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Opinion: Deliberate deception

Regent Jim Schwertner's honest about not telling the truth

Published: Monday, November 21, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07


Tim Issac - The Battalion

Regent Jim Schwertner reopened a can of worms earlier this month when he gaffed responding to a question regarding the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Seven Solutions for higher education. "We're not calling it that anymore, it's too polarizing," he said.

The Seven Solutions, by any other name, still stink.

For those unfamiliar with the solutions, they were a set of well-intended but maligned reforms to improve higher education.

One solution featured teacher rewards similar to the recently-canceled Student Led Awards for Teaching Excellence program, which gave bonuses on a metric that over-valued student evaluations. Student evaluations are inherently vague, as it is impossible to know whether a good evaluation means the professor and class were good, fun, easy or any number of possibilities.

Another solution featured a system to rate teacher efficiency, which favored larger classes in a way that a calculus professor with 40 students would invariably be considered inferior to a history professor with 200.

These ideas seemed to have been dismissed during the summer when they met with overwhelming opposition. Richard Box, chairman of the Board of Regents of the Texas A&M University System, even called them a "distraction from an important conversation."

Schwertner's gaff implies the solutions are still very real and very much a part of the plan.

One might think Schwertner just misspoke; unfortunately, he already has a dubious history regarding the Seven Solutions.

In an Aug. 25, 2010, email obtained by The Battalion, Schwertner told J.D. Sandefer, political mover and shaker and father of the Seven Solution's creator Jeff Sandefer, "Just tell Jeff to saddle up. We are doing a lot more than the staff knows about."

Schwertner goes beyond being low-key or even secretive and into the realm of intentional deceit.

In an email dating to Dec. 29 from Jeff Sandefer to Schwertner and his father, Sandefer said:

"We're going to have two of the brightest minds in higher education in Austin January 13th for a private lunch. Several UT regents or soon to be Regents are going to be attending, and I'd like to have any interested A&M regents there as well."

It's not uncommon for a regent to be lobbied, but it is interesting that Sandefer has no qualms telling Schwertner he is meeting with soon-to-be UT regents. Regents whose names would not be released to the public for another month. But, that's still not the best part.

Jeff Sandefer also informs Schwertner that, "My understanding is that since this is an educational meeting only, that the open meetings' rules won't apply."

One can easily imagine this meeting taking place in a dimly-lit back room where cigar-smoking, scotch-drinking big wigs secretly decide the future of A&M.

Even more disconcerting is this appears to be business as usual among regents. J.D. Sandefer promised to invite Regent Phil Adams to the back room meeting. An email sent on Jan. 3 confirms he did. In it, Kelli Gallagher from Phil Adams Co., invited Chairman Box to the meeting.

It's unclear if any attended this meeting, but it certainly appears Schwertner and the Board of Regents have no love for transparency. Aggies, both students and faculty, deserve to know what is going on at A&M and the opportunity to have a say. We have no place for those who would hide the truth, saying one thing while doing another. After all, an Aggie does not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.

Taylor Wolken is a senior economics major and opinion editor of The Battalion.


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