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UT Regents May Step Up Scrutiny of Professors

When the University of Texas System regents meet in San Antonio today and Thursday, accountability will be back on the agenda, in the form of more frequent performance reviews for tenured professors and criminal record checks for certain employees.

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When the University of Texas System regents meet in San Antonio this week, they'll have accountability on the agenda — everything from professor performance reviews to criminal record checks. 

At the board's two-day meeting starting today, regents are likely to further implement Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s framework for the system’s future, which they unanimously approved last August. Cigarroa’s plan, borne out of months of controversy about the productivity of the state’s public university, calls for revamping professors' post-tenure review process and strengthening faculty evaluations — changes the regents could approve Thursday. 

The proposed rules clarify that evaluations — which would be more frequent than they currently are for tenured professors — could be used in salary and career advancement decisions, and that faculty members who fail a remediation process could be fired. 

UT regents are also expected this week to tighten the system’s policies on criminal background checks. Before 2010, the system did not require every institution to conduct background checks. Since then, checks have resulted in the termination of four employees. The new rules under consideration would require background checks on temporary employees and faculty members who interact with students, volunteers at day care centers, youth camps and health facilities.

But the regents have more on their agenda than getting tougher on their hires. They're also expected to approve a $10 million payout from the Permanent University Fund, money that will be used to match large private gifts for research activities at the four campuses competing to be the state's next top-tier research university — Arlington, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio. Combined with the matching dollars, the gifts can rake in even more funding from the state’s Texas Research Incentive Program.

The UT System isn't the only one with a board meeting this week. The A&M System Board of Regents will gather a few hours south in Corpus Christi on Thursday, where they'll hear Chancellor John Sharp, who was appointed to the post by the A&M Board of Regents in September, deliver remarks designed to highlight the A&M system’s commitment to affordable higher education. They'll tackle an agenda addressing requests for three new doctoral programs (one of them online), a new facility to house the Physical Education Activity Program (which provides health and fitness classes to university students) and the establishment of a Center for Railway Research at the Texas Transportation Institute. 

Copies of UT’s meeting schedule and a webcast of the meeting are available here

Copies of A&M’s meeting schedule and agenda are available here, and the meeting will be streamed live here.

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