Staying “UT Strong” Against “UT Lite”

Dear Fellow Texas Exes,

In March, I asked for your help to address what was at the time and remains today the most serious threat our University has faced in years. While some people are questioning the value of higher education, in effect, turning The University of Texas into “UT Lite,” Texas Exes everywhere are answering the call to action and defending our University as “UT Strong.”

The University of Texas System Board of Regents commented on our concerns with a follow up letter that we provided to alumni. Following that communication, in May the Regents took favorable action by unanimously supporting Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and the vision he and the other university presidents have laid out for the UT System institutions to continue to improve the quality, transparency, and cost effectiveness of our campuses. We applaud and appreciate the Regents’ support of Dr. Cigarroa, and because of that support, we deemed it unnecessary to take them up on their offer to meet at this time.

Yet we must remain strongly committed to actively following events related to this debate in order to protect our University and the value of our degrees. We must continue to make our case to maintain our top-tier research University, which has taken over 125 years to build, especially with discussions continuing across the nation on the value of higher education. Case in point, recent report by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity suggests that productivity of our faculty should be measured by the quantity of students taught. UT president Bill Powers responded in an Austin American-Statesman op-ed, “the most obvious flaw in this analysis is…there is no attempt to measure the quality, and therefore the true productivity, of the learning experience.” Powers says that by using the productivity measure cited in the CCAP report, “a faculty member teaching a class of 300 is 16 times more ‘productive’ than one teaching an 18-student seminar”. Yet, this notion is in direct contrast to the great work of the University to provide a balance of class sizes, to improve the quality of the students’ learning experience, and to lower the faculty-to-student ratio.

Furthermore, the report poses that if the bottom 80 percent of UT faculty that have the lowest teaching load taught half as much as the top 20 percent, tuition could be reduced by half. Powers says, “At UT, we are very serious about increasing productivity in teaching, research, business operations and commercialization of intellectual property. Indeed, among the nation’s 120 leading research universities, we are the 10th most efficient when measuring the amount of tuition and state money we spend to achieve our six-year graduation rate. And we spend less state money and tuition per faculty member than all but one other research university in America.” Powers says that simply given the size of UT and its number of nationally ranked academic programs, it is one of the most productive universities in the United States.

Finally, we want to bring to your attention that our alumni voice has also been joined by several key legislators who addressed this issue with their support and attention.

Please join me in contacting and thanking those legislators who have gone above and beyond in supporting higher education and The University of Texas.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst ,512-463-0001

House Speaker Joe Straus, 512-463-1000

Senator Judith Zaffirini, Chair, Senate Committee on Higher Education, 512-463-0121

Representative Dan Branch, Chair, House Committee on Higher Education, 512-463-0367

Thank you for continuing to ensure that The University of Texas at Austin remains a world-class educational and research institution. Please know that we will continue to inform you so we can collectively support excellence at our beloved University.




Richard Leshin

2010-11 Texas Exes President




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