Is The Chancellor Next? And Who’s Blabbing?


Leonard Zwelling

This Houston Chronicle story from April 22 claims that in a one-on-one meeting between Governor Abbot and Chancellor McRaven, the Governor counseled the Chancellor not to move forward with the land deal in Houston for a data center. According to the article, the two men came to no agreement and the Chancellor went forward anyway. Since then, the deal met with a storm of criticism, much of it from the Houston legislative delegation and advocates for the University of Houston, and the deal has been scrapped. The article headlines the political cost to the Chancellor of the deal going south.

So I have a few questions?

If this was a one-on-one meeting, who spoke with the Chronicle? It is hard to believe it was the Chancellor. That leaves one person. The Governor.

Why would he leak the story?

Maybe he is angry his advice was not heeded. Maybe others want to see the Chancellor’s tenure cut short. I wonder who might feel that way who might live in Houston? Hmmm…..

This could not happen at a worse time for MD Anderson.

This is a moment in time when a strong guiding hand from Austin is needed to help the ad interims running Anderson through a maze of problems they had no hand in creating. Supposedly the Shared Governance Committee is in the DC area getting coached in team building by consultants hired by the Chancellor. Hmmm…How’s that going and does it even make sense to expend capital on consultants to train personnel likely to be replaced in less than a year? Not to me.

What I have feared from the outset with the naming of the ex-Navy SEAL to be the Chancellor is that the Regents have once again fallen victim to the lure of celebrity rather than addressing the problem before them.

I have no doubt that the Chancellor is a fierce warrior and a great public servant. Of that, there can be no doubt. But he’s neither an educator nor scientist nor academic by training and I fear he is way over his head trying to run the huge political university system that is UT. I personally think it was asking way too much of him to get up to speed in the time needed to handle the problems at MD Anderson and other branches of the system. That he called in help with Anderson in the form of consultants is to be commended, but why train this Shared Governance group when a new president is on the way and with him or her probably a whole new cast of characters? I am sure these consultants are not inexpensive. Why not allow the Hicks and Hahn team to muddle through for now at low cost and bring in the consultants when the next president has a team in place?

The thought of a Chancellor who was able to devise the plan to kill Osama bin Laden is enticing. Perhaps too much so. Just as installing a scientist of Ron DePinho’s accomplishment and bluster sounded like a good idea in 2011. It wasn’t. I hope this is not another moment of decision with regard to the Chancellor of the UT System.

MD Anderson could use some stability in Austin in order to get its house in order.

Leonard Zwelling