University of Texas President Bill Powers submitted his resignation this week and will end his time in office in June 2015.
Powers had been asked to resign or face termination by the UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, who insisted the move came from a breakdown of communication, and not due to pressure from the school’s governing board.
The move has caused a Texas state House committee to investigate whether or not to impeach Regent Wallace Hall, a critic of Powers. Cigarroa testified before the committee last week, saying he did not discuss Powers with Hall until the day before accepting Powers’ offer to step down next year. He also insisted that he told Powers if he did not step down that his employment would be discussed before the board, stating, “It wasn’t like I said, ‘Bill if you don’t accept this, you’re going to get fired.’”
According to Cigarroa, Powers has an “exemplary record” as UT’s president. Graduation rates have increased more than 10% since Powers took office. However, communication between the two men has been below what Cigarroa expects.
“I have been very straightforward. This has been a very strained relationship,” Cigarroa said.
Powers was part of an admissions scandal alleging that he had admitted under-qualified students who had political connections.
Supporters of Powers believe he is a major asset to the university, and began a petition to “Save Bill Powers!” that had more than 15,000 signatures by the time he was faced with the ultimatum, writes Maha Ahmed for The Houston Press.
“Powers’s influence on campus spans more than just his physical presence,” says John Goldak, a second-year biomedical engineering major at the university. “After time, I feel like the integrity of the university might start to crumble due to Powers’s leave.”
Because Powers will be staying for another year, he will have time to oversee his plans for an on-campus medical school become a reality. The new addition will allow the school to offer an MD-PhD program.
“I don’t think I know anybody that sides with the Board and (Texas Governor Rick) Perry,” says Goldak. “If Powers leaves, so do his ideas, and so does the prestige of the University.”
There have been some accusations that Perry, a graduate of UT rival school Texas A&M, has had a hand in forcing Powers out of office, according to an article written by Holly Hacker of the Dallas Morning News.
The last three years have been particularly bruising for Powers, beginning in 2011 when Gov. Rick Perry began pushing a series of higher education reforms that called for more accountability on state campuses and lower costs. Academics on the state’s largest campuses bristled at the proposals.
Signs of discord continued into 2012, when Perry backed regents who rejected a tuition hike plan endorsed by Powers.
Powers also was a key figure in the power struggle that led to the departure of Mack Brown as the Longhorns’ football coach in December and the hiring of his successor, Charlie Strong.