Former Sen. Kevin Eltife, businessman James Conrad Weaver and attorney Janiece Longoria were confirmed by the Texas Senate Tuesday as the next three UT system regents.
The Senate voted 29 in favor and zero against. However, Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, and Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, were present, but abstained from voting.
Miles and West, the only African-American legislators in the Senate, spoke in opposition of the lack of diversity amongst the regent nominees. Both said their choice to abstain from voting was not because of any personal problems with the regent appointees.
“I don’t intend to vote against worthwhile nominees,” West said. “But I can’t vote for them either.”
Miles raised concerns over the lack of diversity on the board, citing that only three out of a total of 240 UT regents have ever been African-American and that African-American enrollment in the UT system is 6.8 percent, even though they make up 12 percent of the state population.
Miles said diversity on the board is important to fight systemic racism and influence policy around bringing African-American professors to campus and make decisions concerning the top ten percent rule.
“Diversity will help the UT system lead the way,” Miles said. “Let our diversity be our advantage.”
West echoed Miles, saying out of the over four million African-Americans in the state, not a single one is on the UT board of regents.
“I think this is a missed opportunity to make sure the Board of Regents is reflective of the diversity in the state of Texas,” West said.
Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Palito Blanco, and Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, voted in favor of the nominees, but spoke about the need to have diversity on the Board and in other agencies across the Senate.
“Diversity doesn’t happen by accident,” Menéndez said. “It has to be intentional.”
These confirmations mark the beginning of the new regents’ terms, which will expire or be up for renewal in 2023. The three outgoing regents, Wallace Hall, Alex Cranberg and Brenda Pejovich, had terms set to expire Feb. 1 or upon approval of the incoming regents.