UT System to Require Interviews with Minority Candidates

A look at the sun setting over the University of Texas at Austin Tower in 2011.
A look at the sun setting over the University of Texas at Austin Tower in 2011.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Asserting that the faculty and leadership in the University of Texas System doesn't match the makeup of the students, Chancellor Bill McRaven said Thursday that he will require that a woman or minority candidate be interviewed for every high-level position at its 14 universities and medical schools. 

The requirement will be similar to the National Football League's Rooney Rule, which mandates that a minority head coaching candidate be interviewed before a final hire is made. It's not required that a minority or woman be selected, but one must at least be strongly considered. 

McRaven said the rule will pertain to all hires at the dean level or higher. It will be encouraged, but not required, for professors or other mid-level jobs.

"We need to have our faculty reflect more of our student population," he said. " We want to make sure that the students can look up to faculty members of the same ethnicity and say, 'This is who I want to be.'"

 

McRaven designed the rule to ensure that women and minorities will be strongly considered. One can't just be interviewed early in the process and then dropped. A woman or minority will have to be considered all the way until the last round of the process. McRaven said he will also require each school to submit a report to him detailing how it plans to close the gender gap. 

The NFL has had a similar rule since 2003. The idea is to force people making hiring decisions to seek out talented minority or woman candidates and to give those candidates a chance they might not have otherwise received. 

"This will begin to move the needle," McRaven said, "but if we don't start now, then 20, 30 years from now we won't look much different."

Right now, 32 percent of UT System students are white, compared with 62 percent of faculty.

Almost 40 percent of students are Hispanic, while 11 percent of the faculty is Hispanic. McRaven said those numbers are disappointing.  

“We need faculty, administrators and campus leaders who understand the people they’re serving, who come from the same places,” he said.

McRaven, a former U.S. Navy admiral who oversaw the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, announced the new rule during a speech to the UT System Board of Regents. Drawing on his military experience, he described new priorities and a vision of collaboration for the system.

During the Cold War, the military was run in a top-down manner. The commanders gave an order, and others did what they were told, McRaven said. But lately, the military has shifted to a “team of teams” model, in which different groups throughout the organization chart work together and share information.

 

“This is the structure we need to bring to the UT System, and this is how we will confront problems that we face today,” he said.

The system will do that in many different areas, he said. He said he hoped to establish an effort among UT System schools akin to the Manhattan Project to prevent, treat and cure brain disease. And he said he wants experts on immigration, climate change, border security, terrorism and other issues to form an alliance and be a prominent voice in the discussion of homeland security in government and the media. 

“I want world leaders everywhere to ask, 'What does Texas think about this tough national security issue?'” he said.

The system will also place a new emphasis on leadership, something he said is lacking in today’s world. Soon, each student at UT System schools will be required to take two different one-credit-hour courses focused on the basics of leadership, he said.

“We will be known nationwide for developing great leaders,” he said.

He also said he will expand the system’s role in secondary education, particularly by opening a literacy institute that will work with the state’s big urban districts. And he said the system would increase its resources devoted to recruiting, developing and retaining top faculty.

“There is a war for talent, and we intend to win,” he said.

None of those ideas was presented with an expected price tag. For most, the system is still in the early stages of developing them. But McRaven told the regents that he hopes they will put the UT System in a position to thrive in the future.

“I hope your bold gamble in allowing this old sailor to lead this institution will be a winning hand,” he said.

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