When Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott unveiled his higher education plan on the University of Texas at Dallas campus Tuesday, students were not invited to watch, according to the president of the university's student government.
The student government had reached out to the campaigns of Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis, inviting each of the gubernatorial candidates to speak to students this month at a large lecture hall, said Brooke Knudtson, the student government's president. Davis' campaign did not respond, and Abbott's campaign declined the offer, saying the candidate would be too busy to visit the campus, Knudtson said.
But Abbott did visit, and the student government wasn't notified, Knudtson said.
“We have around 20,000 students that are potentially voters,” Knudtson said. “We wanted to get both [Abbott and Davis] to come so that their young constituents could hear from them.”
The Abbott campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
UT-Dallas junior Jacob Loehr, a public affairs major, was studying in the Eugene McDermott Library on Tuesday when he saw Abbott and his entourage heading to a small suite in the library.
“Nobody was told that he was going to be on campus,” Loehr said. “Once people noticed he was there, I, along with other students, tried to get in to see the press conference, but we were rejected. They told us it was a private event and we couldn’t get in without an invitation.”
UT-Dallas Associate Vice President John Walls said Abbott's event was not hosted by the university. Rather, the campaign paid $350 to rent the room, chairs and parking for a private event, Walls said. Abbott's campaign sent reporters a media advisory saying the candidate would appear at a press conference to "unveil the fourth phase of his 'Educating Texans' policy." Neither the campus newspaper, The Mercury, nor the campus TV station received the advisory, according to Miguel Perez, editor-in-chief of The Mercury.
Abbott’s plan included pushing for universities to receive performance-based funding, encouraging community colleges to implement block schedules to allow more work hours for students, and calling for Massive Online Open Courses, open to anyone online, to count for college credit.
Davis touched on aspects of her higher education plan, unveiled last week, along with other topics at several speeches at college campuses this week. At her Texas A&M University visit Wednesday, more than 400 students and visitors attended, the Davis campaign said.
Davis is doing a tour of college campuses, and her campaign spokeswoman, Rebecca Acuña, said students are welcome to attend the events. Davis' higher education plan includes increased funding for grant programs and graduate stipends along with pushing for textbooks to be exempt from state sales tax. Davis has not stopped at UT-Dallas as part of her campus tour.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Dallas and Texas A&M University are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.