I wish to express my appreciation to Ray Bowen and Jon Hagler for their article (Eagle, April 21) concerning the past and future of Texas A&M. I particularly commend them for having the courage to say what many have known: that we are in a struggle to determine whether Texas A&M fulfills its role of greatness, or whether we shirk that vision in favor of ideology and mediocrity.
Bowen and Hagler asked, "Are our regents being faithful to history, to their obligations and to the future generations of Aggies? Are the regents and their chosen administrators taking actions which enhance the university and its teaching, its research, its leadership training and its service role?" These are questions that demand immediate and decisive answers.
Great universities have a place and role that is different from community colleges. Both are invaluable to a dynamic state. But make no mistake, those roles are different.
A great university, which is admired internationally, must continue to attract the most respected professors, experts and researchers in their fields. This is what Texas A&M has done in the past by employing eminent professors such as David Lee, the 1996 Nobel Prize winner in physics; Dudley Herschbach, the 1986 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry; Bruce McCarl, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner (shared with others); Norman Borlaug, the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner; and Sir Derek Barton, the 1969 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry.
It is a continuation of that commitment to excellence and preeminence that Bowen and Hagler call for, and most of us who love A&M demand.
Thomas Lindsay of the Center for Higher Education, in his rebuttal to former A&M President Bowen and Hagler (Eagle, April 28) quoted misleading statistics and had significant omissions. Lindsay, while citing that he, too, is a former college president, fails to note that he was forced out as president of Shimer College after votes of no confidence by Shimer's faculty and Assembly.
In contrast to A&M's prize winning faculty, Lindsay praises the "$10,000.00 to graduate program" at Texas A&M-San Antonio. With all due respect, that program utilizes high school teachers to provide a portion of the education to the students at A&M-San Antonio. I have the greatest respect for public school teachers, as my mother taught in the public schools for more than 30 years. Contending, however, that high school teachers have the same intrinsic international value as Nobel Prize winners is disingenuous at best.
The theme behind his Center seems to be that professors are fungible; that a teacher who teaches 50 students is inherently more valuable than a Nobel Prize Winner who teaches five graduate students who may change the world. This is simply out of touch with educational reality and with the impact that research and students have on a university and society.
Lindsay claimed that "at A&M, student-loan debt currently averages more than $21,000.00 per student." This is incorrect. When I contacted A&M, a spokesperson informed me that the plus $20,000 figure was not per A&M student, but per A&M student who has taken out student loans. Less than half the students have such loans according to A&M. This type of recklessness when citing statistics should bring to question the Center for Higher Education reliability.
Lindsay noted that "At Texas A&M, the four-year graduation rate is an unremarkable 50.7 percent" He failed to note that the four-year graduation rate is higher than its 2000 entering class and that almost 80 percent of Texas A&M University students earned undergraduate degrees within a six-year time frame.
Lindsay carefully uses rhetoric. No one would question his supposed goals of "transparency," "better use of resources" and "reduced cost to students and taxpayers." Unfortunately the ideas that the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Center for Higher Education have put forth would reduce great universities such as Texas A&M to regional status. The position of the Texas Policy Foundation, as reflected on its website, opposes increased state funding unless it ideological "reforms" are instituted. It is not time to cede the role of the only great public university in Texas to the University of Texas at Austin.
Despite claims by the Center for Higher Education that A&M is bloated and wasteful, it appears that A&M is doing something right. The Wall Street Journal named A&M the second rated university in the nation as found by recruiters for major corporations, ahead of traditional powerhouses such as Michigan, Cornell and Cal.
Bloomberg Business Week this year, citing a study by Payscale, found A&M in the top 10 nationally among public universities on return on investment dollars - in other words, what graduates will earn in their careers compared to their college costs.
A New York Times survey of chief executives from leading corporations listed A&M among the top 10 institutions from which they recruit new employees.
The Center for Higher Education would have us destroy the value of the brand A&M spent generations building for the sake of ideology and "saving money." Has there ever been a better example of being penny-wise and pound-foolish?
Those of us who are older remember Gen. Earl Rudder and Jack Williams and their vision for Texas A&M. It was a vision of greatness and of international leadership. Those ideals were continued by other presidents such as Robert Gates. That is why Nobel Prize winners have come to A&M. That is why President George H.W. Bush selected A&M to house his library.
I love my University. My loyalty is to Texas A&M.
I am not certain that Lindsay can say the same.
-Jim James is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan.