The Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency, originally created in 2011 amid controversy surrounding the leadership of university system regents, will be renewed this session.
House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, signed a proclamation reviving the committee last week, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has signed it on Wednesday. Dewhurst has indicated that he wants the committee to investigate the appropriate role and behavior of university system regents.
In a statement Wednesday, Dewhurst said he was "also asking members of the Senate Higher Education committee to begin conversations with the appropriate members of the House to discuss governance in our higher education systems, improving our institutions of higher education, and preparing future generations to meet the demands of tomorrow."
Straus issued a statement saying that the committee "will work to ensure that Texas colleges and universities provide an outstanding education for their students, are accountable to taxpayers, and operate within a governing structure that allows them to thrive."
The joint committee will be co-chaired by House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas, and Senate Higher Education Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo. It was previously co-chaired by Branch and then-Senate Higher Ed Chairwoman Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.
The announcement comes days after Dewhurst offered an emotional public defense of University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers, who has a strained relationship with the University of Texas System regents.
As Powers was being honored by the Senate on Monday, Dewhurst surprised many observers with his strong words, both in defending Powers and going after the regents, all of whom are appointed by Gov. Rick Perry.
“I believe in reform, and I know Bill Powers believes in reform," Dewhurst said. "That’s why I’m particularly troubled when I see UT regents go around this man. I see them trying to micromanage the system.”
Speaking with reporters Monday, Dewhurst referred to anonymous letters containing rumors regarding Powers' family, which he insinuated that a regent had helped spread. He declined to discuss the letters' contents or origins, or which regent he was referring to, but he indicated that he would have more to say on the matter later in the week.