JIM VERTUNO, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa told University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers that he must resign or he will be fired, a person with direct knowledge of the conversation told The Associated Press on Friday.
The person who confirmed the ultimatum spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Cigarroa told Powers he must either resign ahead of the Board of Regents July 10 meeting or he will be fired at it, the person said. The person said Powers told Cigarroa that he would not resign but is willing to discuss a timeline for leaving.
A message left with the University of Texas Systems spokeswoman requesting an interview with Cigarroa was not immediately returned. Powers could not be reached for comment Friday.
Powers has led UT since 2006 and is popular among faculty and students. But his vision for higher education has clashed with some regents — sometimes dramatically — whose ideas are supported by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
Cigarroa has acknowledged a “strained” relationship with Powers, whose job has been rumored to be in jeopardy since 2011. At a December regents meeting, Cigarroa gave Powers a cautious endorsement.
“There are problems. I’ve addressed these problems. And it is my full expectation that President Powers and I will work toward resolving them and moving ahead,” Cigarroa said at the time.
It’s been a bruising two years for Powers in leading the 50,000-student campus. The tension began in 2011 when Perry began pushing a series of higher education reforms that called for more accountability on state campuses and lower costs. Academics on the state’s largest campuses bristled at the proposals.
Signs of discord continued into 2012, when Perry backed UT regents who rejected a tuition hike plan endorsed by Powers.
Cigarroa said in December that his frustration with Powers stemmed from a lack of communication. He also suggested that he and Powers would agree on a course of action for the university, only to watch Powers give a public impression that the two were misaligned.
Powers has also clashed with board members over a myriad of issues, including tuition and graduation rates and the role of teaching and research in education. Board member Wallace Hall’s aggressive and relentless pursuit of records and questions over Powers’ leadership led to a vote in May by the Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations that grounds exists to impeach Hall over his efforts to force out Powers. A Texas House panel is drafting articles of impeachment against Hall.