Texarkana, TX 72° View Live Radar Fri H 92° L 69° Sat H 92° L 71° Sun H 94° L 71° Weather Sponsored By:

Military hero McRaven struggles as chancellor for UT Texas System

Military hero McRaven struggles as chancellor for UT Texas System

June 19th, 2017 by Associated Press in Texas News

In this Feb. 5, 2015, file photo, University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven speaks with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith during an interview in Austin, Texas. McRaven is running into political problems in his role as chancellor of the University of Texas System. The retired Navy admiral who planned the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden faces an uncertain future as chancellor, as his three-year contract expires at the end of 2017. After multiple clashes with lawmakers and a new makeup of the Board of Regents he works for, it's an open question as to whether he'll be back.

Photo by Associated Press

AUSTIN—Bill McRaven came to Texas an American military hero, charged with leading one of the country's largest public university systems at a time it needed a steady hand.

The retired Navy Admiral and former special operations leader, who planned the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, now faces an uncertain future as chancellor of the University of Texas System. After multiple clashes with lawmakers and a new makeup of the Board of Regents he works for, McRaven's three-year contract expires at the end of the year and it's an open question as to whether he'll be back.

"I want to see the direction that the board is going," McRaven told the Texas Tribune this month. "The fact of the matter is I think there are some things we have to talk about. I've got to find out whether or not the board wants me to stay. If they do, that's a decision point for me. If I'm not adding value to the University of Texas System, then maybe I'm not the right guy for the job."

The board's chairman, Paul Foster, recently expressed support for the chancellor, but he declined to discuss McRaven's future with The Associated Press. The board's reticence to publicly commit to McRaven beyond this year is an about-face from the goodwill that greeted him when he took the job in late 2014 at an annual salary of $1.9 million.

"This isn't the time of year that the Board of Regents generally discusses personnel issues," board spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said, noting that the board and McRaven will meet in July and that personnel discussions usually happen in August. "The board will be meeting this summer in a working retreat with Chancellor McRaven and presidents to discuss mission, budget and priorities for the UT System and the chancellor is looking forward to that discussion."

McRaven came to Texas with an impeccable reputation for leadership that commanded immediate respect at time the board was openly clashing with state lawmakers. A University of Texas graduate and career military man, McRaven had led U.S. Special Operations Command but had no professional academic experience when he was hired to lead the system of 14 campuses, 215,000 students and 90,000 employees.

The chancellor's duties include representing the system in legislative matters, advocating higher education causes and raising money. The job requires someone adept at navigating Texas' brand of full-contact politics and a nimble approach through the partisan squabbles in the state Capitol.

McRaven works for the board that hired him, but those regents are political appointments made by the governor, and the Legislature controls the state budget that sends public money to its universities. The chancellors of the state's three other major university systems all held elected office before taking their jobs.

"I joined the Navy and went away for 37 years. I didn't know any of the players at the Capitol," McRaven told the Houston Chronicle in April. "I'm not naive to the importance of relationships."

McRaven wasted no time diving into politically-charged issues such as concealed handguns on campus (he was against) and keeping a state law that allows immigrants in the country illegally to pay cheaper, in-state tuition (he was in favor).

But McRaven's troubles began when he sidestepped the governor and the Legislature to move forward with a bold plan to build a data center in Houston. To some, it seemed a natural fit for a large university system to have a presence in the nation's fourth-largest city. But it was also seen as a territorial invasion launched without informing legislators and a threat to the University of Houston, which is striving to become a major research institution.

Tensions over the Houston move bubbled for more than a year, and lawmakers pounced during a January budget hearing when John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, told McRaven in a testy exchange, "I don't think you give a damn what the Legislature thinks."

McRaven bristled at the comment, but he apologized for how he handled the project and killed it a month later.

There have been other issues, too. Kel Seliger, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, sharply criticized McRaven for the university system's expanding size and budget and its "Taj Mahal"-like new headquarters being built in downtown Austin.

"What he was selling the Legislature, a lot of people weren't buying," said Seliger, who called McRaven's relationship with lawmakers "strained."

Seliger predicted lawmakers will stay out of any decision on whether McRaven will remain beyond this year, saying it's a matter for the regents.

"We will work with whoever the chancellor is," Seliger said. "Chancellors don't matter. Systems don't matter. The institutions and the education they deliver matter."

McRaven has had his successes, including an ambitious survey of campus sexual assault. His five-year "Quantum Leaps" agenda envisions university system being a major player in national security, brain health and student success rates.

And he still has important friends at the Capitol, including Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, who said he thinks McRaven has done an "outstanding job."

"My personal experience has been that he is an excellent communicator with a clear vision for making the UT System even better." Straus said. "He's not content to be just a caretaker, and he shouldn't be."

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com