Their color schemes clashed, but their goals matched as Longhorns and Aggies together charged the Texas State Capitol on Tuesday.
On Orange & Maroon Legislative Day, alumni of both schools came with a single message for lawmakers: hacking higher ed budgets will cripple Texas’ future.
This marked the fifth time that Texas A&M and The University of Texas have unified their lobbying efforts, but for such fierce competitors, it still felt special. In most states, two such universities would surely fight each other for funding. In Texas, the two flagship schools see the wisdom of pulling together.
“We have a whole history of rivalries on the football field and on the basketball court, but we are more alike than we’re different,” A&M president R. Bowen Loftin told the alumni advocates. “We bring a lot to Texas.”
Indeed, the two schools combined educate one of every five college students in this, the second-biggest state in the country.
And Texas and A&M are currently the state’s only public Tier 1 universities (although their leaders said they would welcome Tier 1 additions if the state were willing to invest more money in higher ed; at present, they and other schools are just struggling to maintain existing funding).
After being briefed by Loftin and UT provost Steven Leslie, around 160 volunteer advocates strolled from Scholz Garden to the Capitol.
There, groups visited the offices of virtually every legislator. In most, they made their case to (and shared a bag of orange and maroon popcorn with) a staff member. Some listened politely; others responded enthusiastically.
In the office of Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat, four volunteers got a warm greeting (his district, of course, includes UT, and his son attends the University). Watson came out and gladhanded in an orange tie, then left the advocates in the hands of senior policy advisor Edna Ramón Butts.
“The word investment gets bantered around a lot when it comes to public expenditures,” A&M representative Doug Keegan told her, “but when it comes to higher ed, it really is an investment.”
“You’re preaching to the choir,” Butts replied.
The group left the Capitol for a reception back at Scholz’ feeling at least slightly more hopeful about the budget prospects.
Larry Anazia, a graduate student in the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said he hoped that the message came through to the legislative offices he’d visited.
“Honestly, this is my first time doing this, but I definitely saw the value to it — to putting a face on the numbers they’re always hearing about,” Anazia says. “I hope it’s going to be a little better than it would’ve been had we not come up here today.”
For more detail on the messages the Longhorns and Aggies delivered, watch the local news video below with alumni public affairs leaders JJ Baskin and Paul Stafford.
Top: Reveille and Bevo in the same frame. Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller. Middle: Edna Ramón Butts (left), senior policy advisor to Sen. Kirk Watson, visits with Orange & Maroon Day advocates. Photo by Jennifer Westbrook. Bottom: UT and A&M advocates on the Capitol steps. Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller.