Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick received audible gasps from the crowd on multiple occasions Saturday morning as he spoke about his agenda for the upcoming 85th legislative session.
Patrick discussed several issues at the 2016 Texas Tribune Festival with Texas Tribune executive editor Ross Ramsey, including controversial comments from Patrick on the transgender bathroom debate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s long awaited endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and public school funding in Texas.
Patrick, one of the most ideologically conservative state lawmakers and president of the state Senate, also spoke in favor of cutting back on Texas school financing both in higher education and public schools and added that professor tenure should be cut.
“We owe it to you not to waste your money,” Patrick said. “But we will take care of our schools. We are funding them.”
Richard Reddick, associate professor and coordinator for the College and University Student Personnel Administration, said he found these comments by Patrick to be very concerning.
“Regardless of how realistic this proposal might be, it raises the idea that academic freedom may not be as valued in the state of Texas,” Reddick said in an email. “Ultimately this hurts the ability of state institutions to recruit and retain the very best faculty, and diminishes the reputation of the University. Which of course ends up hurting students, who find their institutions are not as well regarded and respected.”
Patrick cited the “pile of money” that UT and Texas A&M has through oil and gas drilling on University lands in West Texas as a reason to cut state funding to the Universities.
Patrick also discussed the Dallas police shooting that occurred in July earlier this year.
“If the Black Lives Matter [movement] hadn’t had that march, those five police officers would still be alive,” Patrick said.
Patrick said he did not believe it is dangerous for a Black or Hispanic man to be stopped by police in the U.S.
“When there’s a shooting or an incident, you don’t run to the streets and start looting and start setting fires,” Patrick said.
Joshua Ellis, government and African and African Diaspora Studies sophomore, said he finds Patrick’s comments to be distressing but not surprising.
“Until Dan Patrick has walked in the shoes of a black man, he has no expertise to tell me that I am not in danger,” Ellis said. “To legitimize the struggles of a large amount of people you are supposed to serve is disrespectful. To me it’s an embarrassment to what someone in a political office should represent.”
Patrick also spoke against transgender people using the bathrooms of the gender they identify with during his discussion with Ramsey at Homer Rainey Hall, one of 30 buildings at UT that have gender-inclusive bathrooms.
“I don’t want a 16-year-old boy showering with 16-year-old girls,” Patrick said.
Patrick, the Texas chairman for Trump’s presidential campaign, also voiced approval of Cruz’s long-awaited endorsement of the Republican Party nominee.
“I think it was the right decision,” Patrick said. “You support your nominee.”
Despite his approval, Patrick, who was previously the Texas chairman for Cruz’s campaign, said he wished Cruz’s endorsement had come sooner.