Thomas Gilligan

Red McCombs, San Antonio businessman and UT alumnus and donor, spoke about his career in sports ownership at the John B. Connally Center for Justice on Friday. McCombs also discussed the state of Longhorn football and its future.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Last week, protesters gathered outside the office of Thomas Gilligan, the dean of the McCombs School of Business. The protesters were upset over the school’s namesake, Red McCombs, participating in a business deal to build the country’s largest immigration detention center. The South Texas Family Detention Center, where undocumented immigrants would be processed prior to deportation, will be built on land that McCombs’ real estate company leased to the federal government. 

McCombs, a prominent booster to the University, is no stranger to controversy. His previous business deals have drawn the ire of environmentalists, and comments he made last year about incoming football coach Charlie Strong prompted a quick apology. But at a time of growing national attention to the U.S. immigration system, McCombs is wrong to work so closely with the authorities on this matter, not only because this jail-like system does not work, but also because these facilities have become infamous for neglect and abuse, including sexual assaults.

The proposed facility, which Gilligan reportedly told protesters he was concerned about, would be built on a swath of land in Dilley, southwest of San Antonio, and would not host criminals or otherwise dangerous individuals who should be removed from society. It would be a giant processing center for families accused of the civil violation of unauthorized entry into this country.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama took audacious and much needed steps to fix parts of our immigration system. Among them was using the Department of Homeland Security’s prosecutorial discretion to focus much less on families and nonviolent offenders, and more on people who actually pose threats to society.

“Felons, not families. Criminals, not children,” Obama said, when identifying the people whom both the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should specifically focus on deporting. Unfortunately, families are the target population of the detention center. 

Additionally, these facilities, often with minimal oversight, have become epicenters of neglectful behavior. Just last month, female detainees at a nearby center in Karnes County alleged systematic and widespread sexual abuse at the hands of guards at the privately run facility.

These new facilities represent the opposite direction this country should go in on the immigration issue. McCombs should take protesters’ advice and divest himself from this plan.

Alumna Deborah Alemu speaks to media about Red McCombs’ involvement with the construction of an immigrant detention facility. The facility, set to be built in Dilley, Texas, will be the largest in the country.

Photo Credit: Mariana Munoz | Daily Texan Staff

A group of protesters met with Thomas Gilligan, dean of the McCombs School of Business, on Monday to ask him to request the school’s namesake, Red McCombs, break his real estate firm’s lease that will pave the way for the construction of the biggest immigrant detention facility in the nation. 

The real estate firm, Koontz McCombs, signed the lease with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Corrections Corporation of America to build the facility in Dilley, Texas. The facility, named the South Texas Family Detention Center, projects a capacity of 2,400 detainees and is part of a government effort to address the surge of children and families illegally immigrating to the U.S.  

The group of protestors, which included students, sought to speak with the dean about the business school’s position on the subject. Cristina Parker, immigration projects coordinator at Grassroots Leadership and one of the six protesters who spoke with Gilligan, said one of her main concerns was McCombs’ involvement with the facilities. 

“I think we all have a claim to UT as Texans, and we want to talk to him about our concerns,” Parker said. “It’s problematic for us that a man whose name is on the building is profiting from a modern day internment camp.” 

Parker and other immigration advocates said detention facilities, which are located across the country, put the detainees through conditions that should be considered violations of human rights. Allegations of sexual assault and abuse led the Obama administration to end immigrant family detention at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, which is also located in Texas and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America.  

“We felt really disgusted that such a big representative of UT is McCombs, and he is associated with this deal,” protester Claudia Munoz said. “We’re here to ask peacefully that the dean uses that relationship to tell [McCombs] that it’s his responsibility to stand up for immigrant families and children.” 

According to Munoz, the dean told the group he will reach out to McCombs about the lease. She said Gilligan stated he is against the system of the detention centers and believes McCombs will listen to the claims of the protesters. 

While University officials would not confirm what Gilligan said during the meeting, UT spokesman J.B. Bird said Gilligan shared the protesters’ concerns with McCombs. 

Munoz, who was detained in Detroit for 20 days, said she is proof that the stereotype of detainees in the facilities being criminals is false because she has a clean criminal record. According to Munoz, McCombs’ relationship with the facility could compromise the integrity of the University. 

“To think that children would have to be put through that experience is horrifying,” Munoz said. “We have a deep investment in making sure that UT remains the institution that my nephews and nieces want to go to school to.” 

Dave Kalloor, a protester and UT alumnus, said he believes McCombs and University officials need to take into account the message they are sending if they play a role in the establishment of a facility that harms children and families. 

“The motto of the University is ‘what starts here changes the world,’ but what McCombs needs to decide is whether he wants to change the world for the worse or the better,” Kalloor said.

The UT System Board of Regents granted permission to the University to negotiate the purchase of another piece of land at its meeting Wednesday, according to The Daily Texan. The land is in the area currently leased by Schlotzsky’s Deli on 20th and Guadalupe streets.

This news comes less than a week after the University purchased a parcel of land located one block south, currently where Players Restaurant stands. The purchase came with a little bit of help from the McCombs School of Business Foundation, an independent educational foundation meant to financially support the business school.

The two areas of land are located right next to the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, which is partially owned by the school.

All recent actions lead to an inevitable expansion of the business school.

Despite the unparalleled time commitment navigating a complex state institution takes, laying the foundations for a new building at the same meeting in which a proposal to raise tuition by 2.6 percent is being challenged is tragically ironic.

The business school has a deeper donor base than any other school on campus. But every new building is partly funded by a loan taken out by the college, and the interest and principal of the loan is typically paid by that entity. Most of that money comes from students.

At some point, we have to question whether one of the most financially sound colleges on campus needs a new building or whether the creation has more to do with creating a legacy for a dean — in this case, Thomas Gilligan.

Gilligan, who served at the University of Southern California before coming to UT in 2008, has expressed troubling views on tuition in the past. Earlier this year at a town hall meeting at the business school, Gilligan said he believes that tuition is “inelastic to demand” — in other words, no matter the price, people will pay for it.

Asking students to foot the bill for a building they may never use is untimely at best. If the regents do decide to raise tuition, Gilligan’s island will continue to drift even further offshore.

CEO of BBVA Compass Bank Manolo Sanchez, right, discusses issues of ethics and public image with business school dean Thomas Gilligan, left, Wednesday evening in the UTC. Sanchez hopes to improve society’s negative view and mistrust of banks.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

The McCombs School of Business brought a major figure in global banking to campus Wednesday to address recent financial crises and their affects on his bank.

BBVA Compass CEO Manuel Sanchez spoke to students of all majors as part of the business school’s VIP Speakers Series. Business school dean Thomas Gilligan said BBVA Compass is a strong partner with UT and that the bank has made over half a million dollars in gifts to the University. The company also hires many UT alumni, he said.

The purpose of the series is to allow students to learn from role models of business success, said Olivia Luko, a management information systems senior who helped organize the event.

“This is a really crucial event because all UT students can see an image of what they have the potential to become,” Luko said. “Mr. Sanchez is a role model for any student that’s hoping to achieve success in the corporate world.”

Sanchez spent the first half of the hour-long event answering questions asked by Gilligan. Sanchez spent the remaining time responding to students’ questions.

Sanchez spoke about the effects of the financial crisis that gripped the United States in 2008 and 2009. He said the crisis damaged the reputation of all banks, even if they were not involved.

“Society lost its faith in the banking industry, and all banks have been thrown in the same bag,” he said. “People can’t tell which banks are good banks or bad banks.”

Sanchez said banks are a force for good in the economy, providing liquidity and funneling financial capital to great ideas.

“The question is how did we get to this, the pits we are at now,” he said. “There were some banks that were not straight, not following principles that they should have been following. What they did was legal, but it was not moral.”

Though BBVA Compass did not receive a bailout from the American taxpayer, it is currently working to improve its public image and demonstrate its social value, Sanchez said.

“It’s the theme of the century — people want to know that an organization has a soul,” he said.

When a student asked Sanchez about how the unfolding financial crisis in Europe effects his bank, Sanchez said his bank is somewhat immune from the turmoil.

“BBVA Compass is a very strong institution,” he said. “What happens in Spain effects our profitability there. But we’re making up the difference elsewhere in the world. Those are the benefits of diversification.”

Sanchez said the European crisis would be resolved, but only at a very slow speed.

“This crisis will be resolved at a European speed,” he said. “The European Union started with the Treaty of Rome, and we’re here 50 years later. Some countries are entering into a fiscal union, and that’s the next step. But that treaty will have to be approved at European speed, and when you think about it, that will take a long time.”

At first Brothers and Sisters in Business simply wanted to change the businessmen and women for the better. Once they saw this was possible, they wanted to change the world one ethical decision at a time.

“It sounds so broad but having people make faith- and ethical-based decisions is going to change the corporate world and eventually America,” said Phillip Niels, a business honors and accounting sophomore.

Niels began throwing the idea around of creating a Bible study with a focus on business after alumnus Sam Acho went to an art gallery in the spring and Jesus was brought up in a discussion about business. Later that semester as they reflected back on the discussion, Acho, Niels and a few close friends decided they were obligated to spread Christian ethics to the business school in a non-radical way. The intention was to fill what they perceived as an “emptiness” at the business school.

The Bible study first began as a Business Honors Program entity but has expanded to include anyone interested, including non-business majors.

“As of late there’s been a push for making sure business schools cover ethics,” said Joe Shields, a business honors and finance sophomore. “As Christians, we feel the need to step up and lead it.”

Brothers and Sisters applies the teachings from the Bible to modern times with the purpose of serving God and completing business transactions ethically.

“The point is to think things through to yourself,” Niels said. “If you put yourself in a cubicle somewhere, how are you going to serve God and make a return?”

The Bible study is also a way for all the members to get together in a room Wfor an hour and share their thoughts without a hierarchical structure. The format is to bring either a Bible or a smart phone that has Biblical texts and read through a chapter. From there the members have an open discussion, where anyone says what they’ve found in between the lines of the text.

“We’ll be asked things in the business world like underselling property, but the Bible says you should pay fair value,” Shields said. “No one is perfect, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be fair and ethical.”

Additionally they bring in speakers that talk, not necessarily preach, about how they’ve lived in the business world. Thomas Gilligan, dean of Red McCombs Business School, has made several appearances to discuss what it has been like to be a leader and a Christian. The students in the Bible study have come to respect his ability to maintain his faith and be humble in the business world, describing him as a man who doesn’t live by the work-hard-and-make-your-millions stereotype.

On days when a speaker isn’t scheduled to come, they take a section of a sermon and relate it to modern business situations.

“There’s a lot more to it than reading the Bible,” Niels said. “I don’t even know the right answer in many aspects of the Bible. It’s more complicated than being honest.”

Niels mentioned that ethics in business is almost a contradiction in itself, but that is precisely why the founders felt that there was a need for a Bible study like this one in the business school.

“I don’t want to be insensitive, but the business world has gone astray,” Niels said. “We want to change that [corruption] by using different practices.”

In one of Gilligan’s visits he posed a question as to whether it was ethical for a Christian businessman, under pressure from superiors, to fire someone just because they were no longer needed. At first Niels and a few others believed this was ethical as long as the businessman remained virtuous and truthful from the beginning. However, after some thought, Niels came to the conclusion that this was the same situation as hiding a malicious intent behind a supposedly good reason.

Despite the pressures on business students, members don’t teach a completely new way of approaching things. They point out that there have always been classes on business morals. Rather than grading themselves, the group tries to be there for each other as a support group and prepare themselves to make tough decisions as Christians regarding profit, labor and treating employees the way they would like to be treated.

“We just want to change the way we view the corporate world; it’s not just a high-salary statistic,” Niels said. “It’s okay to be involved in the business world, to get a big job, but there’s more to it than the paycheck; there’s also the social aspect that comes with it.”