Senate confirms UT regents opposing expansion
Two UT System regents who voiced opposition to the system’s controversial land-buy in Houston were confirmed by the Texas Senate on Tuesday night.
Gov. Greg Abbott made three appointments to the University of Texas System Board of Regents in January, and according to coverage by the Houston Chronicle, all three were confirmed in a 29-0 vote.
The third regent, San Antonio businessman Rad Weaver, declined to speak on the expansion until more information was made available.
“I want someone to explain to me how we can spend $200 million on a piece of dirt and we don’t know the use of it,” said confirmed regent and former Sen. Kevin Eltife, according to the Houston Chronicle.
UT System Chancellor William McRaven said a specific plan for the land UT purchased in Houston would be released by the end of 2016. In late January, Jenny Lacoste-Caputo said the plan should be completed within a few weeks.
Many senators, including Eltife, have criticized McRaven’s decision to purchase the land, located just 7 miles from the University of Houston, without first consulting lawmakers.
Michael Olivas, the UH William B. Gates Distinguished Chair of Law professor, previously said the purchase marked a failure on UT’s behalf to gain approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The Higher Education Coordinating Board, Olivas said, is responsible for ensuring geographic balance when it comes to the availability of higher education institutions.
The UH System Board of Regents released a statement in November 2015 refusing to condone the purchase so close to an already established Tier One university, the University of Houston.
Janiece Longoria, who was previously on McRaven’s task force to draft a plan for the Houston property, was also confirmed, despite her concerns over the expansion. In January, Longoria said she doesn’t believe the project will succeed without lawmaker support, and according to The Texas Tribune, that support may be lacking.
Ultimately, McRaven will need approval from the Board of Regents to move forward with the project.