Tag Archives: Texas Tech

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.

Some answers, please, Texas Tech regents

So, now there appears to be a bit of suspicion associated with the announcement that Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan is retiring at the end of the month.

The Tech Board of Regents voted 5-4 to seek “new leadership” in the chancellor’s office.

That hardly constitutes a consensus. Still, Duncan decided to go after regents completed an executive session.

Here is how AGN Media reported it.

I am going to say a good word or two about the chancellor.

First, he has done well by the university he has attended and represented in the Texas Legislature — and then led as its chancellor for the past four years. I am a big fan and supporter of this man who, while serving in the Texas Senate, emerged almost every legislation session as one of Texas Monthly’s top legislators.

He has been an adamant proponent of the proposed Tech college of veterinary medicine planned for Amarillo. That’s a big deal, man!

There reportedly have been reports of financial impropriety. Tech regents and administrators have pushed back on those reports. They say there’s nothing wrong.

Still, the regents want “new leadership.” I believe the public deserves a more complete explanation of what they want, of what they expect and where Duncan fell short.

They’ll need to make the case that the university needs a new man at the top of the administrative totem pole.

I will continue to wish Chancellor Duncan all the very best and I’ll offer him, yet again, a word of thanks for the leadership he gave to a major Texas institution of higher education.

Texas Tech vet school? Call it a ‘done deal’

You now may say that Texas Tech University’s plans to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo is a done deal.

The Amarillo City Council’s decision Tuesday to sign off on a $69 million pledge to Tech puts the city’s seal of approval on a plan that the university says will generate tens of millions of dollars annually to the Panhandle economy.

It also will educate hundreds of veterinarians who will care for animals vital to the region’s lifeblood.

Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, along with a charitable trust, stepped up to donate land and to guarantee as much as $69 million for the $90 million project.

This, I submit, is a big day for Amarillo’s future growth and prosperity.

Do you remember the push back that Tech got from a competitor, Texas A&M University, which at this moment operates the only veterinary medical school in Texas? It appears that A&M, led by Chancellor John Sharp, has relented. Sharp had expressed opposition to Tech’s desire to build a vet school.

To my reckoning, Sharp and the A&M hierarchy never made the case that Texas couldn’t possibly play host to two schools of veterinary medicine. This is a big state, full of aspiring students who want to work for their communities. Texas Tech has now given a segment of them a chance to do exactly that.

Tech had plenty of help, from AEDC and from the family of Amarillo philanthropist Mary Emeny, which donated the land where Tech will build the school.

As the Amarillo Globe-News has reported: “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. “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.”

I am willing to bet real American money that “industry and community partners” will welcome Tech’s expanded presence in the Texas Panhandle.

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.

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.

 

 

 

Tech makes bigger footprint in Amarillo

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Texas Tech University officials appear intent on increasing the school’s presence in Amarillo.

It’s obvious of the school’s plan with the announcement that Texas Tech plans to build and develop a college of veterinary medicine way up yonder … in the Texas Panhandle.

We all ought to welcome the addition.

Texas Tech already runs a pharmacy school here, courtesy of a lengthy and intense local fundraising campaign in the mid-1990s; and that school came after Tech had established a medical school campus here.

When you think about, Amarillo’s higher education footprint is growing on a number of levels.

West Texas A&M University is in the process of turning a one-time downtown Amarillo office building into an urban campus, which no doubt will expand the Canyon-based university’s presence in the Panhandle’s largest city.

Let us not forget that Amarillo College’s presence here for decades has been significant. AC runs three campuses just in Amarillo. It also has branch campuses in Dumas and Hereford, making it a regional junior college.

The buzz today, though, belongs to Texas Tech University.

Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan led a large university delegation of officials today to announce plans for the veterinary school. Duncan said today the school’s aim is to ensure that students learn their profession here — and then stay here to practice it.

So, the footprint is set to expand and the community figures to reap the benefit.

 

Israel journey was a life-changer

Most of us have life experiences that stick with us, well, forever.

I’ve had the usual experiences: marriage to a wonderful girl, producing two wonderful sons who’ve grown into fine men, wearing my country’s uniform during a time of war, embarking on a rewarding career that has taken me to places I never imagined seeing.

Another one stands out. It’s a rare event that occurred five years ago this week. It was when four young people and I boarded an airplane for Israel. We were part of an extraordinary adventure. We spent four weeks in the Holy Land, touring one of the world’s most interesting countries from top to bottom. We lived with families and became, at one level, part of their families — if only briefly. We weren’t tourists. Thus, we saw more of a fascinating place than most people ever get to see.

***

I am a member of the Rotary Club of Amarillo. Our Rotary district had set up an exchange with another Rotary district in Israel. Our district needed a Rotary member to lead a team of four non-Rotarians on this exchange. I was one of several Rotarians who interviewed for the team leader spot. The interview took place in the fall of 2008 and the committee assigned to consider the applicants chose yours truly to lead the team.

I was stunned.

Then we got to work picking a team. They would comprise four individuals ages 25 to 40. We found four outstanding young professionals who had their employers’ blessing to take four weeks off to learn from their peers in Israel.

The program is called Group Study Exchange and its aim is manyfold: It’s meant to build relationships among nations in a people-to-people way; it exposes professionals to like-minded folks in other countries; and it helps build interest in Rotary, encouraging team members to join Rotary and become active in their own communities.

Three young women and a young man formed the team and together we began to prepare for this journey. They are Katt Krause of Amarillo, who was office manager for her family landscape contractor business; Aida Almaraz Nino of Hereford, who was a social worker at Boys Ranch; Fernando Valle of Lubbock teaches post-graduate courses for school administrators at Texas Tech University; and Shirley Davis of Levelland, teaches math at South Plains College.

We prepped for several weeks, meeting mostly in Lubbock. We learned about Israelis culture. We talked about the do’s and don’ts of embarking on a journey such as this. We prepared our presentation that we would deliver to host Rotary clubs.

At one point during our preparation, violence broke out in Gaza; Israel responded with a heavy counterattack against terrorists who were throwing missiles and mortars at cities in southern Israel. There was a serious thought that the trip might be canceled because of security concerns. The Israelis, as they usually do, put down the violence. The trip was on.

Then the day came to depart. It was May 9, 2009. Our flight was long and grueling, but we landed at David Ben-Gurion International Airport and were greeted by our Rotary hosts and by another GSE team, from The Netherlands, with whom we would travel for the next four weeks.

Our adventure exposed us to so many treasures. We were shown Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy sites. We went deep into the Judean Desert. We walked among the ruins of Masada. We swam in the Dead Sea. We went to Nazareth. We swam in the Mediterranean Sea. We looked out over the Red Sea at Eilat. We saw antiquities all along the way.

Our journey ended with a Rotary district meeting in Jerusalem, the holiest of the holy cities in Israel. We received a spontaneous prayer from an American monk on the Mount of Olives. We walked through the Old City. We saw the Holocaust museum at Yad Vashem.

Our hearts were broken and filled with joy all at the same time.

The families that greeted us, housed us, entertained us and showed us their country became our friends.

***

The most rewarding part of the trip arguably is the friendships I forged with the young people with whom I was given the honor to accompany on this magnificent experience.

I pretty much think about different parts of our trip daily. Random parts that have to do with my day. Dead Sea, Masada, advice and conversations with hosts I had, inside jokes, beautiful sites. I gained so much from our adventure. It helped me grow and learn a lot about who I am. I love Rotary and what it gave to me. It’s an amazing organization, and on our trip we truly witnessed the 4-Way Test.
I will be forever grateful to Rotary International for what it gave to me.
— Katt Krause.

We laughed at each other’s jokes and found ways to lighten the mood whenever we could.

The Dead Sea trip, basking in the sun and salt water while feeling the burn sensation of the exfoliation, peeling layers of skin and any scabs I may have had. Also, the total body mud masks that everyone participated in that temporarily changed our identities to that of an aboriginal warrior. — Shirley Davis.

It moved us beyond measure in ways that occasionally sneaked up on us.

Living and seeing life through the Israelis’ eyes was an experience that will, for sure, never be forgotten. One of the best moments, for me, was during our last days in Jerusalem. Walking where Jesus walked. We had traveled Israel for almost a month without seeing a drop of rain, and the moment when the monk prayed with us and for that short moment … it sprinkled! Rain over us! That was absolutely amazing! Loving the people and being loved by them, also, was an experience that’s sometimes hard to explain. I will always feel a special bond with the family I traveled with and the family I made while in Israel. — Aida Nino.

We built relationships that we all believe will last a lifetime.

Even though five years have passed, the emotional connections made with Rotarians and their families in Israel are as vivid as the country. We experienced more than hospitality, as a GSE team we were afforded rich cultural experiences and real daily life of the country. I will never forget walking through Jerusalem, shedding tears next to a family at Yad Vashem, eating with a host family or spending the day with the GSE team in the Red Sea off the coast of Eilat. Be’er Sheva welcomed us with open arms and Haifa and Tel Aviv showed us where Israel has been and where it is headed. GSE and Rotary afforded me an opportunity to understand and appreciate people across the world, especially the warmth of humanity. I am forever grateful for the experience. I went on a trip to Israel with a newly formed GSE team and came back with more than friends. I came back with a family. — Fernando Valle.

I have maintained contact with a couple of the Dutch GSE team members in the years since that amazing journey. Although we don’t see each other as much as I would like — and I assume the others as well — I consider all four of my fellow West Texans among my very best friends in this world.

We shared an experience few folks can understand fully. Perhaps other GSE teams that ventured to other far-off lands understand how it is.

This one was for the books. I am grateful beyond measure for the experience it provided to me and for the friendships it has built.

What a journey it was.

Condi Rice is Tech's gain

Rutgers University faculty and student body have made a mockery of academic tolerance and inclusiveness.

How? They shunned former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a commencement speaker. Not to worry, though. Texas Tech University has just asked her to deliver such a speech to its student body. There might be some grumbling, but Tech won’t be dissuaded from persuading Rice to accept.

Good for Tech. Bad for Rutgers.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/05/05/condoleeza-rice-rutgers-free-speech-editorials-and-debates/8721095/

Rutgers protesters have done their school a serious disservice. Rice had accepted the invitation, but then backed out in the face of the protests. She must have figured there was little to be gained by igniting a potential disturbance at the New Jersey school.

What in the world ever happened to the notion that universities are magnets for wide-ranging views, ideologies and philosophies? Don’t they imbue such things any longer in our institutions of higher education?

One can hope that Texas Tech — which sits in the middle of strongly conservative West Texas — would welcome speakers from, say, the far left. The reason in that instance would be for precisely the same reason Rutgers should have welcomed Rice, to expose students to a full spectrum of ideas and world views.

You’ll recall that West Texas A&M University faced a similar protest some years ago when it invited former Bush administration political adviser Karl Rove to speak prior to WT’s commencement. The school held firm. Rove spoke and the students got an interesting take on the state of politics in America.

Condi Rice is a brilliant academician. She served her country as national security adviser and as secretary of state. Her background is stellar and she is full of important perspectives.

Let’s hope she accepts Texas Tech’s invitation, and let’s hope Rutgers thinks deeply about the opportunity it has lost by shooing Rice away.