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President's Blog

President Juliet Garcia

South Texas University bill unanimously approved by Texas House of Representatives

On March 19, the Texas House of Representatives considered HB1000, the bill that would establish a new university in South Texas by merging The University of Texas at Brownsville and The University of Texas Pan American and transforming the Regional Academic Health Center into a medical school.

Representative Rene Oliveira laid out the bill flanked by the entire Valley delegation. Representative Eddie Lucio III joined Rep. Oliveira to voice his support of the legislation. After a brief discussion, the vote was called for, and then everyone turned to view the voting board behind the dais. One by one, the votes were registered. As representatives voted, a green light would turn on next to their names and a chime would ring out softly across the floor. Very soon, however, momentum grew as more votes were cast, and it suddenly seemed that everyone was staring at the voting board with great excitement, watching the growing number of green lights flash and listening to the continuous sound of chimes. The usually formal ambience of the House Chamber was transformed into a spontaneous celebration by the rapid voting. Soon everyone was smiling, applauding and congratulating each other. It was history in the making, and everyone wanted to be a part of creating a new university for South Texas. Creating something bigger than anyone of us is exciting work; everyone knew it was a privilege to play a role in fulfilling an idea whose time had come.

A small group from the Rio Grande Valley watched the scene from the second floor Gallery. As Representative Oliveira introduced us and we stood to be acknowledged, one-by-one representatives waved to us from their desks as if to record their support yet again. We could not help spontaneously waving back to thank them more personally.

Suddenly, the chiming stopped and everyone in the Chamber turned to stare at the results on the voting board. All votes had been recorded; every light on the entire board was now green. It was unanimous!

The unanimous vote on the merger bill by the Texas House of Representatives was extraordinary. We knew that our Valley delegation had been working very hard to gather support for the bill, but I didn't believe that anyone had dared hope for a unanimous vote. I only wish more of our students could have witnessed the moment.

Once in a great while, we are privileged to be part of important work. Such was the case that day.

After a few more procedural requirements are completed, the bill to establish the new university will be sent to the Governor for his signature, sometime in late April or early May.

Once the bill is signed into law, then more detailed planning would begin to define the merger process. Much remains to be done; but we're well on our way to fulfilling a longtime dream of transforming the higher education ecosystem of the Rio Grande Valley.

Many deserve our gratitude: chief among them our Valley delegation of senators and representatives, our UT Board of Regents and Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. In addition, we are appreciative of the many others who crossed the aisle to create a bipartisan effort to fling open the doors of opportunity for the people of the Rio Grande Valley.

Submitted Mar. 27, 2013 at 6:06 p.m.

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