Los Alamos Taskforce

UT keeps students in the dark

On April 12, 2004, UT Watch requested through the Texas Open Records Act a "...copy of any and all transcriptions and emails sent or received by the UT System Special Advisor to the Chancellor, R.D. (Dan) Burck, with reference to Los Alamos National Laboratory between November 1, 2003 and the present date. ...any and all itineraries of meetings, events, etc. for Dan Burck during the same time period."

Dan Burck currently works on UT’s Los Alamos Task Force, which is researching a university bid to manage the lab. He also pursued an unsuccessful UT bid for Sandia National Laboratory in 2002.

The UT System and Texas Attorney General Abbott subsequently denied access to any of the information (including Burck’s itineraries) contained in UT Watch’s initial request, citing that such information could compromise the competitive bidding process for Los Alamos.

This decision represents a repeated attempt by the UT System to withhold from students the most general information regarding the Task Force and their research into a Los Alamos bid. So far, students do not even know how many members are on the Task Force or who they all are. Furthermore, repeated requests for this information from various offices have been ignored. Such antagonism from the UT System makes sense considering UT Watch has been the most outspoken opponent of a Los Alamos bid.

Students cannot be active in the decision-making process if they do not possess basic information about the Task Force. They should not have to wait until after UT has already submitted a bid to obtain this information. At that point, the decision-making process is already over.

Understandably, the UT System would not want to divulge information to the public during a bidding process if such information would benefit a competitor. However, to claim that all information surrounding a bid should remain secret is clearly nonsense. Students at a public university should be entitled to know their university’s agenda and who is pursuing that agenda. To claim otherwise would run counter to the principles of open and responsive government.

The UT System letter(pdf) to Texas Attorney General Abbott.

The AG’s response(pdf) to the UT System.

Read the UT System response(pdf) to UT Watch.


We were also stonewalled on revealing the names of the members on the Task Force. Although we knew that Burck heads it, we wanted to know who else was on it. The UT System administration played games with us and repeatedly refused us access.

But, we got the names anyways. This Task Force is important since UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof and the Board of Regents will rely on its findings to make its case for a competitive bid to manage Los Alamos. We encourage all readers to contact these men and woman about the Task Force and their upcoming report. Although they refuse to answer questions - they direct you to the UT System PR - and seek no input in their report, you should let them know that you want some questions answered before their important report is issued. It should be noted that none of these people listed below oppose a UT bid for Los Alamos.

UT System Los Alamos Task Force

The Task Force assesses and advises the Chancellor and the UT Board of Regents on developments in the Department of Energy's competition of the management contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory and related issues.

Dan Burck
Special Advisor
The University of Texas System
dburck@utsystem.edu
512-225-1688

Randy Charbeneau
Jewel McAlister Smith Professor in Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Civil Engineering
charbeneau@mail.utexas.edu
512-471-2125

Sheldon Ekland-Olson
Executive Vice President and Provost
The University of Texas at Austin
seo@mail.utexas.edu
512-232-3300

Bob Helms
Dean of Engineering and Computer Science
The University of Texas at Dallas
rxh033000@utdallas.edu
972-883-2974

Diana Natalicio
President
The University of Texas at El Paso
dnatalicio@utep.edu
915-747-5555

Juan Sanchez
Vice President for Research
The University of Texas at Austin
jsanchez@mail.utexas.edu
512-471-2877
512-471-0091

Roy Schwitters
Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair in Physics
The University of Texas at Austin
schwitters@physics.utexas.edu
512-471-9962

Bill Shute
Vice Chancellor for Federal Relations
The University of Texas System
wshute@utsystem.edu
202-955-9091

Ashley Smith
Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations
The University of Texas System
asmith@utsystem.edu
512-499-4455

Charles Sorber
Interim President
The University of Texas at Arlington
* Reappointed to Task Force Feb 2004 as
Special Engineering Adviser to the Chancellor

The University of Texas System
csorber@utsystem.edu
512-322-3776

Ben Streetman
Dean, College of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin
bstreet@mail.utexas.edu
512-471-1166