Academic freedom vs. ‘accountability’: Which will win?

“If guys like me leave Texas, it will be very bad for Texas,” Grunlan said. “It’s lost jobs, it’s lost technology. It’s companies that won’t be coming to Texas.”

Although no proposals were on the agenda, faculty members suspected that regents had been discussing the “solutions” behind the scenes. A&M regents chairman Richard Box tried to quell the concern, saying the proposals were simply meant to stimulate ideas. Yet A&M vice chairman Phil Adams, who’s also a Texas Public Policy Foundation board member, said the university can’t sit still.

“In 1975, they said Sears was the best company in America. In 1975 they probably were, but they couldn’t see down the road,” Adams said. “And their board of regents wasn’t strong enough to put policies and management in place to take care of what was coming.”

Adams then cupped his hands around his mouth, as though he was making a megaphone.

“The best company in 1975 was what by 1990?” Adams said. “Not. Even. Relevant.”

At the University of Texas at San Antonio, president Ricardo Romo knows the pressure of trying to keep college affordable and accessible. His enrollment of 30,000 students has swollen by more than 50 percent over the past decade, and his professor-to-student ratio of 25 to 1 is among the highest in the state.

He concedes that many families see the $8,000 tuition as a burden, but he still considers it a bargain. As for $10,000 degrees, Romo said, “”I have no idea how they would do it. But if they have some ideas, we’d be certainly willing to listen.”