UT System Board of Regents

UT Tower $$$

So that as long as the boards were made up chiefly of clergymen they served a pecuniary purpose; whereas, since their complexion has been changed by the substitution of businessmen in the place of ecclesiastics, they have ceased to exercise any function other than a bootless meddling with academic matters which they do not understand. The sole ground of their retention appears to be an unreflecting deferential concession to the usages of corporate organization and control, such as have been found advantageous for the pursuit of private gain by businessmen banded together in the exploitation of joint-stock companies with limited liability.

The UT Board of Regents has ultimate control over the entire UT System. The decisions they make carry the force of statutes under Texas state law. They appoint the chancellor, vice chancellors and university presidents, who are accountable to them and can be recalled at any time. The regents themselves are unelected and unaccountable to students, staff, faculty and citizens of Texas. Regents are appointed by the governor for terms of six years, often in exchange for massive political contributions.

The resumes of current regents are short on qualifications to manage higher education, but very long on experience in the world of personal gain. Most of them are millionaires; ex-regent and would-be governor Antonio "Tony" Sanchez tops the list with an estimated $600 million oil, gas and banking fortune. In the 2002 school year, six of the current regents contributed between $7,000 and $101,000 to George W. Bush's gubernatorial campaigns. Several former regents were among his highest overall contributors. Seven current regents contributed between $5,500 and $130,000 to Rick Perry's 2002 gubernatorial race.

While Texas politics thrives on the patronage system, a seat on the Board of Regents stands out as the state's most expensive and most coveted political appointment. Three regents sit on the board of the secretive and scandal-ridden University of Texas Investment Management Company, which manages $14 billion in state funds.

Past regents have gone on to high political positions like U.S. secretary of commerce (Don Evans), others use their appointment as political capital when running for office (Tony Sanchez), still others claim that being a regent qualifies them as education experts when pushing a right-wing and pro-business education agenda (Charles Miller).

These nine business people and their appointees run the UT System like a giant corporation, therefore explaining Dr. Faulkner's reference to students as "consumers of university services." When business people run the University, students become consumers who are beholden to market demands. Quality of education no longer matters, students no longer matter, and the "public" in public education becomes more of an afterthought, or a requisite to get a modicum of state funds and retain the title of "state university." Public higher education becomes a tool for money-makers and political climbers.

The regents act as a bloc, a world apart from the people they control. The worst of these nine business leaders are redefining public education in corporate terms, while the rest are using the most important educational position in the state for personal gain.

Parts taken from a Daily Texan article by Forrest Wilder and David Peterson.