Cooling off the hired help?

A couple of days ago, University of Texas at Austin President William Powers was telling the Senate Finance Committee how $65 million in budget cuts proposed for UTAustin would hurt the state’s largest campus. Among other things, he testified, UT would have to cut 90 faculty and 200 staff positions and reduce student scholarships.

Powers said the reductions “will erode our ability to compete nationally to get faculty and make student success improvements.”

Students, who may be in line for yet another tuition increase, also were there, both inside and outside the committee room, to speak up against the cuts, the Daily Texan reported.

Powers pretty much reinforced what UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said last month when he warned that proposed budget reductions would have “immediate and future devastating consequences for our students, patients, faculty, staff and the communities of Texas.”

But, today, in the Austin AmericanStatesman, Gene Powell, the new chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, was trying to downplay all the “draconian” talk with a series of mostly meaningless clichés and promises to do more with less.

“The glass is definitely half full here,” Powell said.

But half full of what, besides Gov. Perry’s KoolAid?

Powell, a former UT football player and now a wealthy real estate developer and businessman in San Antonio, certainly is preaching the Perry line. That, however, should be no surprise since he has given the governor more than $56,000 in political donations since 2001 and is, of course, a Perry appointee.

Perry, no doubt, prefers Powell’s comments – he may even have ordered them up – to what people like Powers and Cigarroa have to say. But who do you think the Legislature should believe?

Since Powers and Cigarroa are highly paid hired hands whose futures are dictated by the regents (all of whom are Perry appointees), it will be interesting to see how forthright the two will continue to be in public statements.

Meanwhile, the students who descended on the Senate Finance Committee the other day also may want to march on the regents and offer a reality check the next time the board has a meeting.


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