University of Texas President Bill Powers has ignited a firestorm of support from UT faculty and state leaders after rumors erupted Wednesday evening that his job was in jeopardy.

Texas Monthly Senior Executive Editor Paul Burka wrote a blog post, citing unnamed sources, that Powers "may be in danger of losing his job." Burka claims it stems from Powers publicly opposing Gov. Rick Perry’s call for a tuition freeze.

Last legislative session, Perry led the charge to cut $900 million from higher education. The move forced Powers to make up the difference, so he asked for a tuition hike.

Powers in peril?

A Facebook group called "I Stand with Bill Powers" has already gained about 10,000 members since it was created just before midnight Wednesday.

The UT System Board of Regents, whom Perry appoints, ultimately approved a two-year tuition freeze over Powers’ protest on May 3.

"I am disappointed that our very thoughtful proposal, every penny of which would have gone to student success, which itself would help keep the cost of higher education down, was not an adopted," Powers said after the Regents’ decision.

If blog rumors prove true, Perry may have his first political battle on his hands since leaving the presidential campaign trail.

Glenn Smith, a democratic strategist with Progress Texas, says Perry has a monopoly of higher education in the state.

"Rick Perry has put a noose around the neck of Texas colleges and universities and Texas families trying to get their children into to them," he said. "Tuition is up 70 percent on his watch, but that’s because he slashed funding on universities."




Monday, the UT Faculty Council Chair will consider a resolution its chairman drafted in reaction to the rumors that supports President Powers and his administrative team.

"Based on the actions of this Board of Regents over the last year or so, it seems to me much in keeping with who they are and what they are and what they have done," Chair Alan Friedman said. "It [The University of Texas] can weather only so many frontal assaults before it can begin to suffer. It’s very easy to destroy excellence. It’s very hard to rebuild it."

Read UT Faculty Chair Alan Friedman’s letter calling for support for Powers, sent to UT staff Thursday:

Dear Colleagues,

As you know, President Powers proposed a modest tuition increase for the next two years that fell within the guidelines that the Regents had established early on.

Yet he was pressured to withdraw the proposal, and when, unlike the President at Texas A&M, he refused because he thought it was crucial to the life of the institution to maintain educational quality to the extent he could, the proposal was nonetheless rejected.

Now rumors abound that his job is in jeopardy because he didn’t do as he was told.

At its regular meeting this coming Monday at 2:15pm in Main 212, the Faculty Council will consider a resolution I have drafted in support of the President and his administrative team. I think that a strong show of support from the campus community would be invaluable at this time, so I hope that every faculty member, student, and staff person who can make the meeting will be there. Please come if you possibly can and urge your colleagues to do so as well.

UT AUSTIN FACULTY COUNCIL RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF PRESIDENT BILL POWERS

Recognizing the extraordinary efforts exerted by UT Austin President Bill Powers and his administrative team in support of the recent proposal for a modest, well-documented, and crucial tuition increase, the Faculty Council strongly commends them for seeking to protect and enhance the quality of our students’ education and the value of their degrees, as well as the research and public service achievements of the faculty.

The fact that the Regents ultimately rejected the proposal diminishes neither the campus’s need for such financial support nor the efforts made to attain it.

Best,

Alan W. Friedman

Chair, Faculty Council 2011-12