Search for a new UTEP head must be inclusive

Op-ed written by Social Justice team member, Kathy Staudt in The El Paso Times. To learn more, please plan to attend the Social Justice forum this afternoon, 2:30 in the El Paso Public Library downtown.

The town hall meeting Kathy mentions has been scheduled for Tuesday, October 2, 12:15-2 pm in the Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall at UTEP.

Dr Kathy Staudt

Dr Kathy Staudt

I have been proudly associated with UTEP for forty years. I have seen UTEP’s growth and the embrace of Mexican Americans and the borderlands region in its “Hispanic Serving Institution” designation. I believe in UTEP’s mantra: “Access and Excellence.”

A hearty thanks go to President Diana Natalicio for her high-quality leadership that put UTEP on the national and international maps for a full range of academic programs, innovative research, and the consequent social mobility afforded its graduates. Alas, many well-educated graduates leave El Paso due to better opportunities and far higher salaries elsewhere. To retain them, the business community should improve wages.

Who from the community will speak for higher wages in El Paso to retain our graduates? When the UT System announced the search committee’s composition, it promised community representation. However, those chosen are business people who influence the depressed wage structure in the region. Yes, we thank the major philanthropists among them. A full 83% of El Pasoans share Mexican heritage and the majority, bilingual ability to speak Spanish and English. We have too little representation from them.

Besides over-representation on search committees, businessmen overrepresent Texans in political appointments. UTEP, Texas Tech, and EPCC are the major higher education institutions in our community, offering a great variety of degrees at the bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels. University presidents ought to be able to lead educational institutions without the political polarization that exists in the US Congress. Yet such polarization and personal politics are what seem to have suddenly produced the resignation of Texas Tech President after an “informal vote of no confidence” by the political appointees on the UT Board of Regents. According to the Texas Standard, some are calling this “Regentgate.”

Those who dominate Texas politics know little about the borderlands and its people. The legislature hardly reflects the demographics of Texans. In the latest iteration of Texas Civic Health, the state ranks in the bottom five of states on political participation. We live in a society with ostensible equal opportunity for political voice, yet large campaign donations often influence successful candidates for elective office and appointments to public office. Continue reading