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2012 Archives

Don’t Mess with Texas


The following ran on the May 14, 2012, edition of Political Scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

May 16, 2012

By Kevin Kiley

The idea that students would come out en masse to support a president after he repeatedly tried to increase tuition over his superiors’ objections might seem farcical, but it’s exactly what happened last week in Texas.
When Texas Monthly Senior Executive Editor Paul Burka reported Wednesday night that, according to an unnamed source, the University of Texas Board of Regents was moving to remove UT-Austin President William Powers Jr. from his position – likely over Powers’s clash with the board and Gov. Rick Perry about Powers’s push to raise tuition – students were some of the first people to take to social media to marshal support for Powers.
Following students’ outpouring of support, faculty members, alumni, state politicians, and others tied to the university all came out to publicly defended Powers, calling him an exemplary leader who is doing what is best for the university in the face of a struggling state budget. By the end of the day Friday, there had been thousands of mentions of Powers on Twitter and Facebook; a Facebook group called “I Stand With Bill Powers” has more than 11,000 members.
“Interestingly enough, the reaction really started with the students at the university,” said Pamela Willeford, former member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and a member of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group of influential Texans formed in response to the cost-cutting policies pushed by state lawmakers, which has expressed support for Powers since the Texas Monthly report. “It’s unbelievable how social media plays into it.”
The outpouring of support says several things about Powers and the university....

“Texas political culture is ambivalent at best about education, higher education in particular,” said Calvin Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas who studies the state’s political culture, in an interview with Inside Higher Ed in August. “Politicians have long tried to seek to control the extent to which education, and particularly higher education, impinges uncomfortably on that culture.”

Read more:
 Inside Higher Ed