San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas


by BRAD ROLLINS

Gov. Rick Perry this week appointed Matthew Russell, a Texas State public administration senior, as the Texas State University System student regent. His one-year term begins June 1.

matt russell mug

Russell

Russell succeeds Andrew Greenberg, a Lamar University student.

“It is a privilege and honor to have been given this opportunity to represent the more than 70,000 students in our system,” Russell said in a written statement to the Mercury. “I look forward to meeting with the students from within our eight universities to discuss their concerns and interests and my hope is that together we can make a positive impact for the future of the Texas State University System.”

Born in Tyler and raised in Brenham, Russell is interning during this legislative session for State Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, and previously interned for Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. He is a member of Texas State University’s College Republicans.

In a practice endorsed with few exceptions over the decades by both Democratic and Republican governors — in Texas and in most states — universities’ real regents are typically party loyalists and significant campaign contributors. Since 2005, when the legislature created non-voting student regents, the party-line tradition has mostly applied to those seats as well.

Chris Covo, the Texas State system’s 2010-2011 student regent, worked for the influential conservative group Americans for Prosperity before leaving to obtain a master’s in legal and political theory at Oxford’s University College in London. He is currently legislative director for State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Murphy, the former chair of the Texas House Public Health committee.

Covo’s successor as student regent, Sam Houston state alumnus Ryan Bridges, serves on several advisory panels for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (That state agency’s governing body, by the way, is chaired by Fred W. Heldenfels IV, president and chief executive officer of San Marcos-based Heldenfels Enterprises Inc., a longtime major Texas roads and bridge contractor.)

After the Legislature deregulated tuition in 2013 by authorizing university systems to set their own tuition rates, the clamor for student representation on boards of regents intensified.

In 2005, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, and Sen. Eliott Shapleigh, D-El Paso, each filed bills that would have required that one of nine regents who oversee the state’s university systems be reserved for a full-fledged student regent with voting power.

By the time the proposals emerged from the Legislature, however, Wentworth’s bill had been amended to create non-voting student regents, who not only are disallowed from voting on any regent decisions but can neither make nor second motions and do not count toward establishing a quorum of the board.

Consequently, student regents play, at best, an advisory role and, often, a merely ceremonial one. The uniform application used by all five systems in the state — the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas State and the University of Houston systems — goes so far as to say student regents “are not technically a member of the board of regents.”

Student regents serve without salary but often find jobs at Texas universities waiting for them on the other side of their terms.

Texas State alum Francis Edward Bartley, the system’s first student regent in 2006, is a research analyst in the University of Texas System’s governmental relations office. Sam Houston alumnus Magdalena Manzano, who followed Bartley as student regent, is an admissions counselor at the University of Houston.

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