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A report Wednesday night in a reliable Texas blog that some members of the University of Texas Board of Regents were maneuvering to fire Bill Powers as president of the Austin campus had students and faculty members rallying behind Powers on Thursday. Regents who are close to Governor Rick Perry are reportedly angry that Powers has argued for small tuition increases for his campus, rather than the tuition freeze requested by Perry. Powers has also defended his faculty members from criticisms made by a think tank with close ties to Perry. Hours after the blog post revealed the tensions, students had created Facebook pages to line up support. In less than 24 hours, I Stand With Bill Powers had nearly 10,000 members, most of them students and alumni.
Many wrote that they trusted Powers's views of the university's budget needs and that they worried about the impact of the board rejecting his tuition requests or firing him. One woman who graduated last year wrote: "I full-heartedly support President Bill Powers as the President of our esteemed university. I know that if he leaves, the results will be devastating. There would be no top-quality candidate that would wish to work at a university where politics play such a heavy handed role, and where such a leader is not free to voice his opinion without fear of retaliation. President Powers has been an incredible driving force in raising the standard, rigor, and value of a University of Texas degree, and should continue to do so."
Faculty leaders were circulating a resolution Thursday, on which they hope to vote Monday, to back Powers. "Recognizing the extraordinary efforts exerted by UT Austin President Bill Powers and his administrative team in support of the recent proposal for a modest, well-documented, and crucial tuition increase, the Faculty Council strongly commends them for seeking to protect and enhance the quality of our students' education and the value of their degrees, as well as the research and public service achievements of the faculty. The fact that the regents ultimately rejected the proposal diminishes neither the campus's need for such financial support nor the efforts made to attain it," the resolution says.
Late Thursday, Powers released a short statement: "I love The University of Texas, and it’s an honor to serve as its president. I am deeply grateful for the support of our students, faculty, staff, and the thousands of members of the UT family. I will continue to work with the entire UT community to move the university forward. At this moment, I am focused on the more than 8,000 students who will graduate next week and make immeasurable contributions to society -- extending the university’s legacy of excellence and our positive impact on Texas."