University of Texas
Feb 10th - 8:16 pm
In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we heard from lawmakers who believe the move was possibly related to an unsuccessful push to remove UT Austin President Bill Powers. Plus, we looked at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ claim that Attorney General Greg Abbott didn’t do enough to fix the inadequate education funding during the last legislative session.
HEMP AND THE ECONOMY
Agriculture Commissioner candidate Kinky Friedman joined us to explain how he believes hemp can replace cotton and why marijuana should be legal in Texas.
TURNING TEXAS BLUE
Harvey Kronberg joined us to comment on the day’s political news, plus a quote from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who says Texas could change into a blue state unless the GOP evolves.
Feb 10th - 12:19 pm
In a press conference Monday, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said he had accomplished everything he’d set out to do as chancellor, and that it always had been his intention to return to medicine full-time. Cigarroa has accepted a job as head of pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Cigarroa touted his accomplishments as chancellor, including the establishment of two new medical schools: the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Dell School of Medicine at UT Austin. He also cited his Framework for Advancing Excellence, which the UT Board of Regents adopted in 2011. The plan called for increased engineering education, expanded online learning and the Horizon Fund, which provides seed money for the commercialization of UT research.
The chancellor’s departure comes during a tumultuous time for the Board of Regents, UT Austin President Bill Powers and the Texas Legislature. In December, Cigarroa announced Powers would stay on as president, but cited strained tensions with the board. Meanwhile, a joint committee of lawmakers is investigating UT Regent Wallace Hall, who has been accused of a “witch hunt” against Powers. Cigarroa said the controversy surrounding the UT Austin president had nothing to do with his decision.
“I evaluate all presidents as I’ve always done, based on facts and performance,” Cigarroa said. “I support President Powers, and I will continue to evaluate presidents every day — not only President Powers but all 15.”
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who has been supportive of Powers, says she believes the decision has more to do with the fight over leadership than Cigarroa would admit.
“Although I am confident that he will deny any disharmony, I am equally confident that his decision was influenced by the continued negative circumstances at hand. His action personifies the harmful repercussions of the current attack on those who pursue excellence, protect the privacy of students and strive for true transparency for all,” Zaffirini said in a statement.
Cigarroa said he will remain as chancellor until his replacement is found, a process UT Board of Regents Chair Paul Foster says will likely to take 4-6 months. He will also continue to serve the board as an adviser for the UT Rio Grande Valley medical school.
Jan 16th - 8:04 pm
In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we heard President Barack Obama’s motivation for convening the summit, plus former University of Texas at Austin President Larry Faulkner talked about efforts to curb rising tuition costs.
The lieutenant governor’s race is almost a three-way tie — at least when it comes to fundraising. Democratic strategist Harold Cook and Republican strategist Rob Johnson joined us to talk about who is ahead and who should start worrying.
INCENTIVE FUND’S FUTURE
Will the state’s economic incentive funds survive after Gov. Rick Perry leaves office? Austin Business Journal Editor Colin Pope joined us to consider that question in light of one fund’s mixed success rate.
Dec 18th - 8:19 pm
The committee investigating whether Hall should be impeached went forward with another day of testimony Wednesday. Hall himself was scheduled to testify, but declined the day before. Instead, the committee heard from UT President Bill Powers and University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa about Hall, who has been accused of misusing his office in an attempt to oust Powers.
In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard more from Powers, who told the committee Hall’s actions have hurt morale at the university.
‘BUM STEER’ AWARDS
The new issue of Texas Monthly has hit newsstands, and with it, the winners of this year’s “Bum Steer Awards.” The magazine’s editor in chief, Jake Silverstein, joined us to talk about which political figures made the list and why.
BEYOND THE BOOM
All this week, we’ve been reporting on the recent boom in unlocking oil and natural gas resources in Texas. It’s generated nearly 300,000 new jobs, and added at least $4.5 billion dollars to the state’s coffers. But it also comes at a cost.
Capital Tonight’s John Salazar brought us a look at how the corresponding rise in traffic fatalities is more than just a statistic.
Dec 12th - 8:43 pm
UT Austin President Bill Powers will stay put.
That was the word from the UT System Board of Regents Thursday, after more than four hours in a closed-door discussion about his employment. University of Texas system Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa cited strained relations between Powers and and some board members, but said it’s in the best interest of the system to keep Powers as president of the flagship university.
In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we heard reaction from President Powers after the board adjourned, and we looked at how the decision relates to the legislature and the governor.
Now that the filing deadline has come and gone, we spoke to Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri and Democratic strategist Harold Cook about their respective parties’ tickets from top to bottom.
MENTAL HEALTH FUNDING
The organization that represents our state’s hospitals is trying to make a point during the holidays. They’re reminding Texans that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the supposed uptick in depression-related issues this time of year is a myth. But they stress the challenges facing Texas’ behavioral health care system are very real.
Nov 18th - 2:36 pm
Attorney General Greg Abbott is forcefully distancing himself from the actions of a former staff member, who announced plans to hold a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Game” on the University of Texas campus.
In a statement released today, Abbott called the tactic “repugnant” and compared it to protests over abortion law during the first special session.
“Our campaign has no affiliation with this repugnant effort. Illegal immigration and the failed policies of the Obama Administration are not a joking matter.
“Conservatives should not stoop to the level of liberals, whose shenanigans at the Texas Capitol this summer, including chants of ‘hail Satan’ during Senator Davis’ filibuster to allow abortions after five months, did nothing but sidetrack the Texas Legislature.”
The stunt was announced by Young Conservatives of Texas Chairman Lorenzo Garcia. In an event planned for Wednesday, students would “catch” anyone wearing a clothing with the words “illegal immigrant” attached to it in exchange for a $25 gift card.
The group described it as an effort to spur “campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration.”
Nov 18th - 1:54 pm
The University of Texas is joining critics of a planned ‘Catch an Illegal Immigrant” game planned for Wednesday. The event, organized by the Young Conservatives of Texas, involves people walking on campus wearing signs that say “illegal immigrant.” Students who “catch” them win a $25 gift card.
The University has been critical of other YCT events, including an affirmative action bake sale held last month. In a statement today, UT called the tactics “inflammatory and demeaning.”
“Once again in trying to be provocative, the YCT is contributing to an environment of exclusion and disrespect among our students, faculty and staff by sending the message that certain students do not belong on our campus…”
“If the members of YCT carry out their plan for “Catch an Illegal Immigrant,” they are willfully ignoring the honor code and contributing to the degradation of our campus culture. And once again, they will have resorted to exercising one of the university’s core values to the detriment of others. Such actions are counterproductive to true dialogue on our campus, and it is unrepresentative of the ideals toward which our community strives.”
UT Austin President Bill Powers also responded to the planned event. In a statement posted on the university’s web site, he said:
“The proposed YCT event is completely out of line with the values we espouse at The University of Texas at Austin. Our students, faculty and the entire university work hard both to promote diversity and engage in a respectful exchange of ideas. The Wednesday event does not reflect that approach or commitment.
As Americans, we should always visualize our Statue of Liberty and remember that our country was built on the strength of immigration. Our nation continues to grapple with difficult questions surrounding immigration. I ask YCT to be part of that discussion but to find more productive and respectful ways to do so that do not demean their fellow students.”
The university Staff Council voted unanimously to endorse the statement shortly after it was released.
Oct 23rd - 8:14 pm
The investigation of a University of Texas regent continued Wednesday, with damaging testimony from a former UT system employee. Just down the road, another high-profile hearing wrapped up after final arguments regarding a controversial new abortion law.
Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer is part of the eight-member panel looking into UT Regent Wallace Hall. He joined us for a one-on-one interview about the committee’s fact-finding mission, voter ID law and recent controversy over his legal name.
AGGIES IN ISRAEL
Gov. Rick Perry continued his visit to Israel Wednesday, joining President Shimon Peres for a signing ceremony to formalize plans to bring a Texas A&M campus to the Middle East. Perry and the university announced plans for a Nazareth branch earlier this week. Click the logo below to watch Wednesday night’s full episode.
Oct 23rd - 2:09 pm
A state representative says last month’s controversy over a phone call to Alabama coach Nick Saban’s agent is “fair game” in the investigation of a UT regent.
Speaking to Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said if University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall did set up contact with Saban’s agent while representing himself as a regent, it could become part of the hearing process.
“This inquiry is about Wallace Hall, whether it be his acts or his omissions, things he should have done and things he should not have done,” Rep. Martinez Fischer said. “And quite frankly, I believe it’s fair game and I intend to ask questions on it.”
Hall has admitted to taking part in a phone call between former regent Tom Hicks and Jimmy Sexton, who represents Saban, about whether the Alabama coach might replace UT’s Mack Brown if he retires. Hall told the Associated Press he simply made the introduction between the two, then withdrew from the process.
Rep. Martinez Fischer is part of an eight-member panel looking into Hall’s conduct as a regent. Hall is accused of using his office to oust UT President Bill Powers and of misrepresenting himself in his application for the regent position. Hall’s lawyers contend their client is being targeted for doing his job.
Oct 22nd - 8:17 pm
Meanwhile, a hearing of a different sort continued in federal court. Women’s health groups are suing the state to stop the enforcement of some provisions of a new, stricter abortion law.
Both cases tie into longstanding political battles — whether it’s abortion, the upcoming governor’s race or the power struggle over UT Austin’s leadership. Our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, joined us to talk about the larger implications.
New unemployment numbers are out from the Labor Department, and while they show slight improvement, many economists worry they’re a sign of a sluggish economy. Plus, our Washington bureau checks in on impending cuts to food stamp programs.