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