Two years ago, when Gov. Greg Abbott named three people to the University of Texas System Board of Regents, state Sen. Royce West expressed concern that none was African American but nevertheless voted for all three.
West, a Democrat from Dallas, noted that there have only been three African Americans on the UT board in its history. None of the three being confirmed by the Senate in March 2015 — David Beck, Steve Hicks and Sara Martinez Tucker — was black. West said he expected Abbott to name an African American during the next round of UT appointments.
Fast forward to this week. Once again, Abbott has named three people to the UT board. And once again, none is black. West made it clear, in a written statement and at a news conference Wednesday, that he isn’t happy.
“I could not be more proud of my former Senate colleague, Kevin Eltife, being named to the UT Board of Regents and have no qualms with the other selections,” West said. “But I feel that an opportunity was missed to add a perspective that one of Texas’ flagship institutions has been without for nearly four years. It is a void that cannot be addressed for at least another two years.”
Besides Eltife, Abbott has nominated Rad Weaver, a San Antonio businessman, and Janiece Longoria, a former UT regent. The trio will appear before the Senate Nominations Committee on Thursday.
“Governor Abbott is proud of the individuals he has appointed to direct Texas’ higher education institutions, and he will continue to seek out willing public servants who not only share his vision for Texas, but also reflect the diversity of the state,” said John Wittman, a spokesman.
West said he received assurances from Abbott’s office two years ago “that they’d make a good-faith effort” to select an African American for the UT board. The last black UT regent was Printice Gary, who served from November 2007 to May 2013 and who was appointed by then-Gov. Rick Perry.
“There is room at the table for the viewpoints of the many faces and ethnicities that are part of a population that is urban, rural and suburban and reflective of all walks of life,” West said. “How higher education will respond, guide and supplement the Texas workforce is critical and the University of Texas Board of Regents should be at the helm of these societal advances. The African American perspective is a functional component of Texas’ future that is too important to proceed without. I would hope that the governor will be more mindful of these considerations at the next and earliest opportunity.”