Tag Archives: John Sharp

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.

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.

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.”

Here comes another ‘czar’

John Sharp is taking on the role of “czar.”

The Texas A&M University System chancellor has been picked by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to lead and coordinate the long-term recovery effort along the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Harvey stormed ashore twice and devastated the coast from the Coastal Bend to the Golden Triangle. Sharp’s task is to make sure the recovery proceeds efficiently, as quickly as possible and with a minimum amount of angst and anxiety.

Sharp has crafted a list of guidelines he plans to follow in this Rebuild Texas effort that will be based in College Station.

Here are the guidelines.

Two points stand out.

One is to “let the experts do their job.” My understanding of the term “czar” normally would compel such a person to have his or her hands on every decision made. Sharp won’t do that. He’ll stand back and let the experts in their specific discipline commence with their tasks.

The other is to “be available all day, every day.” That’s more like a czar. It’s also good advice for the chancellor to follow for himself, not to mention for the experts who’ll be assigned to put the shattered and soggy Gulf Coast back together.

I am a fan of Sharp. I covered him at many levels during my time as an opinion editor at two newspapers in Texas; one was in Beaumont, the other was in Amarillo. I’ve known him for some time, dating back to when he first ran for the Railroad Commission.

He’s affable and has a self-deprecating streak. He’s also a knowledgeable public servant who has many friends and allies on both ends of the political spectrum.

I have trouble attaching the word “czar” to John Sharp.

We’ll see soon enough if it fits.

It’s just time to get busy.

A&M chancellor takes on a huge new rebuilding task

Hurricane Harvey’s devastation along the Texas Gulf Coast has delivered an important political metaphor.

It is that human misery crosses party lines. To that end — and this appointment likely isn’t being done to illustrate that point expressly — Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has tapped a leading Texas Democrat to lead the Gulf Coast rebuilding effort.

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, who’s got a most-demanding full-time job already, is going to lead that rebuilding.

Indeed, Chancellor Sharp has serious skin in this game. He served in the Texas Legislature — in the House and then the Senate — while living in Victoria, a community that was rocked by Harvey’s first landfall on the Texas coast. So, he feels the pain of the folks suffering the ongoing misery that Harvey left behind.

Sharp also is the latest Democrat elected to statewide office in Texas. He served as comptroller of public accounts from 1991 until 1999. I have no particular reason for mentioning that, other than to note that Sharp’s partisan affiliation is well-known; it speaks well, too, of Abbott’s willingness to reach across the political aisle to find someone to lead this massive effort.

I join the rest of the state in wishing the chancellor well and Godspeed as he takes on this huge task. He surely knows what awaits him as he takes charge of the governor’s new task force.

It’s big, John Sharp. Real big.

Reason required cancellation of A&M rally

Reason and sanity have prompted an eminently wise decision in Aggieland.

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp has cancelled a white nationalist rally that was scheduled for the College Station campus.

Gosh, what do you suppose prompted the cancellation?

Oh yeah! It was that hideous riot at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the one that resulted in the deaths of three individuals. Ku Klux Klansmen, neo-Nazis and assorted white nationalists gathered there to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. All hell broke loose when counter protesters showed up.

Texas A&M was set to step into the crosshairs by agreeing to play host to its own white nationalist rally set for Sept. 11.

Then the chancellor intervened. Sharp cited safety concerns in ordering the rally canceled. According to the Austin American-Statesman, several Texas legislators urged cancellation of the rally that had been organized by a group promoting the event as a “White Lives Matter” protest. Read the rest of the American-Statesman story here.

The Charlottesville tragedy has ignited a rhetorical firestorm. Donald J. Trump threw a load of flammable liquid on it Saturday by initially declining to condemn the racists/bigots whose protests provoked the response they received. The president had a chance to lead, but then he failed to do so.

Today, the president called out the racists by name. It’s likely not enough to quell the uproar.

To that end, the A&M System has done the profoundly correct thing — given the national mood of the moment — to cancel a rally that well could have turned into another riot.

Good call, Chancellor Sharp.

May the right university system win

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My pal Jon Mark Beilue — a columnist for the Amarillo Globe-News — as usual, has laid out a fascinating critique of a growing dispute between two highly regarded Texas university systems.

One of them, Texas Tech, just announced plans to build and develop a college of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

The other one, Texas A&M, has fired a shot across Tech’s bow, implying it will resist the effort to build an animal doctor school in the Texas Panhandle.

Beilue, himself a Tech alumnus, has taken up for his alma mater. But he’s right on the merits of his argument to argue that A&M is better than to exhibit a petulant streak in seeking to block Tech’s entry into the world of veterinary medicine academia. A&M’s credentials as a premier veterinary medicine institution are impeccable.

But let’s boil this possible tempest down to a more personal level.

Two men are leading their schools’ efforts. They both have at least one political thing in common: They both served in the Texas Senate.

Bob Duncan is chancellor of the Tech System. He’s a Republican who left the Senate this past year to take over the Tech job after Kent Hance retired to become something called “chancellor emeritus.”

Duncan’s Senate reputation is sparkling. He was named routinely by Texas Monthly magazine every two years as one of the top legislators in the state. His job now as chancellor is to raise money for the Tech System and he gets to lobby his friends in the Senate for help in that regard.

John Sharp served in the Senate quite a while ago, from 1982 to 1987; prior to that he served in the Texas House of Representatives. He’s a Democrat, who left the Senate to serve on the Texas Railroad Commission and then as Comptroller of Public Accounts. He, too, developed a reputation as a solid legislator, although he has fewer individuals with whom he served in the Legislature than his rival chancellor, Duncan.

This face-off will be fun to watch, particularly if it develops into something more than it appears at the moment.

I hope it doesn’t grow into anything more serious. Texas Tech is entitled to develop school of veterinary medicine anywhere it so chooses. That the system brass decided to bring it to Amarillo is a huge plus for the Texas Panhandle.

My hope would be that if Sharp stiffens his resistance that Duncan could call on his fellow Republican buddies in the Panhandle legislative delegation to use their own considerable muscle to make the veterinary school a reality.

As Beilue pointed out in his essay, the value of a veterinary school to any region of this state should rise far above petty politics.

 

 

 

Higher ed turf fight in the offing … perhaps

ttucampus

Texas Tech University has announced it is considering the development of a school of veterinary medicine.

No plans have been set. It’s just talk at the moment. The word came from Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan that the university system is scouting around for a proper location while deciding if it actually wants to go ahead with development of the program.

Amarillo is considered one of the potential favorites for the new veterinary medicine campus.

The Texas Tribune that Tech has cited increasing student interest in the veterinary medicine campus and noted that Amarillo — with its huge agricultural base nearby — might be a good fit for such a campus.

OK, but it gets even more interesting.

Texas A&M University — which already has one of the premier veterinary medicine programs in the country, if not the world — is considering expanding that part of its curriculum to other regions of the state. You have just one guess on where the A&M System might locate that new veterinary medicine campus.

If you said West Texas A&M University, you’d win an undetermined prize.

The Tribune reported: “After Tech’s announcement, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp seemed to hint in a statement that A&M was considering expanding its school to other areas in the state.  ‘As a courtesy, last weekend I informed Chancellor Robert Duncan that the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine would soon announce a presence in several Texas A&M System schools,’ Sharp said. ‘In response, Mr. Duncan comes up with this long-rejected claim we should fund a vet school at Texas Tech. The Coordinating Board has specifically rejected the notion. The Legislature has rejected this for 40 years. We will proceed with our announcement as planned.’”

Here’s the full Texas Tribune story.

So, is there a bit of jockeying taking place here? Would the Texas Panhandle be in the running for both university systems’ desire for veterinary schools? I doubt strongly we’d get both of them.

Whatever happens, we’ll just have to stay tuned to see how this plays out.