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Move over NC, Texas Gov wants to scrap research at universities


Hey, North Carolina, we’re raising the ante on claim to the title of State Most Shamefully Committed to the Stupid Political Ruination of Science - except we’re not that shameful about it. Instead, we’re putting our boisterous Texas spin on it.

We’ve been most impressive with your attempt to legislate away sea level rise and stop counting votes and removing scientists from scientific commissions. But, we the Lone Star State, are not giving up without a fight.

You’re well aware of Representative Lamar Smith’s efforts to introduce the long lost step of the scientific method: passing political muster. But, that’s not all. Texas oil man Jeff Sanderfer and our Dear Leader (pictured bove) want to do away with the more trivial functions of first-class universities like, you know, research and writing books.

Because, really, what do research and books offer society?

The reform efforts (air quotes) would turn universities into what Wade Goodwin of NPR calls “superstar community colleges” that are paid by how much money they bring into the university and how many students they serve. That’s a great idea, because that 500-person chemistry class I took freshmen year of college was awesome.

The reform started at Governor Perry’s alma mater, Texas A&M, by ranking faculty on how much money they bring in. The torches and pitchforks are now at UT Austin’s doorstep, where faculty have again been rated and binned into categories such as “coasters, dodgers, sherpas, pioneers, and stars”. It’s the higher education equivalent of The Bobs coming into Inetech to clean house and asking: “so what is it exactly that you do here? Research? Umm, yeahhhh.”

Nevermind that universities like The University of Texas at Austin are home to some of the biggest innovators of modern times, folks like John Goodenough (inventor of the lithium-ion battery, seen here receiving the National Medal of Science from the President) and Bob Metcalfe (inventor of Ethernet), among many others.

Making higher education more effective and efficient is a noble goal, but doing so at the expense of research is misguided, as Paul Begala (UT Austin alum and Democratic politico) writes for The Daily Beast:

“The main cause of rising tuition costs is not research—research was vibrant when I was a student at the University of Texas in the 1980s and tuition was $4 a credit. Rather, tuition has gone up as state support has gone down. Where once the great state of Texas paid for more than half the cost of its children’s college educations, today the level of support has dropped to just 13 percent. And even with a state surplus of $8.8 billion, the genius politicians in Austin are calling for another $300 million in cuts to Texas higher education. No wonder tuition has gone up—it’s the only way a supposedly state-supported university can continue to keep the doors open.”

Anyways, we’ll probably continue touting how great our state is because we’re attracting businesses left and right. The jokes on us all, though, because at this rate, there won’t be an educated and trained workforce in the coming decades.

If you think this is a crappy idea, you can visit WakeUpLonghorns and all of that.

Photo credit: Texas Tribune

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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