Tag Archives: Texas A&M University

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.

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.

Texas Tech preparing to enlarge its Panhandle footprint

Texas Tech University really wants to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. For that the entire Panhandle should be grateful to the Lubbock-based university system.

Two committees comprising Tech regents have approved a degree plan for the school and a design for the way they want it to look.

It’s going to be erected near Tech’s health sciences center in west Amarillo. It’s going to cost more than $80 million over five years to operate; construction will cost around $89 million. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, with the blessing of the Amarillo City Council, has committed around $69 million in public money to lure the veterinary medicine school to Amarillo.

The school isn’t a done deal just yet. Tech’s regents, along with Chancellor Bob Duncan, are acting as if it is.

That’s fine. The Texas Legislature will be able to weigh in next year.

However, Tech has made the case for a new school of veterinary medicine. It wants to build it in Amarillo, cementing its commitment to the Panhandle.

Read the Amarillo Globe-News story here.

Tech will build this school over the objection of the Texas A&M University System, which has the heretofore only vet school in Texas. A&M officials don’t want Tech to build the school. The reasons why escape me, given that the state is large enough to field enough students for both veterinary medicine schools.

The Tech vet school is going to specialize in large animal veterinary medical care.

This is a huge boon to the Panhandle. My perch from some distance away doesn’t lessen my own support for this worthwhile and stunning advance in the region’s economic well-being.

Vet school plan ‘coming together’

The late actor George Peppard once portrayed a TV character, Hannibal Smith, on the series “The A-Team,” who was fond of saying he loved it “when a plan comes together.”

Well, ladies and gents, a Texas Tech University plan is coming together for Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle.

The Texas Tech Board of Regents has authorized Tech President Lawrence Schovanec to execute an agreement with the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation sets aside as much as $69 million to help finance construction of a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

Is that cool? Or what? Of course it is!

AEDC delivered a monumental pledge to Texas Tech to help move the vet school program forward. Tech is planning to build a vet school in Amarillo that will cost an estimated $90 million. It will be located near Tech’s existing campuses near the medical center complex in west Amarillo.

This is huge deal for Amarillo. And for Tech. And for the future of large-animal veterinary medicine in the Texas Panhandle.

The project ran into some resistance from another university system, Texas A&M, where its leaders didn’t want Tech to proceed. A&M has the state’s only school of veterinary medicine and I suppose they wanted to keep its monopoly on that form of higher education.

Texas, though, is a large and diverse enough state to accommodate more than a single school of veterinary medicine. Thus, Tech’s plan is a good fit for Texas, not to mention for the Panhandle.

As the Amarillo Globe-News reported about the May 8 decision by the Amarillo City Council to proceed with the project: “This investment by the EDC ensures the vet school will happen and also challenges industry and community partners to join in the success of making this vet school happen,” Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said at the time. “The timing of Amarillo’s investment before the legislative appropriations request will increase the momentum of private fundraising and hopefully assist the legislative funding request. Funding for the project will come from annual tax revenues, which is sales tax, recognized by the EDC. The estimated annual economic impact for the veterinary school of medicine will be $76 million annually to Amarillo.”

Yep, a huge plan is coming together. Hannibal Smith would be proud.

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.

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.”

Is a vet school coming to the Panhandle?

Texas Tech University officials want to put a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s the word from the chancellor’s office and from others within the sprawling university system.

The notion has a couple of big obstacles. One of them involves money; the other involves politics.

First, the money obstacle.

The Texas Legislature has appropriated about $4 million to Texas Tech to start researching how it can install a large-animal veterinary school that would serve the Texas Panhandle and, indeed, the rest of the state and perhaps the tri-state region.

The hope would be for Panhandle residents to get their DVM degrees and then stay home to serve the community.

But Tech needs about $90 million more, according to Amarillo Matters, a political action group formed to speak on behalf of issues and officials who want to improve Amarillo and the surrounding region. Time isn’t on the side of Texas Tech. They don’t have much time to raise the money and they’re searching for the deepest pockets possible to help finance construction and development of the school.

I happen to believe a veterinary medical school makes perfect sense for Amarillo and the surrounding region. Texas Tech, based in Lubbock, is the ideal school to establish it, given that it already has medical school and pharmacy school campuses in the city. Indeed, the Tech School of Pharmacy came to being after the community ponied up a lot of money to show Tech that it had sufficient interest in the project. It has been a successful venture.

Now for the politics of it.

Texas A&M University doesn’t want Tech to proceed with a veterinary medicine school. Aggieland is totally opposed to Tech impinging on the monopoly that A&M has on veterinary education in Texas.

This interference doesn’t make sense.

There surely must be ample opportunity for a second top-tier university system to develop a veterinary medical school. Last time I looked, I noticed that Texas is a mighty big state, comprising more than 250,000 square miles and stretching more than 800 miles east-west and north-south.

Tech and A&M apparently haven’t yet worked out their differences. My hope is that Texas Tech wins out in this battle of university system wills.

Then the Tech System needs to find the rest of the money.

Coaching pays well, even when you’re no longer coaching

I am all too willing to acknowledge that there’s a lot about many things I don’t understand.

College football coaching contracts is one example.

Kevin Sumlin got canned this week as head grid coach at Texas A&M University. Why did the athletic director fire him? Well, I get this: He didn’t win enough football games for the Aggies.

Now … in my world, that constitutes non-performance. It means to me that Coach Sumlin didn’t fulfill the terms of his agreement with the Texas A&M University System.

Here is where confusion sets in: Sumlin is going to receive millions more dollars even though he’s no longer a public education employee.

How do you justify this?

Sumlin received $5 million annually to coach the Aggies. Five million bucks, man! That’s a good gig, right? Sure it is. But you have to do the job your bosses demand of you.

University of Texas athletics officials faced a similar quandary when head football coach Charley Strong was fired. UT had to pay him lots of cash even though he didn’t measure up, either. The payout was reduced a bit when Coach Strong landed a coaching job at the University of South Florida.

But the Sumlin payout apparently is a bit of an issue in Aggieland. According to the Texas Tribune: Big payouts for fired college coaches are hardly rare, but Sumlin’s payout is relatively large and has been a source of frustration for some fans. Sumlin’s pay was bumped to $5 million per year after his first season — one of A&M’s most successful seasons in the modern college football era. At the time, he was rumored to be a candidate for jobs at other universities or in the National Football League.

These coaches operate in a parallel universe. If they don’t measure up to the terms of their contract, do they really deserve to get the kind of dough they’re getting when they are given the boot?

I need an explanation.

What’s missing? Oh, wait! Longhorns vs. Aggies

I was 34 years of age when my family and I moved to Texas. That was in 1984.

At the time I was a fairly avid collegiate football fan. I grew quickly to appreciate one of the country’s more intense gridiron rivalries not long after arriving in the Golden Triangle.

I refer to the University of Texas-Texas A&M rivalry. They used to play that game on Thanksgiving Day. My wife and I became friends in Beaumont with diehard Aggie alumni. They were four brothers, all of whom graduated from A&M; their children went there, too; and so did their grandchildren. They bled Aggie Maroon. I was schooled immediately — and often — about how much Aggie football meant to Texas Aggie families.

I even learned to refer to the University of Texas as “texas university.”

Then the Aggies decided they wanted to bolt to the Southeastern Conference. They wanted to play tackle football against Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee … and some other schools.

Then the rivalry was dissolved.

I am still somewhat saddened that we can’t see the Longhorns play the Aggies on Turkey Day.

I have no particular allegiance to either school. I didn’t attend either of them; neither did our sons. I wrote a year ago about missing a Thanksgiving tradition. I still miss it.

Missing a Thanksgiving tradition

Can’t there be a way for the athletic directors at these schools to work out a non-conference game that pits these football teams against each other … on Thanksgiving Day?

C’mon! You can do this!