Is Gov. Perry Doing ‘Irreparable Harm’ to Texas A&M?

As an Aggie, as a Texas resident, and as someone who disapproves of Gov. Rick Perry’s views and policies, of course my attention was immediately drawn to an editorial in the (Bryan-College Station) Eagle with the title: “Gov. Perry is doing irreparable harm to A&M

While my alma mater has had its ups-and-downs when it comes to football (two unforgettable “ups” occurring during my attendance there when the Aggies, as South West Conference champions went on to beat Alabama in the Cotton Bowl and, of course, last year when we beat “t.u.”), there are only ups when it comes to the school’s spirit, tradition, patriotism and academic excellence.

Thus, the Eagle’s headline that an Aggie is “doing irreparable damage” to my alma mater certainly perturbed me.

What the editorial is pointing out is Rick Perry’s obsession and constant meddling in the day-to-day operations of A&M, both directly and personally and indirectly through the Texas Public Policy Foundation — an ultraconservative think tank, chaired by Wendy Gramm, wife of former Sen. Phil Gramm — “that seeks to insinuate itself into every corner of state government.”

The editorial objects to Perry’s appointment of regents “with greater fealty to him than to the university system they are supposed to represent,” implying that their appointment should be independent of who they contributed to in the last gubernatorial election.

But The Eagle reserves its most scathing criticism and scorn for the Texas Policy Foundation with which Perry is allegedly infatuated and in thrall to “since he began accepting generous contributions from them in his first statewide race”:

The Texas Public Policy Foundation seems harmless on the surface, with its stated goals of limited government, individual liberties, free markets, personal responsibility and private property rights. Most Texans probably would subscribe to those goals. Dig below the surface, however, and you see just how radical its efforts are.

As an example of the foundation’s harmful objectives, the editorial discusses the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” for reforming higher education that the foundation is pushing. “Solutions” that appear to make sense, but instead are “carefully written to cloak their insidious nature.”

The editorial discusses in some detail “Solution 1”: Measure teaching efficiency and effectiveness, which has as its goal:

Improve the quality of teaching by making use of a public measurement tool to evaluate faculty teaching performance that makes it possible to recognize excellent teachers.

It blasts the foundation’s method—“formula”— for measuring the value of university faculty members.

It also criticizes “Solution 3,” “Split research and teaching budgets to encourage excellence in both,” as “apparently [in] an effort to downplay research, a familiar target of the far right…” and calls all seven “breakthrough” solutions “an affront to A&M and all the other Texas universities that work hard to prepare our young people for the future.”

I am not an educator. Thus I will not pass judgment on the merits or deficiencies of the seven breakthrough solutions for reforming higher education. The seven solutions can be viewed and studied here. Numerous articles, opinions and analyses have been published by academicians and politicians in recent months.

Reportedly, one of the more objective analyses was prepared for the University of Houston System by the Pappas Consulting Group Inc., a Connecticut-based organization that advises colleges and universities around the country.

The Texas Tribune has obtained their analyses and summarizes it as follows:

The various goals of the reforms are described as “admirable,” “praiseworthy” and “sound.” However, the methods with which those goals are to be achieved are said to have “serious limitations,” to be “problematic” and described as “not exactly clear.”

In addition, the Tribune reports:

The consultants expressed surprise that the proposals did not mention service, which they said has been increasing in importance. They also cautioned against “one-size-fits-all” solutions and emphasized a need to encourage “mission differentiation” among universities.

The full 2008 analysis can be found here.

While I am not an educator, I believe that I have observed this Governor long enough and know enough about his far-right political leanings that I concur with the Eagle’s opinion that politicians such as him should not be running our colleges and universities and that:

A&M is well on its way to achieving greatness. It would be a shame to let Rick Perry and his cohorts derail that with their interference.

Rick Perry can love Texas A&M more by meddling less — preferably not at all. Beyond appointing the best regents he can find — no matter who they contributed to in the last gubernatorial election — and attending football games at Kyle Field, Perry should leave A&M alone.

Amen, and Gig ‘em Aggies!

CODA: My use of “t.u.” for the University of Texas carries no disrespect for that great university or its football team. The rivalry between the two universities has always been good-natured and “healthy.” I have even cheered and pulled for the Longhorns.

         

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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10 Comments

  1. Geez, Dorian, I thought the seven breakthrough “solutions” were rum & coke, slow gin fizz, martini, marguerita, boilermaker, gin & tonic and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

    But, if Texas A&M is like the University of Wisconsin, those “solutions” have already been mixed and tried by students and faculty alike with hazy results.

  2. Hi Tidbits,

    My favorite solution is a big, frozen Margarita with salt on the rim and plenty of tortilla chips and salza :)

  3. Oh, hell, I can’t even spell Margarita. If UW finds out about this, they’ll revoke my diploma.

    Hope your alma mater doesn’t get screwed up too bad by the politicos. Perry doesn’t strike me as one who listens to constructive criticism, which doesn’t bode well for higher ed. in TX.

  4. Dorian, I have divided allegiance to Texas A&M and UT, having served a few years at each institution, and I deeply admire them both.

    You may have read the article in Texas Monthly recently (April 2011) called “Rick Perry’s War on Higher Ed” by Paul Burka which outlines the significance of what he’s doing and proposing. Seems like Texas A&M has treaded lightly on this one but UT has outright been fighting the process. Good for UT.

    I wonder if the base of all this comes from the general mentality of the Ronald Reagan quote from years back: “Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?”

    I think it’s a summation of the general take on basic research and grants that comes from the far-right–the necessary play to demonstrate that “elites” will not be tolerated in any form or fashion, and specifically and even overwhelmingly those “elites” in teaching positions who are burning up all that grant money learning about mammalian eyes and centipede genes and all that “useless” stuff.

    Reminds me of the line in Ghostbusters where Dan Aykroyd says “You don’t know what it’s like in the real world. They expect results!” But in the long run, I wonder exactly what “results” we’re in for…

  5. These people and their ‘common sense’ policies destroyed an economy, bankrupted the government and killed a hundred thousand people in Iraq by mistake. Destroying a university, especially Texas A&M, is definitely small potatoes. Hook’um ‘horns.

  6. Thanks for your comments, JeffP and Merkin.

    I had not seen the Texas Monthly article, will go there shortly. But my impression of this governor is of a man who doesn’t want the federal government to get into his state’s business,yet he wants to get into every minutia of our personal lives, including education, a woman’s body, etc., etc.
    A man who obstinately refused federal funds for Texas’ unemployed, yet cries when the president does not provide federal funds for Texas’ wild fires. A man who refuses to greet the President on one visit to Austin, yet cries when the President ignores him on the next visit. Need I go on?

  7. I’ll just say separating research and teaching at the uni level is a very bad idea.

  8. Funny that there are SEVEN solutions:

    From talk2action.org: “Prominently featured on the Social Transformation Conference website [at Harvard university] is a professionally-produced video on the “Seven Mountains mandate”, which instructs “Bible believing” Christians to seek control of seven key sectors of society: education, government, media, business, arts & entertainment, religion, and the family. According to the video, the “church” must regain control of those sectors, which are now occupied by “darkness”.

    “The Seven Mountains concept is a vision for the total eradication of secular society and church-state separation. Os Hillman and Lance Wallnau, two of the scheduled Social Transformation Conference speakers, are in the vanguard of promoting the 7M idea, which Wallnau calls “a template for warfare.”

    “The ‘Seven Mountains movement’ is a newly formed global Protestant mega-denomination that has coalesced out of independent charismatic Christianity; Four of the speakers, Hillman, Wallnau, Pat Francis, and Bill Hamon, are all apostles within the biggest organizational body in this movement, the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA), launched in 2001 [see footnote #1], and three are on the ICA’s elite “Apostolic Council”.”

    THIS is what’s going on in TX, and Perry heartily subscribes to their views.

    Perry wants to make state education a religious indoctrination bootcamp for students, not an institution for higher scientific learning.

    (This site has had many articles on the far religious right’s attempts to hijack education in TX.)

    Link: http://www.talk2action.org/sto.....114012/087

  9. Thanks for the link, zippee.

    Scary stuff, what these “apostles” are doing.

    But perhaps even more scary, who these people are being “courted” by and “sharing stages with”:

    The Seven Mountains/NAR leadership is being aggressively courted by top-level Republican Party politicians including several who may run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination (including Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann (see footnote #2)), and its leaders over the past two years have shared stages with many Republican senators and Congress members,including Senator Jim DeMint and former Senator Sam Brownback, now governor of Kansas, who was Lou Engle’s roommate for seven months, in a rented Washington DC condominium, as Brownback confirmed in September 2010.

  10. I agree with zipee–

    For another post I was remembering the history of Cynthia Dunbar, a champion of the religious right here in Texas, who was for a brief time being considered by Perry to be a new leader of the Texas Board of Education during her election years on that board.

    His appointments and Texas politics in general have been very damaging to education across the board not only in Texas, but in less subtle ways via textbook editing and “standards” for textbook purchasing across the country.

    The Wiki article on Dunbar is genuinely scary, regarding the willingness of herself and her followers to mindfully distort or eliminate reference in history to those “dark” elements of Founding Father statements.

    I think in large ways, the framing of their cause with “spiritual warfare” allows for that huge amount of cognitive dissonance that can occur when one reads things by Jesus such as the sermon on the mount, etc. There is no Jesus, Jesus meek and mild. To these political/religious mixers, there is the Jesus with domination and vengeance on his mind.

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