El Paso Senator Jose Rodriguez Urges UT Board Of Regents Against Heather Wilson Pick
The possible appointment of Dr. Heather Wilson by the UT Board of Regents to replace outgoing Dr. Diana Natalicio as the president of UTEP has gotten a lot of reaction by the El Paso community.
Wilson's record on gay and civil rights came to light right after she was named. UTEP LGBTQ groups immediately spoke out against a possible Wilson appointment. The UT Board of Regents were criticized for conducting the search behind closed doors and local elected leaders also voiced their concern with the Wilson pick.
On Friday, one local official again urged the UT Board of Regents to reconsider a Wilson UTEP presidency. State Senator Jose Rodriguez released this statement:
The University of Texas System Board of Regents will vote Tuesday to formally appoint Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson as President of the University of Texas at El Paso. I oppose this action.
The selection of this sole finalist was the result of a flawed, closed search process that shut out any substantive input from the community. The UT System chooses to not make its finalists public. This is in contrast to other higher education systems, like El Paso Community College or the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology that Secretary Wilson led, which announce three or more finalists who are then publicly vetted.
With this particular finalist, the Regents either failed to anticipate the obvious concerns about Secretary Wilson's past voting record and the opposition it would engender, or simply did not care. For example, her lack of support for public education funding and for equality for LGBTQ Americans. Most importantly for me, Secretary Wilson is not representative of this community and has no experience with the border.
It appears the Regents still do not appreciate the depth of concern among students, faculty, and the community. At least some of this could have been mitigated if the UT System had planned outreach with the campus and the broader community as soon as the finalist was named; this would have allowed for some of these concerns to be aired in a more collaborative setting. Although I appreciate that some meetings were held, none were open to the general public.
Nothing in state law requires the Regents to name only one finalist; and while a vote may not take place sooner than 21 days after a finalist in named, there is no requirement that a vote take place that quickly. Given this, and the shared concerns raised by students, faculty, alumni, and other constituents, I urge the Regents to listen to the students and the community, and not appoint her on Tuesday.