Five Highlights From President Greg Fenves’ State of the University Speech

State of the University 2016 with President Fenves

State of the University 2016 with President Fenves

Greg Fenves’ first year as president of the University of Texas was an eventful one. Since taking office last September, Fenves has dealt with the opening of a new medical school, the heated debate over guns on campus, the first on-campus homicide in 50 years, and the arrival of the largest freshman class in university history.

In a brief but broad State of the University address on Tuesday afternoon, Fenves touched on all those issues and more. Below, we’ve rounded up five key moments. Read the full transcript here.

“Even on campus carry, where many passionately disagree, we have had an open and constructive debate where all voices were heard. I thank you for that.”

Protestors on both sides of the campus carry debate continue to make their voices heard, with two prominent faculty members (Daniel Hamermesh and Frederick Steiner) citing the law as a reason for resigning and three others filing a lawsuit. Pro-gun activists staged a mock mass shooting next to the campus, and students drew national media attention for a sex-toy-themed protest meant to “fight absurdity with absurdity.”

“NSF granted $30 million to develop Stampede 2, keeping the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the forefront of scientific and engineering computation.”

The Texas Advanced Computing Center is already a major showpiece for the university, drawing researchers from around the world to use the center’s supercomputing power in their work. The center’s executive director, Dan Stanzione, praised the news when the grant was announced in June. “The kind of large-scale computing and data capabilities systems like Stampede and Stampede 2 provide are crucial for innovation in almost every area of research and development,” he said. You can learn more about Stampede 2 in this episode of The Hook:

“I am announcing today an additional commitment of $15 million in financial aid over the next two years for students from middle-income families.”

With middle-income families bearing the brunt of rising college costs, Fenves’ announcement of a new aid commitment drew hearty applause. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has proposed eliminating Texas’ tuition set-asides, or the portion of all tuition that goes toward need-based financial aid. Fenves didn’t elaborate on where the money will come from or how it will be awarded.

“We have joined with the Weiser family to create a campaign—“Walk with Me”—that empowers students to look out for one another … we will improve campus safety and security.”

Fenves honored the memory of UT freshman Haruka Weiser, who was found dead of an apparent homicide in April, and pledged to keep the campus safe for all students, faculty, and staff. “We will hire additional police officers and guards, upgrade lighting and video monitoring, improve building access controls, and engage with the community to address concerns about transient individuals on and around campus,” he said. Details of the “Walk with Me” campaign have not yet been released.

“The University of Texas won a crucial victory when the United States Supreme Court upheld our admissions policies.”

In June, the Fisher v. Texas saga came to an end after eight years of court cases when the Supreme Court affirmed UT’s right to consider race in admissions—although the national debate over race in admissions is surely far from over. “We will not rest with a single Supreme Court ruling,” Fenves said, going on to announce that vice presidents Gregory Vincent and Soncia Reagins-Lily began work this summer on a campus-wide diversity action plan. “We will examine ongoing efforts to increase inclusion for underrepresented and traditionally underserved members of the university and develop new ways to improve success for students, faculty, and staff from all backgrounds,” Fenves said, to applause.

Photo by Marsha Miller

 

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