Tag Archives: Bob Duncan

Hey, Tech regents: Don’t let the vet school wither and die

Bob Duncan is now officially a former Texas Tech University system chancellor.

I remain saddened that he has called it a career. I remain angry that it happened in the manner that it did. I also remain intent on holding Texas Tech’s regents to account for the manner that they engineered Duncan’s departure from the chancellor’s office. Regents well might have violated Texas Open Meetings Act provisions by casting a “straw vote” in secret that produced a no-confidence decision regarding Duncan.

There’s a possible bit of major collateral damage coming from this tempest: the proposed Tech college of veterinary medicine that Tech wants to build in Amarillo.

A lengthy Texas Tribune story discusses how Duncan had been in deep doo-doo with regents for about a year prior to his abrupt resignation/retirement.

Whatever happens, it would be the height — or depth — of folly to let the vet school wither and die.

The interim chancellor, Tedd  Mitchell, said he supports the vet school in Amarillo. Regents also issued a statement in support of the vet school immediately after announcing Duncan’s retirement.

Lurking in the background is Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, who opposes Tech’s effort to build a vet school anywhere, not just Amarillo.

Tribune lays out lengthy simmering of relations.

Amarillo’s Economic Development Corporation has ponied up $69 million to support Tech’s effort, which is a huge statement of public support. The vet school’s economic boon to the Panhandle would be enormous. It needs to proceed.

As for Duncan and his ongoing beef with regents, it strikes me as odd, given the former chancellor’s stellar reputation as a public servant, dating back to his years in the Texas Legislature, as a House member and senator.

My plea is a simple one: Don’t let the Tech vet school wither and die.

Regents chair lays it out: Chancellor spent too much

Texas Tech University System Board of Regents Chairman Rick Francis has come clean, albeit — and admittedly — a bit late.

He has declared that Texas Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan, who is retiring in a few days, spent too much money on administrative matters. Thus, the board of regents — in a 5-4 vote — decided to go “in another direction.” The regents didn’t renew Duncan’s contract.

So, he announced his retirement.

Here is Francis’s explanation, as published in the Amarillo Globe-News.

I accept the explanation. However, it doesn’t quite go far enough.

First of all, I need to know whether Duncan’s budgeting proved detrimental to Texas Tech’s growth. I keep reading about student enrollment growth; about how Tech achieved Tier One status; about the growth of its various colleges of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy.

And oh, yes, the school wants to build a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

This is bad for the school? This has taken the university backward? No and no.

One more issue needs a resolution, Dr. Francis. It’s that “informal vote” you took in executive session. Texas Open Meetings Law requires governing bodies to vote in the open. They aren’t allowed to cast “informal votes” in secret, which apparently is what regents did.

I no longer live in Amarillo, but I remain a constituent of the Tech University System, given that it is run by the state; and, yep, my wife and I still live in Texas.

I would like to know how regents managed to circumvent state open meetings requirements by casting that straw vote in secret.

Yes, I appreciate the acknowledgement that the regents chairman was slow to respond to demands for an explanation.

But has the university suffered under Duncan’s tenure as chancellor? Oh, no. It has prospered.

Waiting for an explanation, TTU regents

Tedd Mitchell has been named interim chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. Fine. Go for it, Mr. Mitchell … whoever you are.

I am still waiting to hear a thorough explanation from the Tech regents as to why they dropped the anvil on one of genuinely good guys in Texas politics and public life, the lame-duck chancellor, Bob Duncan.

Duncan announced his retirement effective Aug. 31. Why so quick? Why so sudden? Because five of the nine regents gave him a no-confidence vote in executive session — which is another story altogether; I’m likely to have more on that down the road.

Texas Tech’s constituents need to know why Duncan, a man wholly devoted to the university, was shown the door in a secret vote. To date — and I’ll admit to being a good distance away at the moment — I have yet to hear anyone offer an explanation on what the slim Tech regent majority saw in Duncan that it didn’t like.

There have been rumblings and rumors about the proposed Tech school of veterinary medicine which the school wants to build in Amarillo. Reports indicate that Texas A&M University System officials got to Gov. Greg Abbott and asked him to pressure Duncan to back off the vet school idea. But then the Tech regents issued a statement reaffirming their support for the vet school.

Which is it, regents?

Duncan said all the right things when he announced his retirement. Those of us who know the chancellor want to know the story behind the story.

I must remind the regents that they constitute the governing body of a public institution funded by public money. They work for the state, which comprises 27 million or so “bosses” who need to know the whole story.

We’re all ears.

This petition is, um … tempting

I don’t sign petitions. A career in journalism precluded me from signing political documents that put my name into the public domain as a supporter or a foe of this or that politician or cause.

A petition, though, is making the rounds and it is providing a temptation I have to struggle to overcome.

It demands that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott remove five Texas Tech University System regents for their no-confidence vote against Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan.

The targets of the petition are Rick Francis, Ronnie Hammonds, Christopher Huckabee, Mickey Long and John Steinmetz. These are the five individuals whose no-confidence declaration essentially forced Duncan to announce his retirement effective Aug. 31.

As others have noted, Duncan is a serious Boy Scout who toiled for years in a profession known to produce more villains than heroes. He served in the Texas Legislature before becoming chancellor four years ago; he also worked as chief of staff for Sen. John Montford, another legislator of renown who became a Tech chancellor.

If there is a blemish on Duncan’s exemplary public service record, then someone will have to ask him to show to us, because no one has found one.

The planned Tech college of veterinary medicine appears to be at or near the center of this tempest. Tech wants to build a vet school in Amarillo, but is getting serious pushback from Texas A&M University, whose chancellor, John Sharp, has been leading the fight against Tech’s vet school plans. A&M operates the state’s only veterinary medicine school and doesn’t want Tech to meddle in what had been A&M’s exclusive educational domain.

So now Bob Duncan has been caught in that undertow. Shameful, I’m tellin’ ya.

Meanwhile, I am hereby renewing my demand for the regents who want Duncan out to explain in detail why they cast their vote to boot out the Boy Scout.

Why did you want Duncan to go, regents? Come clean!

I have to hand it to the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey: The man knows how to lay political injustice out there in the great wide open for all to see.

Ramsey thinks Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan got hosed by the university’s board of regents. They voted — possibly illegally in an executive session — to issue a no-confidence verdict on Duncan.

What does Ramsey think of Duncan? Get a load of this excerpt from the Texas Tribune: He has been solid gold the whole way: As a legislative staffer, a lawyer working for state Sen. John Montford, D-Lubbock; as a member of the Texas House and then a state senator; and finally, as the chancellor.

No scandals. No meaningful enemies (until now, anyway). His has been a stellar career. It’s what the optimists hope for and what the pessimists bet against. He’s straight out of a Frank Capra movie, or a civics textbook. Imagine a guy walking through a spaghetti factory in a white suit and leaving without a spot on him. Duncan is really something.

Which is why it’s a shame that the rest of the crabs pulled him back into the bucket. The regents at Texas Tech showed their mettle — demonstrating why they’re little fish and not big fish — when a more brazen academic institution bellowed about their plans to launch a veterinary school in the Panhandle. Texas A&M University, headed by former legislator, railroad commissioner and comptroller John Sharp, believes one vet school is enough.

Ramsey thinks that someone connected to the A&M System got to Gov. Greg Abbott, who might have told the Tech regents — who are appointed by the governor — to reel Duncan in.

What is galling to me is that regents haven’t yet given a hint of detail as to why they want Duncan to leave the post he has held for the past four years. By most observers’ reckoning, he was doing a bang-up job as the system’s chief administrator.

Regents have sought to cover their backsides by declaring their continued support for the school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s great!

Read Ramsey’s excellent analysis here.

First things first. They need to explain to Tech’s constituents why they have pushed a “good guy,” as Ramsey described Duncan, over the proverbial cliff.

When does ‘informal’ allow for secrecy?

Lubbock, we might have a problem.

The Texas Tech University System Board of Regents well might have violated a key provision in the Texas Open Meetings Law when it cast an “informal vote” in executive — or secret — session that gave Chancellor Bob Duncan a vote of no confidence.

The regents, meeting in Lubbock, voted 5-4 in delivering the no confidence declaration. Duncan, who’s been chancellor of the university for four years, then announced his retirement effective at the end of August.

The Open Meetings Law is pretty clear. It says that governing boards cannot cast votes in secret. They can deliberate out of public view, but must vote in the open.

It has been reported that regents voted “informally” in secret. As I understand the law, that’s a non-starter, folks.

Here is how AGN Media reported it: Duncan on Monday, a few days following that vote in executive session, announced his retirement after four years as chancellor of the Texas Tech University System.

For that matter, what in the name of transparency does an “informal” vote mean? Does it mean that the board can change its mind? Or that it really didn’t mean to deliver the no confidence vote in the first place? Or … that it’s all open to negotiation?

I seriously doubt the Open Meetings Law makes exceptions for “informal” votes.

As one with a keen interest in these sorts of matters, I would appreciate a thorough explanation. So would the rest of the Texas Tech University constituency.

I’m all ears.

Memo to Tech: Keep the vet school moving ahead

If I had a chance to ask the candidates who seek to become the next chancellor of the Texas Tech University System a single question …

It would go like this: Will you ensure that Texas Tech continues to proceed full force with establishing a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo?

Whoever seeks the office that Bob Duncan is vacating with his retirement at the end of this month had better answer it the right way. That would be an emphatic “heck, yeah!”

Duncan, who built a stellar career in law, then in the Texas Legislature and then as Texas Tech’s chancellor, has decided to go on down the road. He turns 65. He wants to scale it back.

The chancellor has done very well for the school where he earned his undergraduate and law degrees. The school’s endowment has grown to more than $1 billion under Duncan’s tenure as chancellor, which speaks to the success he enjoyed as a fundraiser for the university.

Back to my original point.

Duncan has become an articulate champion for Tech’s next great system addition, the vet school in Amarillo. This project, which has the full backing of the Amarillo City Council and the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, will be a boon to veterinary medicine in Texas, not to mention to the Texas Panhandle, which will benefit greatly by delivering a top-quality education to students who want to serve their communities.

The vet school holds tremendous promise for large-animal veterinary care. Given the Panhandle’s reliance on livestock and horses, that is — as one might think — a very … big … deal.

The vet school is gaining valuable momentum, much of it pushed forward by Chancellor Bob Duncan.

The next chancellor, whoever he or she is, must carry that momentum forward.

As for Chancellor Duncan, I want to join the chorus of those who thank him for his service to the state, to his beloved university and to the Texas Panhandle.

Godspeed, sir.

Yep, Amarillo is ready to welcome a vet school

Mary Emeny is a friend of mine with a particular interest in a plot of land that she hopes will become home to a new school of veterinary medicine.

She chairs a trust that donated the property to Texas Tech University, which is considering whether to build a vet school in Amarillo.

I, of course, have no such vested interest. I merely want to endorse my friend’s column that appeared in the Amarillo Globe-News that pitches hard for the vet school.

Read the full column here.

Texas Tech University regents have declared their intention to build a vet school. Tech is getting a lot of push back from Texas A&M University, which at the moment has the only veterinary medicine school in Texas. A&M Chancellor John Sharp wants to keep it that way, or so it appears.

My own view is that Texas is a large enough state to accommodate more than one university’s desire to educate veterinarians. We comprise 28 million residents, spread across nearly 270,000 square miles. Tech regents — and Chancellor Bob Duncan — want to establish a veterinary medicine campus in Amarillo that could help train and retain vets who come from the Texas Panhandle and who might want to stay here after they earn their DVM degrees.

As Emeny writes in the Globe-News: Even as we urbanize, our base is still ranching, and more recently dairy and hogs, with farming that supports them all. The veterinary school will bring much needed assistance to overworked veterinarians, especially those that tend to large animals in the region. Moreover, it will do so in a wonderfully elegant way. By assigning students to practicing veterinarians in the area, the vets become the mentors and the students assist the vets. Such a model bypasses the need for a separate teaching hospital, significantly reducing student tuition while giving local vets a platform for interaction and ready access to the latest knowledge and technologies.

Does any of this diminish A&M’s role in training veterinarians? Of course not! It does add to the pool of aspiring veterinarians to a community — such as the Panhandle — that can serve a region with a compelling need for them.

Well stated, Mary.

Texas Tech, Texas A&M battle over veterinary medicine

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp came to the Panhandle the other day to announce plans to enhance West Texas A&M’s veterinary medicine education program.

Sharp wants to maintain A&M’s monopoly on veterinary medicine throughout the state. I cannot blame him for looking out for the university system he administers.

Oh, but wait. His plan for WT have the appearance of a sort of pre-emptive strike to prevent Texas Tech University from building a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo, which is a live option on the table for the community … and for Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan.

Duncan and Sharp have distinct differences of opinion on whether Texas Tech should proceed with construction of a veterinary college in Amarillo. Duncan came to town not long ago to pitch the case to community leaders, suggesting that Tech’s board of regents are committed to establishing a vet school next to Tech’s existing Health Sciences Center in Amarillo.

Sharp, meanwhile, is pulling out many stops to prevent Tech from proceeding. The top Aggie is a savvy enough politician to understand what the announcement that boosts WT’s role in veterinary medicine means to any potential competition. Then again, Duncan has been around the Texas political pea patch a time or two himself, so he must be acutely aware of what Sharp might be trying to accomplish.

I happen to believe that Texas — with 268,000 square miles and 27 million residents — is big enough to accommodate two schools of veterinary medicine. Duncan has high praise for the veterinary education that A&M provides. He also believes Texas Tech can provide a top-drawer education for veterinary medicine students who want to be educated here at home and who might want to remain in the Panhandle after they receive their DVM degrees from Texas Tech.

I happen to agree with Duncan.

I also believe the A&M initiative is good for West Texas A&M, it’s good for the community … but it shouldn’t forestall Texas Tech’s efforts to establish a veterinary medicine presence in Amarillo.

Tech chancellor pushes another ‘big idea’

Bob Duncan is on a mission. It’s simple and complicated at the same time.

The Texas Tech University System chancellor believes Texas is too big a state to have just a single college of veterinary medicine. He wants to establish a second vet school and he wants it to be in Amarillo.

So, here’s the simplicity and complexity of the notion he is proposing.

The Texas Panhandle is at the epicenter of large animal care, given the region’s plethora of livestock in the form of cattle and horses. “The feedlots and dairies are clustered in West Texas, not on the Brazos (River),” he said, alluding to Texas A&M University’s dominance of veterinary medicine education. A&M has the sole such college in Texas, and Duncan wants to rid the Aggies of their vet school monopoly.

In a presentation today to the Rotary Club of Amarillo, Duncan made several key points. He pointed out that Texas Tech was created in 1923 as the result of a “big idea.” He believes the school of veterinary medicine is the university’s next major step forward.

Duncan said Texas has a shortage of veterinarians, 40 percent of whom are educated out of state.

The chancellor said Texas Tech has been consulting with veterinary medicine programs at Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Colorado State and University of California-Davis. He also noted that Amarillo is closer to the vet school campuses in Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado than it is to College Station, home of Texas A&M University’s flagship campus.

But it gets complicated.

Duncan and his Tech team have been getting serious resistance from A&M, which is led by Chancellor John Sharp, who Duncan describes as a “fine chancellor” who’s also a friend. “We just disagree on this issue,” Duncan said of Sharp.

Sharp has been resisting Tech’s push for a school of veterinary medicine because he apparently believes there’s no need for a second such school in Texas, a state comprising 268,000 square miles and 28 million inhabitants. Indeed, Texas is the second-largest state geographically and second-most populous state in the nation. And we have just a single school of veterinary medicine?

I believe Chancellor Sharp has been bitten by the protectionist bug.

Duncan said he has no desire or intention to denigrate Texas A&M or its school of veterinary medicine. “A&M is considered one of the top 10 vet schools in the nation,” Duncan said, “but A&M cannot accept all the qualified applicants who want to be veterinarians.” He noted that most of the qualified Texas vet school applicants have to go out of state to obtain their doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Texas Tech has received $4.1 million from the Texas Legislature to develop a plan for a vet school in Amarillo, Duncan said, adding that Tech plans to present that plan to the 2019 Legislature, which convenes next January.

Tech plans to locate the campus next to it existing Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and School of Pharmacy campuses in west Amarillo.

But there’s a lot more money to raise, Duncan said, citing a $90 million goal from private, public and foundation sources. He said the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has set aside $15 million in grant funds to assist in that fundraising effort.

“It’s a natural fit,” Duncan said of the vet school plan for the Texas Panhandle.

How confident is the chancellor of success? He didn’t specify.

I’ll just add that Duncan moved into the chancellor’s chair after a highly successful career in the Texas Senate. Many of his former Senate colleagues are still serving there, along with a smattering of those with whom he served in the Texas House. Moreover, Duncan also believes the Panhandle delegation — Sen. Kel Seliger, and Reps. John Smithee, Four Price and Ken King — all are lending their considerable influence to push the vet school over the finish line.

Duncan developed a high degree of respect as a legislator. I believe that respect transfers to the Texas Tech chancellor as he seeks legislative support for what he calls Tech’s next “big idea.”