Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to UT President Bill Powers: We've got your back

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

UT-Austin President William Powers, whose future has been tossed around in public like a football, received a ringing endorsement Monday from an unusual place -- the State Senate.

We have one basic rule here at Barking Carnival -- No Politics.

Easy to follow most of the time, and while this story has political undertones, for most of us it is about the public discussion over the very core of the University we love. It recently included a public spat between several members of the UT Board of Regents and UT President William Powers, and today it spilled over onto the Texas Senate floor.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst stood up Monday and gave a rousing and emotional defense of Powers.

Both houses of the legislature had passed resolutions praising Powers for his years of service on the UT campus and it was a bi-partisan show of support. Dewhurst took on the Board of Regents with his remarks.

I believe in reform, and I know Bill Powers believes in reform," Dewhurst said. "That's why I'm particularly troubled when I see UT regents go around this man. I see them trying to micromanage the system."

Republican State Senator Kevin Eltife, a graduate of UT-Austin, had authored the resolution.

"I see in this president a man who shares a love for the university that so many of the current students and former students have for this great institution," Eltife said. "I see a man who always puts the university first, who always stands up for what he believes in even if it may not be politically popular."

The fight became public after Powers answered pointed questions during a meeting of the UT System Board of Regents on Feb. 13. The brunt of the questions basically came from three regents - Wallace Hall, Alex Cranberg and Brenda Pejovich - all appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011. They grilled Powers on why he had not followed orders from the Regents and hired a vice president for development. They also wondered why undergraduate completion rates had not significantly increased in recent years.

During his comments after the resolution passed on Monday in the Senate Dewhurst became emotional

"If you so dare to mention my wife or my daughter, you will hear from me," Dewhurst said, his voice cracking. "This man deserves better treatment than what he's been given. I'm really upset about this."

Dewhurst then indicated that he would go into more detail later this week into what he said were "several anonymous letters" attacking Powers.

Then as Senators gathered around to take photos with Powers, Dewhurst was heard to say,

"We've got your back."

The U. T. System Board of Regents has scheduled a Special Called Meeting by telephone conference call for 4:00 p.m. this Wednesday February 20.

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