Dear UT Community,
I’d like to congratulate each of the more than 2,500 students who celebrated at commencements this past weekend, send best wishes to all students studying for final exams, and offer my gratitude to the faculty and staffers who have supported them during a semester that few will ever forget.
UT’s strengths and contributions to society are rooted in our students, who excel while they are on campus and make the world better upon graduation. They come from diverse backgrounds, from around the country and world. They challenge and elevate one another with the different viewpoints they bring, and they do so responsibly and respectfully. These perspectives are essential to our ability to offer a first-class education. That’s why I have joined other university presidents and chancellors in signing a letter that supports undocumented students who contribute to the vitality of our campuses, and that urges President-elect Trump’s administration to maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA enhances our ability to provide educational opportunities for all of our students to pursue their learning and life goals.
Last week, a member of the Senate of College Councils asked me what the one thing is that students can do to benefit The University of Texas. My response was simple. Be engaged and know this is your university — a place where we all continue to work together to achieve our goals.
This fall, we also continued our efforts to improve campus safety. We launched the BeSafe campaign to encourage students to look after one another, to walk together and to make use of the university’s safety programs. If you are ever studying late and need a safe ride home, please call SURE Walk (and not just because it may be a good chance to meet Matthew McConaughey).
It’s been just over a week since Tom Herman became the new Head Football Coach. As I said in my message to Longhorn Nation, the change was a difficult decision because Coach Charlie Strong was a tremendous role model and educator who embodied Longhorn values. As we begin this new chapter, however, I sense excitement and optimism among Longhorn fans as Coach Herman recruits top student-athletes and prepares for next season.
At around the time you return to campus in January, Texas lawmakers will also be coming back to Austin for the 85th Legislature. They must approve a new state budget and will potentially discuss issues related to higher education and UT. I will be informing lawmakers as they make important policy decisions, and I’ll keep you up to date during the session.
Looking forward to the spring semester, the campus will be hosting several important events, including Explore UT and Spring Commencement, at which former Dallas Police Chief David Brown will address the Class of 2017.
I hope each of you enjoys a wonderful holiday break with friends and family.
Gregory L. Fenves