Amidst the internal turmoil at The University of Texas at Austin, we now have a new battle involving the entire UT System and the University of Houston System, with hot letters going back and forth, accusations of “inaccurate” statements which “need correction or clarification.” That’s ivy towerese for “you dirty rotten liar.”
In case you’ve been too busy running the Donald Trump School of Humility, let me bring you up to speed. Out of the blue, or burnt orange, UT Chancellor Bill McRaven announced that The (it’s capitalized because The is part of the name) University of Texas System is buying 332 acres of choice land near the Texas Medical Center for about $450 million over the next 30 years. The UT System will pay about $450 million over the next 30 years for its largest land purchase in recent history with money borrowed from the Permanent University Fund. Why? In McRaven’s words, to create an “intellectual hub.” I think that means a think tank. UH thinks it means an invasion.
Although UH is no longer disparaged as Cougar High, it is still desperately trying to become a First Tier school. A large UT operation on its doorstep wouldn’t help because the Longhorns might well syphon off state funds for higher education, along with federal money and grants from rich guys who don’t know a molecule from a monocle but like to see their names on buildings. UT might steal profs and bright students, even worse, cheerleaders.
UH, caught off guard, sprang into action. The UH Board of Regents passed a resolution against the expansion, and boycotted a meeting with UT and others to discuss the matter. Angry alumni wrote stinging letters and op/ed pieces to the newspapers. Houston lawmakers expressed concern. Thirty-five former UH regents said the proposal would “dilute higher education in Texas.” In their letter to Texas politicians, the regents thundered: “We believe that the Texas Legislature and THECB (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board) should conduct a thorough and transparent examination of UT’s plans and ultimately prevent this expansion.”
McRaven fought back, a task not viewed lightly considering that the chancellor, a UT alumnus himself, was in charge of the raid that sent Osama bin Laden to the Land of 72 Virgins (that, incidentally, is not UT). In his own letter to the biggies, MvRaven wrote that many of the points raised by the UH regents’ letter “need correction or clarification,” and that much of what was in the letter is “inaccurate.”
(In all of this brouhaha, Rice University has remained quiet, since the Owls don’t have to deal with state appropriations and turf wars, but Rice does compete for federal grants, gifts from fat cats and local attention, so we must suspect there is some concern behind the ivy walls of Main Street.)
Because we are Texas taxpayers, we have a dog in this fight. For instance, what will this new campus be called? The University of Texas at Houston, or UTAH? Talk about confusing. National sportscasters have enough trouble with Sam Houston State and the University of Houston, Texas A&M at (fill in the blank), the same with UT-(San Antonio, Dallas, Tyler and some day Marfa, Pampa and College Station), Stephen F. Austin and Austin College, UTEP and OPEC. Also, what will this new school take as a mascot? The Fightin’ 300 Acres Next to UH? Dress the student as a big sod. The Brain Drains? What a costume. How about the 50 Shades of Gray Matter?
The biggest question is what, exactly, will this new institution do besides consume huge amounts of money? McRaven is as opaque as his orders to SEAL Team 6 (“Call on Tall Raghead with extreme prejudice.”). This is what he wrote to the state leaders: “My vision for this property is the creation of an intellectual and innovative hub that will propel Houston to serve as a national and global epicenter of collaboration for researchers, industry, and entrepreneurs.” I shall have that decoded at once, admiral.
To help the chancellor, school and taxpayers understand the possibilities, here are a few suggestions for the Nobel Prize winners to work on for the betterment of all mankind, or at least Texas and Houston: Archeologists have reported that the Great Pyramids were originally supposed to be square, but it was a union job, and each shift did a little less work than the previous one. True? In these days of PC, shouldn’t Arlington National Cemetery change the inscription to: “The Unknown Soldier and His Wife”? Houston is in Harris County but Harris County is in East Texas. Austin is in Travis County but Travis is in Falls County. Question: How much corn mash were Texas’ Founding Fathers who named those places drinking that night?
Researchers, start close to home: How many shootings do you predict will take place on college campuses now that hormone-saturated young Texans can take their guns to class? Husbands want to know why, after three hours of their group chatting at a restaurant, wives still stand out at the curb talking. What’s left to say? Also, why do old, senile Congressmen have anything to say about women having an abortion? Since we hear a constant drumbeat from right-wing talk radio hosts that the American press is the worst, what country should we move to for a better press? And if we can think of one, why are we still here or at least listening to Radio Havana or checking out Putin.com?
What do you researchers do all day? Go to your blackboard and figure out if X equals 3 Y, and W is less than X, then Y did the chicken cross the road? To your laboratory and determine why people order a margarita with salt around the lip, then sip the drink through a straw? Finally, after you’ve discovered a cure for cancer, eliminated acne and brought peace to all mankind, above all, find a decent quarterback for UT.
Ashby researches at firstname.lastname@example.org