Tough Decisions, Part II

In my previous post, I discussed our economic situation, priorities, and strategy.  Today I want to talk about implementing the strategy.

 Reallocation—No colleges or schools have experienced a budget cut for this academic year.  They have been asked to reallocate resources to fund half of the faculty raise pool for 2009-10, as well as their internal strategic initiatives.  Deans, department chairs, and vice presidents know their programs better than anyone.  Instead of managing by presidential edict, I have asked the individuals with direct responsibility for our programs to make these decisions.  This is very difficult and painful work.  I applaud our faculty, department chairs, and deans for the progress they’ve made.  Some areas, such as Information Technology Services (ITS), have already seen reorganizations and reductions in force.  The changes at ITS alone will save more than $5 million per year. 

Nevertheless, we face serious financial challenges through 2012, and we will need to continue working hard to address them.

The future—Unlike many of our national peer universities, UT Austin has not experienced severe budget cuts imposed by external forces.  We are not facing a budget shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars, which the University of California System is confronting.  We will come out of this recession as a stronger and more efficient institution. 

The recession has created uncertainty, which is hard on our students, faculty, and staff.  We have tried to include representative voices from the campus community in all our planning and communications.  Sometimes leaders must make tough decisions.  I understand that these decisions have human costs and affect real people.  But doing nothing also comes at a cost—a cost to the future of our programs, a cost to our aspirations, and a cost to the value of a degree from the University of Texas at Austin. 

I believe we must strive for excellence, in good times and bad.  I also believe that if we make strategic and disciplined decisions, we can emerge from the recession closer to our goal of becoming the nation’s best public university.  


Making Tough Decisions

The challenges our University faces this academic year are complex.  Consequently, our response to these challenges is not a simple story.  In the interest of clarity and transparency, I want to share our strategy.  Because...

Longhorn Memories

Many of you will be heading for Pasadena this week, and Kim and I look forward to joining you.  The rest of the Longhorn Nation will be watching the BCS Championship Game on television this Thursday. ...


  1. Hi President Powers,

    I just wrote a post about your blog on my own blog,

    I would love for you to check it out at:

    Blake Sunshine

  2. President Powers, thanks for starting this blog.

    Jcal, I don’t know the details and since Notre Dame is a private institution, we may not ever know all the details., but my understanding is that a lot of those other schools have endowments for athletic programs in a way that UT does not. But benchmarking UT’s programs against others to measure academic impacts would be a great thing to do to better inform this discussion.

    As an alum, I don’t know a lot about how the Faculty Council interacts with the President’s office. As an outsider, it appears that there is a pattern of the faculty passing resolutions and then being miffed if/when President Powers does not leap to action. If the Faculty Council’s objective is to appear marginalized, then it is succeeding. However, if the FC would like to make meaningful contributions to the governance of the University of Texas, may I suggest that you begin with overtures for meetings and discussions encouraging an informed approach by all involved?

    These resolutions and subsequent discussions remind me of the marital “if-then” conditional statements: “If you love me, then you will do X.” The conditional resolutions create the same premise–President Powers only cares about the faculty IF he changes Mack Brown’s salary or IF he creates an Ombudsman. It is policy in a vacuum.

    President Powers and the Faculty Council would be well served to work together to define problems to be addressed and propose a framework for identifying solutions, and benchmarking us against peer institutions. This is not only logical, it is far more meaningful than generating resolutions followed by a season of resentment for being ignored.

  3. According to CNN, Texas football has an annual profit (after expenses) of $65 million. You claim that the athletic department gives as much money as possible to academics after supporting the non-profitable sport teams. In recent years, athletics has contributed around $2 million to academics. My question is the follow, why does it take $63 million to fund the other sports teams? Note that this $62 million expense is in addition to the football expenses! Again I’ll point out that Notre Dame has less football profit, supports the same non-profitable sport teams, and gives over $20 million a year to academics.

  4. President Powers, as you boast in a recent post, UT has some of the most talented faculty in the world. This includes experts in business, law, and politics. As exceptionally bright individuals, I think it is fair to say that they are capable of weighing the consequences of decisions, evaluating business impact, etc. Despite this, you have OVERRULED the faculty councils’ resolution calling Mack Brown’s salary inappropriate, as well as the faculty council’s unanimous resolution supporting the implementation of a staff Ombudsperson. This seems to be a rather severe indictment of the faculty’s judgement.

    How can we ask students to come from all over the world to Texas to learn from our faculty, when our president doesn’t even follow our faculty’s advice himself (especially in a situation where the advice was _unanimous_).

  5. President Powers,

    You wrote: “In Tower Talk I’ll try to answer questions that are raised in reader comments. While I am unable to respond to every question, I’ll look for issues of high interest or questions raised by multiple readers.”


    Does a resolution passed unanimously by the Faculty Council (this excerpt verbatim from the Faculty Council minutes of April 13) qualify as an “issue of high interest?”

    “Resolution in Support of Creating a Staff Ombudsperson Position at UT Austin (D 6966)

    On behalf of the Faculty Council Executive Committee, Chair Hillis introduced the following resolution, ‘The Faculty Council supports the Staff Council in their mission to secure an ombudsperson for staff personnel at The University of Texas at Austin.’ Staff Council Representative Denise Berry announced there would be a brown bag luncheon to discuss the staff ombudsperson issue. She also endorsed the proposed resolution. There being no further discussion, Chair Hillis called for the vote, and the motion was unanimously passed by voice vote.”