I wrote my column for the April issue of TEXAS MONTHLY about Governor Perry’s plans for reforming higher ed. These involve seven “breakthrough solutions” developed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a number of which have already been implemented at Texas A&M and, if everything stays on course, will likewise be implemented at UT in the days ahead by regents loyal to the governor. (The regents ignored a hiring freeze to bring in Rick O’Donnell, a higher ed critic out of Colorado, to push these ideas at a salary of $200,000. Among the ideas O’Donnell champions are alternative college accreditation programs, deemphasizing–that is, spending less on–research, and more for-profit colleges to compete with established universities.) These ideologically based reforms, I am sorry (but not surprised) to report, are designed not to improve the state’s best universities but to diminish the importance of their leaders and faculty, while empowering “customers” — students — to judge the performance of faculty members and even help determine their financial rewards. In the course of researching the column, I interviewed faculty members and administrators at Texas A&M as well as members of the UT hierarchy. None of the people I interviewed think that these reforms will improve their institutions. Political interference by politicians is an old story at UT. The firing of president Homer Rainey in 1944 caused the university to be blacklisted by the American Association of University Professors for nine years. If the reforms go through as planned, it may take that long for UT, whose academic performance and ranking have never been better, to recover from this latest intervention from the Capitol. You can read my column here. (Today’s Texas Tribune also features a story about the proposed reforms.)
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