Jeffery Hildebrand

Regent Jeffery Hildebrand discusses the costs associated with the renovation of the Moore-Hill Dormitory.
Photo Credit: Xintong Guo | Daily Texan Staff

The UT System Board of Regents met Wednesday to discuss budget allocations within the UT System. 

The regents divided their time among different committees to deliberate items on the agenda, including renovations to Moore-Hill Dormitory and funding for the UT System supercomputer. 

The Facilities Planning and Construction Committee approved a $6 million increase in funding for remodeling Moore-Hill Dormitory. The plan calls for upgrades to 15 community bathrooms, two accessible community bathrooms, four single bathrooms, 10 American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant student rooms and minor repairs in student rooms. 

Regent Wm. Eugene Powell argued against the allocation of the $6 million for the renovation. 

“It just seems like such a prime location to go back … and spend this money when you might be able to do something by taking that building down and doing something new,” Powell said.

President William Powers Jr. defended the renovation and said larger construction in the area would force change upon the entire section of campus.

“I couldn’t see, for example, a higher rise building on that road without doing something very different with that whole area,” Powers said.

Regent Jeffery Hildebrand said the cost associated with the project seemed high for a small-scale renovation.

“We’re now increasing the original [authorization for expenditures], so to speak, from $8 million to $14 million,” Hildebrand said. “I mean it’s almost an 80 percent increase in the cost, and I calculate it’s 21 bathrooms and 10 ADA compliant student rooms. It seems like a big percentage increase for that minimal amount of work.”

The Finance and Planning Committee approved another $3 million in funding for a refresh of Lonestar 4, the UT System supercomputer system. The funds will be used to update components of the supercomputer that have aged and are in need of replacement. 

In 2010, the Board of Regents approved $3 million to go toward the initial construction of Lonestar 4. 

In the Finance and Planning Committee meeting, the regents also discussed the changing nature of the University Lands (UL), the 2.1 million acres of land the Texas Constitution gave to the UT and Texas A&M Systems. The System hired the first CEO for UL, Mark Houser, on Tuesday.

Scott Kelley, executive vice chancellor for business affairs at UT System, said Houser will change the dynamics of UL leadership.

“I think he really does provide an opportunity to take us to the new level and to look at this differently,” Kelley said.

Hildebrand said the restructuring of leadership in charge of UL represents a distinct change.

“I think that this is hopefully a benchmark that we can start doing other things within this system and that is a free market’s look within a governance structure,” Hildebrand said. “I couldn’t be more excited about it.”

The Board of Regents will meet in open session Thursday to approve or deny the items approved by the committees. 

Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, speaks with the press after a regular board meeting on April 30. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Paul Foster, UT System Board of Regents chairman, and Regent Jeffery Hildebrand said they "strongly disagreed" with Moody's Investor Services determining recent tensions in the System were “credit negative” in a recent analysis.

"It is important to point out that the UT System not only holds an Aaa rating – the highest possible rating from Moody’s – but also AAA ratings from Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor’s Corporation," Foster and Hildebrand said in a joint statement.

Released on Monday, Moody's analysis determined recent conflicts within the System, such a house committee's recent censure of Regent Wallace Hall in August, warranted the “credit negative” since they could affect the System’s financial position and the ability of the University to attract top-level candidates to replace President William Powers Jr. 

The System announced in July that Powers had reached an agreement with Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to step down from his position in June 2015. The deal was made after Cigarroa originally asked Powers to resign in October.

In their statement, Foster and Hildebrand said a search committee will soon be announced to find “distinguished and capable” candidates for University president and cited the regents' selection of Naval Adm. William McRaven as sole finalist to replace Cigarroa. In December, Cigarroa will step down to return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The board is expected to officialy name McRaven as the System's next chancellor at its meeting on Thursday.