Appointed UT regents opposed to expansion in Houston
Proposed University of Texas System regents and state senators voiced opposition to UT’s controversial move to expand in Houston during a hearing on Thursday.
Three nominees to the UT System Board of Regents were introduced to the Senate. The following discussion highlighted many senators’ opposition to the expansion, according to the Texas Tribune. Critics of the project said there was a lack of communication between the system and the legislature.
“I’m not real sure they know, really, what they’re going to do with it going forward,” said former Sen. Kevin Eltife during Thursday’s hearing, according to coverage by the Houston Chronicle. “I want it stopped.”
According to the Texas Tribune, Sen. John Whitmire criticized the system for purchasing land in the city without first consulting the legislature.
“I don’t think you give a damn what the legislature thinks,” Whitmire said during UT System Chancellor William McRaven’s testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, according to the article.
In 2015, the UT System Board of Regents voted to purchase 332 acres in Houston for nearly $200 million, just 7 miles from UH. Following the purchase, McRaven created a task force to determine how to expand the system’s foothold in Houston.
Though McRaven has said the expansion will be an intellectual hub and not a full-fledged university campus, many in Houston remain opposed. The UH System Board of Regents released a statement against such an expansion shortly following the purchase, and UH Media Relations recently said their stance on the issue has not changed.
According to the article, Gov. Greg Abbott made three appointments to the UT Board of Regents on Monday, choosing not to re-nominate two regents previously appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry.
The nominees include Janiece Longoria, chairwoman of the Port of Houston Authority, and Rad Weaver, a prominent businessman, according to the article.
Longoria opposed the use of the Permanent University Fund, to which only UT and Texas A&M have access, as funding for the Houston expansion. Weaver said he needed more information on the project before making a decision.
If confirmed, the new regents would begin Feb. 1 and are expected to bring about a better relationship between the Board of Regents and the University. According to the Houston Chronicle, McRaven was largely in favor of the proposed regents.
“There will be times where the interest of the University of Texas System is not in the interest of the people of the state of Texas,” said Chairman of the Nominations Committee Brian Birdwell at Thursday’s hearing, according to The Texas Tribune.