Texas A&M's Administration Doesn't Think Much Of Its President

Texas A&M has released the performance evaluation of its president, Elsa Murano, and things aren't looking so hot for her.

Murano's January 2008 hiring was held high by A&M, because she was the youngest president ever and also the first Hispanic and woman to hold that post. But a review of her performance obtained by Hair Balls under the state's Open Records Act shows things have soured big-time.

According to the review from Mike McKinney, the chancellor of the university system, Murano was reviewed in 37 categories and was ranked above average in just four; below average in 13.

Many of McKinney's hand-written comments are illegible, but he wrote that Murano "does good job on things she likes. Very poor on carrying out board system decisions with which she disagrees."

The chancellor thought Murano did a good job with Hurricane Ike at A&M-Galveston, as well as the "boat incident," which we assume is the capsized sailboat that killed a man in summer 2008.

In Murano's response to the review, she included areas that she could improve. Those included failing to determine the future of the Bonfire and letting the A&M athletics department slip financially, "operating in a deficit situation for several years." Apparently, Robert Gates, the president before Murano, gave a $16 million line of credit to the department, but that money isn't available after this year. "It is imperative that a business plan now be developed and implemented by Athletics, to ensure that expenditures are kept in check and that strict adherence to the budget is realized."

Also in the response, Murano explains that a big hurdle to overcome "is the lack of adequate communication between the System and the university administration on several issues."

She wrote there was no communication in a deal between the Texas A&M System and pharmaceuticals company Introgen Therapeutics, a deal that included $50 million in state funds from Governor Rick Perry -- an old Aggie whose former chief-of-staff is Chancellor McKinney. And Perry's son owned stock in the drug company.

"University administration learned of the agreement in the press, its officials having been excluded from discussions regarding whether this partnership would be beneficial to its faculty, who conduct most of the research within the System," Murano wrote.

McKinney's review coupled with Murano's response, added credence to a story that surfaced a few weeks back that A&M might merge the chancellor and president positions, in effect eliminating Murano.

However, university spokesman Rod Davis tells Hair Balls that rumors of a merger have been "blown out of proportion."

"No one really wants to do it," Davis says. "The chancellor certainly doesn't want to do it."

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Paul Knight
Contact: Paul Knight