Naked City

UT: Tighten Whose Belt?

University of Texas administrators, ordered by Gov. Rick Perry to trim expenses 12.5% -- $30 million -- have been busy recommending cuts, even to programs not funded by the taxpayers. One such target is The Daily Texan; after two press operators retired, Texas Student Publications was asked to either justify the cost of having its own printing press or consider outsourcing print operations, most likely to the Austin American-Statesman.

But TSP is one of several self-supporting "auxiliary enterprises" on the UT campus -- as are the dorms and cafeterias, the Texas Union, the Frank Erwin Center, and the athletics department. "That presents a big problem if the university can tell us that we can't spend our own money to hire people to replace these very valuable positions," said Texan Managing Editor Ryan Pittman. (The Texan was granted an exception to UT's hiring freeze to temporarily replace the pressmen.)

But the vice-president and chief financial officer of UT, Kevin Hegarty, says that "they cohabitate on university property, and they receive a small subsidy from the university." This "subsidy" is a fee paid by UT students, not by Texas taxpayers. Nonetheless, Hegarty says, "We're not going to allow people to think that, 'The exercise of reducing expenses ... relates to everybody but me.'"

Hegarty also said cuts were being suggested to all auxiliary enterprises, but UT Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds told the Chronicle, "We're all self-funded. If we reduced our budget $30 million" -- that is, if athletics absorbed UT's entire 12.5% reduction by itself --"it still would not impact the university." Hegarty disputes that: "Even where there is not a direct dollar benefit, to the extent they're running inefficiently," the public might "say that's representative of the rest of the university, [and] it is a negative impact on us. All facets of this university need to represent what we believe this university needs to be. ... We want to make this a more efficient place."

In other Texan news, the lawsuit filed by UT against state Attorney General Greg Abbott to block the paper's request for security-camera information was dismissed last week by Travis Co. District Judge Paul Davis. UT is considering an appeal. A similar suit by the city against Abbott is still pending. In the meantime, UT filed another suit on Friday against Abbott over another Texan open-records request, pertaining to chemical and biological agents at UT's J.J. Pickle Research Center. Abbott ruled last year that the info sought by the Texan was not exempt from the state open records laws.

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