Over the complaints of some Democrats who decried to a lack of black regents overseeing the University of Texas System, the state Senate on Tuesday approved three new appointees to the board that oversees state's largest university system.
Former state Sen. Kevin Eltife, a Republican from Tyler; Rad Weaver, CEO of a company owned by UT-Austin megadonor Red McCombs, and Janiece Longoria, a former vice chair of the UT System board, were named to the board by Gov. Greg Abbott. They replace controversial Regent Wallace Hall and two other board members who were appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry.
The vote was 29-0, with Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, and Borris Miles, D-Houston voting "present" instead of "yes." Miles and West, who are both black, said they supported the nominees Abbott chose but were frustrated that there are no black members on the UT System board.
"I think this is a missed opportunity to make certain that a board of regents is reflective of the diversity of the state of Texas," West said.
Two other senators said they shared that complaint but still voted yes.
"Diversity is something that doesn't happen by accident," said Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio. Still, Menéndez said the three nominees were "immensely qualified."
Last month, the race to confirm Abbott's three appointees seemed to have high stakes. Hall, who was a disruptive force on the board for six years, was suing to gain access to confidential student records that UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven didn't want to turn over. If he had won his case before he moved off the board, McRaven would have had to give them to McRaven. But the Texas Supreme Court ruled against Hall on Jan. 27, ending all suspense.
The UT System board is scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday in Austin.
- Texas lawmakers expressed frustration with UT System leadership last month over a perceived lack of communication.
- Funding higher education will be a big issue for the 2017 legislative session. Both the state and its families are struggling to pay for college these days.
Disclosure: The University of Texas System and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.