The board of regents at Stephen F. Austin university (SFA) has decided to join the University of Texas (UT) system.
The SFA board voted 8-1 to accept the recommendation by a subcommittee of four regents who met with representatives from the UT, A&M, Texas Tech, and Texas State systems.
Regents chair Karen Gantt of McKinney, who led the subcommittee, said they first decided to recommend joining a system. Gantt said “It became obvious to the subcommittee that the administrative and leadership benefits derived from an affiliation with any of the systems issuing invitations would be beneficial to the long term health and growth of SFA.”
From an administrative standpoint, Gantt said aligning with a system, which “allows local university administration to focus on campus operations.”
From a financial standpoint, Gantt said the subcommittee believed SFA “would benefit from system services, including investment management, purchasing power, construction management, risk management, information technology, and enhanced bond ratings for debt service.”
Regent Robert Flores of Nacogdoches, who was confident SFA could financially continue as an independent, believed a future UT board could drop the SFA name and mascot names of the Lumberjacks and Ladyjacks.
In response, regents chair Gantt said that all four suitors were told that the number one item is protecting the name of the school and the mascot. Gantt added “We have received those assurances, we will have those assurances in writing, and then we will be the guardians of those promises going forward.”
The SFA board mentioned choosing a system that has access to the permanent university fund (PUF), which is available only through the UT and A&M systems. Regents chair Gantt, responding to the concern that getting PUF money will require two-thirds approval in the legislature, said “I believe the words used in our meetings were ‘We do not want SFA in our system as a HEF (Higher Education Funds) school. We only want SFA as a PUF school.'”
No one on the SFA board mentioned where the A&M bid fell short.
Gantt also said that the UT system was fine with SFA before officially becoming a member, to apply a yet to be determined amount of reserves to increase SFA employee pay. Gantt said SFA’s current administration will present a proposal at their meeting in January.
The SFA board then unanimously voted to let the UT system conduct the search for SFA’s next president. Two members of the SFA board will be on the search committee.
Click below for comments from the November 29, 2022 Stephen F. Austin board of regents meeting.
The selection process, which began in August, included presentations and documents from all four suitors.