Leadership fight is finally settled at UT Austin

07/09/2014 5:47 PM

07/09/2014 5:48 PM

The battle over the fate of University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers has, at long last, been won. Mostly.

Both sides can claim victory. Mostly.

Victory is not complete, because the whole ugly episode, more than a year in full public view, yields bruises for all involved.

The people who operate and govern the state’s most powerful university should settle differences like well-educated grown-ups. Maybe they came as close as they could.

UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa said Wednesday that Powers had submitted a letter of resignation effective June 2, 2015, “and I have accepted it.”

For those who haven’t followed the Powers saga in detail, that announcement was significant because up until Wednesday the two two were at an ugly impasse.

Cigarroa, who as recently as December had defended Powers before the system’s regents, dropped that stance and apparently had decided that the president of the flagship campus should be fired at this week’s regents’ meeting.

The relationship, Cigarroa said in a statement issued Monday, had been “strained to the point of becoming fractured for several years.”

He said the split became unavoidable because of “significant additional breakdowns in communication and trust in recent months.”

Cigarroa wanted Powers to resign after his term as chairman of the Association of American Universities ends in October. Powers said he wanted to stay on through May to finish a major university fund-raising campaign and to shepherd initiatives through next year’s legislative session.

Behind all of that has been even greater drama, including Gov. Rick Perry’s push for fundamental changes in Texas higher education, Perry-appointed Regent Wallace Hall’s alleged “witch hunt” aimed at ousting Powers, high-ranking legislators and others declaring their support for Powers and a special House committee preparing to impeach Hall.

Powers supporters argued that, because of his status in the Association of American Universities, firing him would leave UT Austin with a black eye, unable to recruit a new president with equal stature.

Even with no firing, it’s hard to see that the university emerges with no scars.

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