, but I’ll go through the process,” Hall said. “I am very comfortable with all the actions that I took with those documents.”

In April, the district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit opened a criminal investigation. Thursday, after the event, a district attorney spokesman confirmed the case against Hall will be brought before a grand jury in the coming weeks. 

The allegations stem from Hall’s personal investigations into the University, from which he brought up issues with the University’s admissions process. In July 2013, after going through thousands of University documents, Hall found two emails that led to a System inquiry into legislative influence in the University’s admissions. While the inquiry found no systematic wrongdoing, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa commissioned an external investigation into admissions in July.

Hall said the primary reason he conducted his investigation and announced his findings to the Board of Regents was because of his desire for transparency in the admissions process.

“If we want the senators and House representatives to be able to get people into universities, let’s just be up front about it,” Hall said. “That’s what I’m pushing for.”

After state legislators accused him of overstepping his authority, Hall became the subject of a House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations investigation in June 2013. A year and two months later, the committee censured Hall, citing, among other actions, his alleged disclosure of personal student information to his lawyers. 

“The committee today — at length — sets out its understanding that Mr. Hall’s actions have crossed the line from remaining informed and engaged to violating his regental and fiduciary duties,” the document states. “Not only did Mr. Hall’s demands and conduct create a toxic environment on the University of Texas at Austin campus and within the System, but the manner in which that conduct was undertaken was simply not constructive taken as a whole.”

Paul Hastings, one of the event attendees and a senior at Thomas Edison State College, believes Hall is innocent and started making and selling pro-Wallace Hall T-shirts with slogans like “Hook ’em Wallace” and “Keep Calm and Wallace On.”

Hastings said his family is from Thailand, where people need political connections to receive basic needs, such as health care, instead of just for getting into college. Hastings said in a country like the U.S., which is supposed to stand for truth and justice, Hall should be regarded as a hero.

“Wallace Hall is being reprimanded for doing the right thing,” Hastings said.

Hall also believes in his own innocence. During their discussion Thursday, he told Evan Smith, editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune, that since the committee’s decision in August, he has continued to be “unabated” in conducting his System governing duties.

“I certainly don’t feel in any way diminished,” Hall said. “If the transparency committee truly thought that I had violated the law, shouldn’t they have brought articles of impeachment against me?”

Photo Credit: Aaron Berecka | Daily Texan Staff

In accepting the UT System’s operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the Board of Regents approved Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s proposal Thursday to utilize more of the System’s endowment to offset the lack of in-state tuition increases.

Prompted by Gov. Rick Perry, the Board of Regents decided in May against increasing in-state tuition costs at the University and the other eight System academic campuses.

Following the decision in May, Cigarroa and Scott Kelley, executive vice chancellor for business affairs, devised a plan to offset the cost of not raising tuition. Their now approved proposal will allocate $28.2 million in recurring revenue from the Available University Fund, or AUF, toward the University.

"A lot of work went into that offset plan and a lot of different scenarios were looked at," Chairman Paul Foster told reporters after the meeting Thursday. "One of the challenges was coming up with a plan that was recurring."  

The AUF stems from the public endowment known as the Permanent University Fund, or PUF, which is funded by the proceeds from the sale of oil, gas, sulfur and water royalties in West Texas and then invested in the form of stocks, bonds and equity interest. The return on these investments becomes the AUF, which is used to support both UT and Texas A&M University institutions.

Because UT-Austin is the only System institution that can directly receive AUF money, the System will cover costs and activities traditionally undertaken by the eight other UT academic campuses. The System intends to pay for costs related to property insurance and information technology and assume management of internal audit functions and digital library services, opening up $31 million for those institutions to use.

"It’s a very strategic initiative, so we don’t have to increase tuition for our students," Cigarroa said.

The regents also approved a one-time 1.5 percent increase in PUF distribution to AUF for the 2014 fiscal year. The decision brings the fiscal year’s distribution rate up to 7 percent. With the additional money available, the nine System academic institutions will each present proposals to Cigarroa over the next six months to show how they will use the money to increase both online and campus enrollment.

"Our revenues and the values of the our assets in West Texas have grown substantially in recent years to allow for a larger endowment," Foster said. "Our campuses have needs. We’re trying to increase access, which really means increasing enrollment. We’re trying to make an education available to a lot more kids, and we’ve got to find ways to fund that."

UT spokesman Gary Susswein said the University will review how it could spend the additional funding.

"We hope that this additional funding gives us what we need to maintain our levels of excellence at UT-Austin," Susswein said.

Overall, the System’s 2015 fiscal year budget will increase by $888 million in revenue to a total of $15.9 billion and increase by $1 billion in expenses to a total of $15.6 billion. The University will have a 6.8 percent increase in its share of the budget, totaling to more than $2.5 billion.

In discussing the budget with the regents, Cigarroa said the increase for the University accounts for the accommodation of the Dell Medical School and a more accurate research budget, which he said was under-budgeted for the 2014 fiscal year.

At Thursday's meeting, the regents approved the creation of a neuroscience institute, an engineering institute in Houston and allocated more than $2.5 million to expanding System-wide suicide prevention programs for students.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/ The University of Texas at Austin, Marsha Miller

Naval Adm. William McRaven officially became the UT System’s next chancellor Thursday.

After naming McRaven sole finalist to succeed outgoing Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa in late July, the Board of Regents officially elected McRaven to the position at its meeting Thursday. In accordance with state law, the regents must name any finalist 21 days before selecting a chancellor.

McRaven, who graduated from the University with a journalism degree in 1977, is known for overseeing the operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. Addressing the regents with a short speech, McRaven highlighted some tenets set out by Cigarroa in his 2011 "Framework for Advancing Excellence."

"When people around Texas, around the nation and around the world think of the UT System — 'greatness' should be the first word that comes to mind," McRaven said. "This university system should be known for producing tomorrow’s leaders in every field of endeavor."

McRaven also cited demographics, technology and funding as major areas of change he noticed from his time in the military.

"We must not only keep up with the pace of change," McRaven said. "We must lead the change."

Set to begin his tenure as chancellor on Jan. 5, 2015, McRaven will receive an annual salary of $1.2 million — which is $337,500 more than Cigarroa currently receives. McRaven will also receive $400,000 annually in deferred compensation and a one-time payment of $300,000 to cover moving expenses.

Reporting to the regents, McRaven will oversee the System and be in charge of its operations.

Cigarroa, who announced his resignation in February to return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, will continue to hold the position until December.

The selection of the next chancellor comes more than a week after Regent Wallace Hall was censured by a state house committee on Aug. 11. Hall, who the committee had been investigating for more than a year, has been accused by state legislators of overstepping his authority by his filing of large records requests to the University, violating federal student privacy laws and working to remove President William Powers Jr. Hall is also being investigated by the Travis County District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit.

In early July, Cigarroa received negative backlash from students, faculty members and alumni after news broke of his request for Powers to resign by October. Cigarroa cited communication and trust issues with Powers as his reasons for the request. Cigarroa and Powers later agreed to set Powers' resignation for June 2015.

McRaven will join the System in December as "chancellor-designate" to begin transitioning to his new role. He will retire his current position as U.S. special operations commander on Aug. 28.

This story has been updated since its original publication.

Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, speaks with the press after a regular board meeting on April 30. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Paul Foster, UT System Board of Regents chairman, and Regent Jeffery Hildebrand said they "strongly disagreed" with Moody's Investor Services determining recent tensions in the System were “credit negative” in a recent analysis.

"It is important to point out that the UT System not only holds an Aaa rating – the highest possible rating from Moody’s – but also AAA ratings from Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor’s Corporation," Foster and Hildebrand said in a joint statement.

Released on Monday, Moody's analysis determined recent conflicts within the System, such a house committee's recent censure of Regent Wallace Hall in August, warranted the “credit negative” since they could affect the System’s financial position and the ability of the University to attract top-level candidates to replace President William Powers Jr. 

The System announced in July that Powers had reached an agreement with Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to step down from his position in June 2015. The deal was made after Cigarroa originally asked Powers to resign in October.

In their statement, Foster and Hildebrand said a search committee will soon be announced to find “distinguished and capable” candidates for University president and cited the regents' selection of Naval Adm. William McRaven as sole finalist to replace Cigarroa. In December, Cigarroa will step down to return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The board is expected to officialy name McRaven as the System's next chancellor at its meeting on Thursday.

House transparency committee co-chairs and state Reps. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and Dan Flynn, R-Canton, address the media after a meeting on May 12. The committee determined by a 7-1 vote that there are sufficient grounds for UT System Regent Wallace Hall's impeachment. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

After investigating Regent Wallace Hall for more than a year, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations voted 6-1 to issue him an "admonishment and censure" on Monday.

The decision came after the committee met for almost four hours in executive session. One of the committee's co-chairs, state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, said Hall is the first regent on a public university governing board to be censured in the state's history.

"It will go with him the rest of his life. I don't know that anyone wants to have that mark on their business record," Flynn said to reporters after the meeting. "I think it sends a strong message."

In June 2013, the committee began investigating Hall, who had filed multiple large records requests to the University, after state legislators accused him of overstepping his authority as regent and working to remove President William Powers Jr.

The committee hired well-known Houston attorney Rusty Hardin as its special counsel and heard testimony from various System and University officials, including Powers and Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. Instead of issuing a subpoena, the committee invited Hall to testify. Hall declined and never testified before the committee during the investigation.

In May, the committee determined grounds for Hall’s impeachment exist in a 7-1 vote. While the committee had discussed drafting specific articles of impeachment against Hall following the vote, multiple members suggested issuing a public censure as an alternative at a July meeting.

The censure document, primarily written by state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, finds fault with Hall's “ends-justifies-the-means approach" to investigating issues at the University and the UT System.

“The committee today at length sets out its understanding that Mr. Hall's actions have crossed the line from remaining informed and engaged to violating his regental and fiduciary duties," the document states. "Not only did Mr. Hall’s demands and conduct create a toxic environment on the University of Texas at Austin campus and within the System, but the manner in which that conduct was undertaken was simply not constructive taken as a whole."

The 28-page document also lists and describes some of the committee's findings on Hall's actions, including an incident in which Hall allegedy violated federal student privacy laws. Based on an earlier report from Hardin detailing the alleged violation, the Travis County District Attorney's office opened a criminal investigation into Hall in April.

In a statement, Hall criticized the document and said the state legislature's oversight of the System is "improper interference."

"The committee's findings are based on distortions, untruths, and intentional misrepresentations," Hall said. "Intimidation of non-paid public servants by an 'experimental' committee should not be tolerated by the public, the media, or other Texas officials."

Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, addressed his issues with the document in a statement released after the meeting, saying the committee's finding that the board "lost instiutional control" was inaccurate. Foster, who asked Hall to resign in May, also said the System does not believe Hall violated any state law or System rule.

"While I and others may not always concur with the style and methods employed by Regent Wallace Hall, I will affirm that he has always diligently worked to further what he sees as the best interests of the UT System," Foster said.

Gov. Rick Perry, who has expressed his support for Hall throughout the investigation, said he hoped the censure would end the matter in a statement on Monday.

"I hope today closes this ugly chapter and Regent Hall's critics can stop wasting time and start focusing on what's important, ensuring higher education is affordable, accessible and accountable to all Texans," Perry said.

The committee's other co-chair, state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said pursuing Hall’s impeachment is not off the table.

"A vote of censure is not a vote against impeachment,” Alvarado said. “However, we believe our investigation would benefit by taking some formal action at this time.”

After the meeting, Alvarado said new evidence or the district attorney's investigation could prompt the committee to take further action against Hall.

If he were to be impeachmed, Hall would be the first nonelected official in the state's history to face such action. Hall's term expires in February 2017. Both Cigarroa and Powers will leave resign from their positions in Decemeber and June 2015, respectively.

According to the censure document, the committee will maintain "full jurisdiction and continuing oversight" of the System. Alvarado said while the committee will begin looking into to other matters for the first time since its invesitgation in to Hall began, state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, and Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, will be responsible for monitoring issues at the System.

State Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, gave the lone vote against the censure. After the meeting, Perry said he was cautious of the committee micromanaging the UT System. In May, he also voted against grounds for Hall’s impeachment existing. State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, was absent for Monday's meeting.

This article has been updated throughout since its original publication.

UT President William Powers Jr. at the Dell Medical School groundbreaking Monday.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

The search for the next president of the University was jump-started last week as a finalist for the position of UT System chancellor was named. Assuming no truly frightful skeletons emerge from Admiral William H. McRaven’s closet in the three-week waiting period mandated by state law, his ascension to the post is all but certain.

But why does that matter at the University level?

Early last month, news leaked that Francisco Cigarroa, the current chancellor of the 15-campus university system, had given UT President William Powers Jr. an ultimatum: step down or risk being fired. Ultimately, Powers was “spared” in the sense that Cigarroa agreed to let him resign next June. Tensions between Powers; Cigarroa; the regents, who choose the chancellor and president, approve University investments, set tuition rates and oversee contract negations; and Gov. Rick Perry, who appointed the current crop of regents, had long been simmering largely over Powers’ resistance to a number of market-driven proposals introduced in 2008 to change higher education in Texas. Since 2008, the feud has at times devolved into farce, as when Regent Wallace Hall embarked on a witch hunt against Powers that saw him pull in hundreds of thousands of pages of documents that cost the University close to $1 million to provide. It still isn’t entirely clear what leverage Cigarroa thought he had last month to deliver the death blow to Powers. Some have speculated that it may have involved new information regarding Powers’ role in what has been called an admissions “scandal” to admit to the University the underqualified acquaintances of state legislators. When asked in writing for help in securing such applicants admission to the University, Powers had been known to pass along the letter to the admissions office and respond with a form letter. Given the lack of any further information, we doubt that any smoking gun actually exists.

Now that Powers has announced his resignation, the regents will begin to search for his replacement, a task that will be made much easier by the presence of a leader at the helm of the System. While the plan all along was for Cigarroa’s replacement to be in place before Powers’, McRaven’s selection will likely do two things: catalyze interest in the position and give it direction. The mere presence of a leader will lend an air of security and stability, while onlookers until now on the fence about applying will begin to self-select as a result of McRaven’s military credentials. Some may appreciate his leadership ability while others of a purely academic bent may turn their noses up at his lack of academic credentials. 

It remains to be seen exactly what effect the appointment of McRaven will have, so students should pay close attention this fall.

In this podcast, Jacob Kerr, Amanda Voeller and guest Nick Castillo discuss the UT System Board of Regents naming Naval Adm. William McRaven the sole finalist to replace Francisco Cigarroa as chancellor. They also talk about media reports on Texas football coach Charlie Strong removing multiple players off the football team for violating his list of core values and Abigail Fisher's request for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear her case against the University's admissions policy en banc.