UT Austin's beloved president submitted his resignation for June 2015 last Wednesday afternoon, after being presented with an ultimatum to resign or be fired by the university's chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa.
As the university's Burnt Orange Nation reports:
The [Board of Regents] has been on a crusade to oust Powers for almost three years. It's leader is Rick Perry-appointee Wallace Hall, whose efforts to pin Powers down in an admission scandal have resulted in potential illegal activity and are grounds for impeachment.
Perry has publicly praised Hall for his valiant efforts in 'uncovering the truth.'
If there is evidence that Powers was involved in a scandal, it still hasn't been leaked to the media. Admissions director Kedra Ishop stepped down at the end of June, just days before the investigation was launched, to accept a position at Michigan -- which she described as a promotion.
This "admissions scandal" consists of allegations against Powers for supposedly admitting under-qualified students into the school because of their political connections according to Breitbart, who originally broke the story.
But more important than these politics, surely, is the effect Powers's resignation will have on the people the university is meant to serve -- namely, its students.
Hair Balls interviewed Houston-area Longhorns to get their input, and there seems to be a consensus among them: Powers is clearly an asset to the university, and students love him.
Everyone from legislators to faculty members to alumni have voiced their support of Powers, and a petition to "Save Bill Powers!" had accumulated almost 15,000 signatures at the time of his resignation proposal.
"Powers's influence on campus spans more than just his physical presence," says John Goldak, a second-year biomedical engineering major at the university. "After time, I feel like the integrity of the university might start to crumble due to Powers's leave."
As any student knows, big universities can feel overly bureaucratic, leaving students feeling disconnected from the people in charge of their education. As Bloomberg pointed out earlier this year, this feeling is increasingly becoming a reality. But according to many undergraduates at the university, this isn't the case in Austin. The university's president comes out to every campus presentation to talk to and connect with students. "I feel Powers's presence on campus whenever I walk into a class," says another second year in the Cockrell School. This makes sense, considering how Powers transformed the school's undergraduate curriculum by creating the controversial Common Core that boasts a "rigorous intellectual experience."
Harris County accounts for the largest percentage of the school's in-state undergraduate population, according to UT's Office of Information Management and Analysis.
The Texas Observer notes that this isn't the first time a public figure has been targeted like this in Texas. But with Rick Perry's term ending in January, whoever wins the gubernatorial race this November will appoint the new Board of Regents and have a hand in how Texas treats public education.
Now that Powers is leaving the university next June, he will have time to oversee the implementation of his plans for an on-campus medical school, allowing the school to offer a new MD PhD program.
"I don't think I know anybody that sides with the Board and Perry," says Goldak. "If Powers leaves, so do his ideas, and so does the prestige of the University."
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