Max Richards

Max Richards is the current UT System student regent. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Most individuals on campus are indubitably familiar with, for example, the SG President, Kori Rady. More astute followers will likely recognize a plethora of other names of active students on campus, which are mentioned time and time again in the pages of this newspaper. One name that is likely not familiar is Max Richards, the student regent for the UT System. Richards, who took office last year, has not made much of an impact in these tumultuous past few months for the board. In fact, a cursory search of his name shows that it has not made its way into the Texan since his nomination. 

One possible reason is the backdoor way that Richards came into office. A 2005 law passed by the Texas Legislature suggests that applicants to student regent positions apply to their respective student government organizations first. Richards — as well as his predecessor, Nash Horne — completely ignored this prerogative and applied directly to the office of then-Governor Rick Perry. Predictably, the move prompted condemnation from pertinent student groups, including this editorial board. 

However, the move has also angered a bipartisan caucus of concerned onlookers in the Legislature. As the Texan has reported, a pair of bills in both respective houses of the legislature seeks to formally forbid student regent applicants from applying directly to the governor’s office. State Rep. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, and state Sen. Judith Zaffrini, D-Laredo, the respective authors of said bills, noted that they wish to both improve the quality of student regents and return more decision-making power back to the students themselves. 

Granted, Gov. Greg Abbott’s track record on issues pertaining to this University has been significantly better than his predecessor’s, but we still strongly believe, nonetheless, that the state’s chief executive should not usurp one of the few remaining opportunities for students to contribute to the administration of their universities. We support these bills, HB 1256 and SB 42, respectively, and urge the Legislature to pass them swiftly. 

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Legislature is working to redefine the student regent application process, requiring student regents to apply through student government before applying to the governor’s office.

If passed, the bills, SB 42 and HB 1256, will prevent students who apply for the student regent position from applying directly to the governor’s office at their respective institution without input from student government.

In 2014, System student regent Max Richards was appointed to his position by the governor’s office. Richards did not apply through UT’s student government. Richards’ predecessor, Nash Horne, also applied directly to the governor’s office.

After multiple attempts, Richards could not be reached for comment on the bills.

The legislature passed a bill creating the student regent position in 2005. The bill states student governments within the system should nominate students each year for a one-year term at the student regent position. These nominees are then pooled with others across the system and submitted to the governor’s office for consideration. 

According to Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), who filed SB 42 in November, The University of Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech systems have all had student regents appointed who applied directly to the governor.

“Despite the clarity of the existing statutory language, there have been reports of student regents being appointed after applying not to their student governments, as required by statute, but directly to the governor,” Zaffirini said in an email.

Rep. J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville), author of HB 1256, said the 2005 version of the bill intended students to apply through student government.

Sheffield said he filed the bill last week because he thinks student regents who apply through student government will be more beneficial to their university system.

“The contribution is dependent upon the regent themselves,” Sheffield said in an email.  “Thus, when students are well-qualified and have followed the intended process at the university level, it seems to me that they would be more likely to positively contribute to the mission of their respective university.”

Cameron Crane, biology senior and 2014 finalist for the student regent position, said he thinks the SG phasing process limits the student regent application pool. 

Crane did not make it through the first round of the University search, but was a finalist when he applied directly to the governor’s office. Crane said that if an applicant does not know the SG members on the selection committee, they might be at a disadvantage against those who do.

“They didn’t know me, so I think that’s why I wasn’t selected, not so much based on my resume and credentials,” said Crane, who is now a natural science representative for SG. “I feel like it’s important to open it up to people and allow everyone who wants to apply directly to [do so].”

SG President Kori Rady said it is important for student regent applicants to gain SG approval because he thinks it adds student input to the student regent selection process.

“I think it’s definitely a good thing to go through the student government process and that it furthers your understanding of what students are interested in,” Rady said.

Max Richards is the current UT System student regent. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Last Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry appointed UT-Austin government junior Max Richards as the UT System’s newest student regent. Though the student member of the board of regents is not granted a vote, they still have the ability to provide valuable student perspectives on System policies and actions. Unfortunately, because Richards did not go through the prescribed vetting process, which Perry ignored completely, it’s hard to know what exactly Richards’ perspective  is, or how it might match up with other students’. What’s easy to see, however, is that for the second year in a row, Perry has disadvantaged the students of the UT System by choosing a candidate who will best suit his interests as opposed to one who will best represent those of students. 

Richards applied for the position through the governor’s office directly. Normally, students apply through their campus’ student government organizations, which then pass on their top applicants to the respective campus president who must approve them and pass them along to the System chancellor who recommends students to the governor. This process results in only the most qualified and involved students — selected by their peers to represent the student voice of the System — being appointed. Although applying to the governor’s office is not against the rules, it allows for applicants that have not been properly vetted to reach the governor’s desk.

Not only is this the second year in a row Perry has selected the student regent from the candidates that applied directly to his office, it is the second year in a row he has selected a UT-Austin student — even though this goes against the System’s own rules for the student regent selection process that the student regent not be from the same campus two years in a row.

Because of Perry’s decision to go against the established policy for selecting a student regent, he has wasted the time of students who applied to their campus’ student governments and also left out qualified students who didn’t realize they were eligible to apply directly to his office. What is the point of having this system to present Perry with the cream of the crop candidates if he is going to ignore anyone who didn’t apply to him directly? 

When this board spoke to the current student regent UT-Austin’s Nash Horne, who was also appointed directly by Perry, about his plans for his role and how to tackle issues facing students, his overwhelming answer was that he wasn’t informed and didn’t know how to resolve them. Maybe if Perry had picked another applicant who was recommended by a student government organization, the regent would have been more informed on the problems facing the System.

Because the flagship campus tends to be at the forefront of regent debate, it easily could be seen as a positive that another Longhorn, Richards, will again have a seat at the table. But Perry’s appointment of another UT-Austin student to this position only alienates the students from the System’s other campuses. Their voices and concerns deserve to be heard just as loudly as our own.

Granted no one student alone, no matter how well qualified, will be able to effect change within the system, especially considering the fact that the student regent is a non-voting member. Despite its shortcomings, however, the role is important — it is the closest any one student can be to the regents who chart the course for UT and the 14 other institutions in the System. That Perry’s appointees are routinely not vetted by their own institutions is a testament to how little he believes students should be a part of their University’s governance. 

Max Richards is the current UT System student regent. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Gov. Rick Perry named UT-Austin government junior Max Richards as the student regent for the UT System Board of Regents on Tuesday. Richards will be the second consecutive student regent from the University, replacing Nash Horne, outgoing student regent and communication studies senior.

Richards was not one of the four finalists for the student regent position, according to documents obtained from the governor’s office by The Daily Texan.

According to System policy, the selection process for the position requires students to apply directly to their student governments. The applications then go to the president of each institution, who submits up to five applications to the UT System. They are then processed through two UT System offices and sent to the chancellor, who sends them to the governor.

Richards said he applied directly to Perry’s office rather than to UT’s Student Government.

According to policies outlined on the System website, the student government from the same institution as the current student regent may not solicit applications for that student regent’s successor.

Nicole Collette, graduate student at UT-Arlington, was one of the finalists for the position. She said she was not aware students could apply directly to the governor’s office. 

“I really don’t have any hard feelings towards the gentleman who was picked,” Collette said. “I wish him the best of luck. I wish UT-Arlington could have gotten some attention because we’re doing some pretty great things here. Maybe [the option of applying to the governor’s office] is something we can address in the future. Hopefully, it won’t be so vague.” 

The student regent, first created in 2005, is a non-voting position on the board, intended to give students representation in board decisions. Richards will serve a one-year term from June 1 until May 31, 2015.

Richards said he appreciates the chance to serve as student regent.

“I’m really excited to be able to give back to the UT System,” Richards said. “This System has given so much to me, and I look forward to making a positive impact.”

Richards, who attended UT-San Antonio his freshman year, said he wants to visit the various UT institutions during his time as student regent.

“I look forward to going to different campuses and exploring issues they face that could be different from UT-Austin,” Richards said. 

Richards said he has always been interested in the board’s activity, but he will use the transition period to update himself on the current issues. He said he is not concerned about the existing tension between President William Powers Jr. and the board. 

“I feel like the System has a whole lot to offer, and I feel confident in the staff and the people that make up UT,” Richards said. “I feel very confident the staff has the best interests of the University in mind.” 

UT-Austin spokesman Gary Susswein said Richards’ appointment is an achievement for the University. 

“This is a great accomplishment for [Richards] and a great reflection on the University,” Susswein said. “It’s always exciting when a UT student gets appointed to positions of leadership and authority.”