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The Brief: May 10, 2012

An unconfirmed report has set off a round of intense speculation about the fate of University of Texas President Bill Powers.

University of Texas at Austin President, William Powers - Dec. 14, 2011

The Big Conversation:

An unconfirmed report has set off a round of intense speculation about the fate of University of Texas President Bill Powers.

Texas Monthly's Paul Burka, citing an unnamed source, reported Wednesday evening that Powers, who has presided over the state's largest and most prestigious public university since 2006, could be at risk of losing his job because of his opposition to a tuition freeze backed by Gov. Rick Perry and the UT System Board of Regents.

“I’m disappointed that our proposal was not adopted,” Powers said last week after the regents approved the freeze, which board chairman Gene Powell said at the time would reduce the financial burden on students and families.

“It was very carefully worked out," Powers added. "It was worked out in consultation with students. It takes into account a very strong concern with costs of higher education for students and their families.”

As Burka reports, citing "a source with knowledge of the proceedings," Powell recommended to Francisco Cigarroa, the chancellor of the UT System, that Powers be fired, and Cigarroa refused. The board of regents may hold a special meeting to take action.

UT-Austin spokesman Gary Susswein told The Daily Texan on Wednesday night that he had no comment and that Powers is currently out of town.

As Burka writes: "I do not have an official confirmation, but I was told that the situation is fluid and may be happening as I write. … I will continue to make attempts to confirm this report. If it is accurate, the impact on the university’s reputation could be devastating. UT will have to undertake the search for a new president at a time when top-grade candidates will be unlikely to be attracted to a position that is subject to political pressure."

Culled:

  • A day after helping defeat Republican Sen. Dick Lugar in the Indiana GOP primary, the conservative Club for Growth announced Wednesday a new $1 million ad buy targeting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in Texas' U.S. Senate race. A new 30-second ad from the group, which has endorsed Ted Cruz, calls Dewhurst as "moderate" and a cites a Wall Street Journal article accusing Dewhurst of supporting a state income tax. The ad will air on broadcast and cable channels in markets around the state, including Austin, Dallas and Houston.
  • Houston Mayor Annise Parker received a call from White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett shortly after President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced his support for gay marriage, according to the Houston Chronicle. "Wow! I was wrong. Call from White House. The President has stepped up and stated his support for recognizing relationships ... like mine!" Parker, who is openly gay, tweeted Wednesday afternoon. Parker and other gay rights supporters in Texas lauded the president's move, while conservatives slammed it. "Election year politics will never change Gov. Perry's unwavering commitment to defending the sanctity of marriage, defined as a union between one man and one woman," Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said in a statement.
  • Sales tax receipts in Texas rose in April to $2.07 billion, a 10.9 increase from last month, the comptroller's office reported Wednesday. The biggest gains came from the oil and natural gas industry, retail stores and restaurants.

"There appears to be a plan to try to distract Americans from the thing they care most about, which is too many people out of work and the sad state of the economy, and the runaway and reckless spending going on here in Washington." — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn to Politico on the president's endorsement of gay marriage on Wednesday

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