The University of Texas has erupted in outrage since Gene Powell, chairman of the board of regents, hired Rick O’Donnell as a special adviser.
O’Donnell hasn’t done much. In fact, the board is still defining his role. No, the rub with O’Donnell is that he once worked for the dastardly Texas Public Policy Foundation. In a breathless letter to alumni, lawyer Gordon Appleman notes O’Donnell’s association with the conservative think tank and warns, “The University of Texas at Austin and other institutions in the UT System are at risk of serious, long-term, perhaps irreversible, degradation in academic stature as a result of initiatives being implemented by the new Chairman of the Board, with the encouragement and assistance of Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Public Policy Foundation.”
But the board hasn’t proposed any changes yet. A source close to the situation tells National Review Online that were Governor Perry to have his way, he would “pay teachers more, let researchers keep more of the money they bring in, and cut tuition.” The hullabaloo over O’Donnell’s hiring suggests vested interests — that is, tenured professors and comfy administrators — are worried they’ll be expected to perform at a higher standard.
Perry, Powell, and O’Donnell are considering ways to make higher education more efficient — and thus more affordable for their constituents. They deserve a chance to outline their proposals before any onslaught.