Faculty Senate hears
speech on legislative session, Tier I status
By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff
"In case any of you weren't already aware
of it, Texas politics is a full-contact sport," UH System Vice Chancellor
Relations Grover Campbell told members
of the Faculty Senate Wednesday.
Campbell's remarks in the Kiva Room of
Farish Hall were a blow-by-blow account of the last session of the Texas
during which Campbell, UH President and
UH System Chancellor Arthur K. Smith and others campaigned for the passage
of a bill
that would help UH and other Texas universities
achieve Tier I status.
Brian Viney/The Daily Cougar
Faculty Senate President
H. Jerome Freiberg gives the opening remarks at the assembly's meeting
Wednesday in the Kiva Room of Farish Hall.
Tier I is a ranking of the nation's most
research-intensive schools. Currently, the University of Texas at Austin
and Texas A&M (both
funded by the Permanent University Fund)
are the only universities in the state to hold that status.
In May, the Texas House and Senate both
passed their respective versions of the bill, and Gov. Rick Perry signed
the final version
into law in June. It takes effect Sept.
Campbell, the UH System's point man in
Austin, said the legislative session could be described as "historic, productive,
probably the most litigious session, especially
for higher education, in 30 years, or anyone's recent memory."
"We knew it was going to be a difficult
session going in," Campbell said, noting that when it began in January,
Texas had a new
governor and lieutenant governor. Several
issues threatened to put higher education on the back burner, particularly
over redistricting (the drawing of new
political boundaries following the 2000 census). Also, legislators faced
the problem of limited
financial resources, Campbell said.
"But I'm proud to say that UH and the UH
System did very, very well," he said.
The main UH campus received a $20 million
(or 8.5 percent) increase in general funding over the last biennium and
a $4 million
(15.5 percent) increase in funding for
The legislature also approved the continuation
of an annual "stair-step" $3-per-semester-credit-hour tuition increase
inflation, despite many legislators' concerns
about the ability of students from lower-income families to afford college.
UH also received an authorization of $51
million for tuition revenue bonds, the largest of any project in the state,
while the UH
System as a whole received over $100 million,
"But our number-one legislative priority
was Tier I," he said.
"I'm very proud that this campus has been
the one leading the way on this issue. Without our efforts, this would
never have become
a statewide issue," he said.
Campbell said that UH officials had been
working for over three years to persuade community members, newspaper editorial
boards, other university presidents and
legislative leaders of the need for Texas to have more Tier I schools to
compete in the
increasingly science- and technology-driven
"Quite frankly, when we got into this process,
we really thought it was going to take two or three legislative sessions
successful," he said.
"When we finally got our draft (of the
bill) prepared, we allowed ourselves to become a little optimistic that
this might actually be the
The chief sponsors of the Tier I legislation
were Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), chair of the Senate Finance Committee,
Robert Junell (D-San Angelo), chair of
the House Appropriations Committee. "This was the 'dream team' of the Texas
"Unfortunately, a funny thing happened
on the way to the governor's desk," he said. "Our legislation lost its
focus. Originally, our
intent had been to focus limited state
resources to a few schools which had a proven track record of being research-intensive
were on the cusp, ready to take that next
step, or natural evolution, to Tier I status."
He said that officials from other schools
began to see the two bills as "one more funding mechanism for all of higher
predictably, other universities began
saying 'How much can I get,' or 'How can I manipulate this?'
"The legislature, quite simply, began getting
mixed signals from the higher education community. More specifically, the
started engaging in a bit of legislative
gamesmanship that I can only describe as 'Let's Break a Deal.'"
He said that UT officials had, and subsequently
broke, deals they made with Perry, Junell and others.
"Ultimately, with less than 36 hours left
in the legislative session, a compromise was reached," Campbell said.
That compromise led to the establishment
of two "Texas Education Funds," one to be divided by the two PUF universities
other for state universities which receive
funding from the Higher Education Appropriations Fund.
"We believe there's an inherent inequity
to it," Campbell said. "Our proposal, since day one, had been for one fund,
with one set of
criteria, systematically applied across
"But we're reminded that the process is
evolutionary, not revolutionary. We have something in place."
Over the next biennium, UH will receive
approximately $12 million in TEF funds.