24 January 2013

Positive change

This article is one of the first since the new semester to describe the state of the plan to create a new university in South Texas.

The big “if” for the new university and its med school is whether the Legislature approves the plan by a two-thirds vote. The usual UTPA day at the Capitol in Austin was renamed this year as RGV Higher Education Day at the Capitol. The UTPA delegation will visit legislators’ offices Jan. 30 and talk up the new university.

Normally, I’d be on the bus to go to Austin to talk to the legislators, but this time, I’m already committed to flying to Science Online that day.

Nelsen said the new university’s lack of a price tag for the state might be the biggest plus for the Legislature.

“I haven’t had anybody that I talked to say ‘no’,” he said. “Part of that is that there is no fiscal note. Everyone is saying ‘Well, money.’ But to put us together doesn’t cost anything.”

On the other hand, anything could happen.

“I have run into some skepticism,” Nelsen said. “Some say, ‘Do you really think you’ll get a two-thirds vote in any legislature, as divided as legislatures are nowadays?’”

While I have my share of frustrations with my institution, I have to say this. It is nice to see a place that is moving in a generally positive way.

At a time when many institutions are ratcheting up the numbers of adjunct professors and reducing the number of tenure track faculty, our institution has gone in the exact opposite direction over the last ten to fifteen years. The number of adjuncts teaching classes has gone down.

In my department, when I joined, there was one woman on tenure track in the entire department; none were tenured. We’re still a long way from parity. I think I estimated we’d have as many men as women in the department when I was 85 or something. And several faculty members, both men and women, have started new families since taking the job here. Not saying it’s been easy or perfect for them, but it has to set a much better example for our students.

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