TXEXplainer: Higher Ed Committee Votes to Tighten Regent Rules

The state Senate higher education committee approved a major bill regarding university regents’ duties and responsibilities Wednesday. Senate Bill 15 now heads to the full Senate for a vote. How will it affect the roles of UT regents and administrators? We explain.

Higher Ed Committee Votes to Tighten Regent Rules

Updated April 4 at 10:40 a.m.

Regents’ training is getting an overhaul.

Before voting on budgetary or personnel matters, regents would be required to undergo training in governance best practices, conflicts of interest, auditing procedures, open meetings, and ethics. Regents would have to take the prescribed course within a year of being appointed by the governor. An amendment from Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) would also ensure that regents are trained on the provisions of a federal law that protects sensitive personal data regarding individual students. Sen. Judith Zaffirini BS ’67, MA ’70, PhD ’78, Life Member, (D-Laredo) has also introduced Senate Bill 1741, which further defines that training program.

Governing boards are tasked with governance—not management.

In a key difference from the original draft, the version passed today changed every instance of the phrase “control and management” of universities by regents to “governance.” The change indicates a focus on the boards’ policy-setting role and  a shift away from day-to-day management. The new version includes a provision that governing boards “may not unreasonably or unduly interfere” with university management functions. This change comes after recent complaints that UT System regents are micromanaging UT-Austin.

The chancellor’s role is more defined.

The bill would codify the System chancellor as the channel through which regents communicate with administrators of individual campuses. In UT’s case, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa would help institutions like UT-Austin set and achieve long-term goals and, if deemed necessary, recommend to regents the removal of a university president. In a discussion with the Texas Tribune‘s Evan Smith and Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp last week, Cigarroa indicated that he understood that to be the current process. Cigarroa also outlined UT-Austin’s goals under President Bill Powers’ tenure, and praised Powers’ progress.

You can read the version that will be voted on by the full Senate below.

SB 15 Floor Version

UT chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. Alcalde file photo.


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