Higher Ed Watchers Call for Good Governance

As controversies surrounding the UT System Board of Regents reverberate, higher ed watchers came to the Capitol to call for good Texas university governance.

The state legislature’s Joint Oversight Comittee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency met this week, and UT alumni and supporters turned out in force to advocate for high-quality higher education in the state.

Former Texas A&M System regent John Mobley was an invited speaker, along with former U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a past chair of the UT System Board of Regents.

Mobley encouraged the committee to look to the Senate nominations process as a possible model for university oversight.

“Just as we have corporate boards, you may look at requiring each institution to adopt a code of conduct and a conflict of interest policy,” Mobley said. “Also, you might silently ask yourself the question: ‘Do his or her experiences adequately prepare them for this job?’”

Former Exxon Mobil VP Charles Matthews highlighted best governances in the corporate and nonprofit worlds, and he brought the issue to a finer point.

“For the past months,” he said, “actions of certain board members have raised questions concerning best practices of corporate governance, advancement of interests of other special interest organizations, costly and disruptive requests for information by individual regents without board concurrence, and a number of other well publicized events that have threatened the reputation of the institutions.

“At the very least,” he added, “this calls for an examination of board appointment procedures and current board policies and practices.”

Leslie Cedar, CEO and executive director of the Texas Exes, and Gordon Appleman, a Fort Worth attorney and prominent UT alumnus, both urged the oversight committee to help protect UT against possible damage to its reputation.

Matthews, Cedar, and Appleman are leading members of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a citizens’ group that formed over the summer in response to recommendations being floated that watchers believe could have long-term damaging effects on Texas institutions of higher learning.

Coalition members expressed satisfaction that during the hearing, chairmen of both the UT and A&M the boards of regents described as “moot” the policy prescriptions that had been championed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Those prescriptions had ignited much of the recent controversy.

Committee co-chairs Rep. Dan Branch and Sen. Judith Zaffirini and other legislators listen as chairs of Texas university boards of regents testify. Photo by Matt Portillo. Courtesy Young Texans for Excellence in Higher Education.


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