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The Eyes of Texas Are Upon the Board of Regents

Using the Legislature-directed Invest in Texas campaign as a model, the president of UT's Senate of College Councils intends to begin lobbying the University of Texas System Board of Regents in support of academic research.

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In the fall, with the University of Texas facing budget cuts, Chelsea Adler, the president of the university's Senate of College Councils, led an effort to establish student-run committees to advise the college deans on how best to manage the reductions. She has also been a leader in this spring's Invest in Texas campaign to promote UT's value as an investment to state lawmakers. In an interview with the Tribune, she said she will now turn her attention toward the University of Texas System Board of Regents.

Recent hiring activity, along with the use of some unfortunate car metaphors, has caused members of the UT community to fret about the regents' appreciation of academic research. Richard Leshin, the president of the Texas Exes, a substantial and powerful group of alumni, issued a letter warning that an anti-research mindset "would do irreparable damage to the University."

Now, current students are preparing to join their forebears. In student surveys conducted in the College of Liberal Arts on behalf of that school's Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee, Adler noted that funding for graduate research programs was among the most-valued resources.

She said she and other student leaders intend to mobilize an effort to promote it to the regents, using the legislator-targeted Invest in Texas campaign as a model. "We really need to start turning our attention with the same level of organization and watchfulness toward the board of regents articulating the same message," Adler said, "which I think is a little surprising."

While the effort will likely not use the same slogan as Invest in Texas, which will continue to focus its efforts on the Capitol, Adler said that many of the same talking points and themes will carry over. "I don't think students have ever felt a pressing need to go talk to their board, so we're just looking for the best way to do that," she said.

Regents Chairman Gene Powell, along with vice chairmen Paul Foster, Steven Hicks and James Dannenbaum, recently issued a response to the Texas Exes letter reiterating their belief that academic research is "extremely valuable to society."

Even so, Adler said students still plan on reaching out to them and "being proactive" in their pro-research efforts.

"It's very clear that we have people on this board who do get it and are anxious to see the student response and have that academic conversation," she said. 

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