At a press conference Monday morning, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced he will be stepping down as chancellor because he feels he has completed significant work on the goals he originally set for himself in the role.
Cigarroa, who will become the head of pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center-San Antonio once his successor is named, said he came to his realization in December.
“I realized I had accomplished every goal that I set out to do,” Cigarroa said. “I’m at a point in my professional career where I need to take a look at the next steps. The type of academic I am is really a surgeon, [and I realized] that, if I didn’t go back to surgery, I think that, long-term, I would have regretted it.”
Cigarroa maintained his decision had nothing to do with recent tensions between President William Powers Jr. and members of the UT System Board of Regents, and said he is proud of the work he has done to advance UT-Austin.
“As it relates to President Powers, this decision is completely separate from that,” Cigarroa said. “I will continue to do my work as chancellor every day until my last day, as I’ve always done, based on facts and performance. I support President Powers, and I will continue to evaluate all presidents every day.”
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said she believes Cigarroa’s resignation stems from some regents’ recent behavior. Zaffirini, who served as chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee for six years, still sits on the committee and is also co-vice chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency.
“Although I am confident that he will deny any disharmony, I am equally confident that [Cigarroa’s] decision was influenced by the continued negative circumstances at hand,” Zaffirini said in a statement. “His action personifies the harmful repercussions of the current attack on those who pursue excellence, protect the privacy of students and strive for true transparency for all.”
Zaffirini said members of the board need to express their “strong support” of Powers as they look for a new chancellor.
“[Cigarroa] has endured unmitigated stress from the rogue regents who want UT President Bill Powers fired,” Zaffirini said. “Those who were unhappy with his recommendation to continue the heavily supported employment of President Powers reportedly turned their powerful weapons on him.”
Board chairman Paul Foster said he did not believe “perceived tensions” between Powers and the regents would impede the search process for Cigarroa’s successor in any way. Foster said he anticipated the search process would take between four and six months.
“This is a tough day for me because it’s difficult to imagine trying to replace Francisco Cigarroa,” Foster said. “Indeed, in my opinion, he can’t be replaced. People with his varied and impressive resume don’t come along every day. … He found common ground where others couldn’t.”
In a statement, Powers said he appreciated Cigarroa’s leadership over the course of the past five years and noted his work in helping establish a new medical school for the University.
“We are in a better place in Texas because of his leadership,” Powers said. “I will always remember and appreciate his support in a variety of areas, most of all, establishing a medical school at UT-Austin. Likewise, the entire state will always remember and benefit from the new University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, which will soon be a reality because of [Cigarroa].”
During Cigarroa’s tenure as chancellor, the Texas Legislature approved the establishment of a new medical school in the Rio Grande Valley in addition to the new University, which will be eligible for funding from the Permanent University Fund.
Cigarroa said after he steps down in his role, he will serve the Board of Regents as a special adviser on the development and implementation of both institutions.
“We have, no doubt, planted a giant flag in South Texas,” Cigarroa said.