Rick Perry U

By Begala, Paul | Newsweek, February 8, 2013 | Go to article overview

Rick Perry U


Begala, Paul, Newsweek


Byline: Paul Begala

The governor's war on UT Austin.

If you were thinking about fundamentally redefining the role of the public university in your state, to whom would you turn? Leaders of great academic institutions, perhaps? Powerhouse former government officials who have traveled the world and know our global competitors, maybe? Scientists and doctors who depend on universities for lifesaving research? Corporate titans like CEOs or labor leaders who understand the changing workforce?

Answer: all of the above. Unless you're my beloved Texas, in which case you're stuck with Rick Perry.

Other states, like Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, and California, are wrestling with various proposals to reform higher ed, but it is Governor Perry who seeks to blaze a truly radical new path. That's right: the man who pledged to abolish the Department of Education (as well as Commerce and, as he memorably put it in a presidential debate, "Let's see--I can't--the third one I can't--sorry--oops") is now trying to remake the University of Texas in his image.

Lest you think I'm being too hard on Ol' Rick, fear not. Of course anyone can have a momentary brain freeze. But Perry's brain has been at absolute zero for decades. As a student at Texas A&M University, Perry received a C in Reproduction in Farm Animals, as well as two C's in other animal-breeding classes. Getting goats to go at it ain't exactly splitting the atom. I myself have some beautiful boer goats that would get straight A's in animal breeding.

If Perry is not blessed with great intellect, he is cursed with an utter lack of irony--or humility, or whatever human quality makes one know his limitations. But you know about fools and how they love to rush in. And so, Perry and his allies have gone to war against the state's flagship research university, the University of Texas at Austin. (Full disclosure: I am a graduate of UT Austin, and I really don't like Rick Perry messing with my Horns.)

Perry's ideas include ranking professors in terms of the revenue they generate for the university. (The formula: tuition for students in their class plus research funds attracted minus salary. …

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