Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) vetoed $1.5 million in funding Friday that would have expanded the Center for Mexican-American Studies at the state’s flagship university, local media report.
The veto dashed the hopes of those who want to develop the center into a full-fledged academic department, U.T.’s school paper the Daily Texan reports.
“It’s terrible,” Mexican American Studies graduate student Jaime Puente told the Daily Texan. “It’s part and parcel of what I think is a concerted effort by Rick Perry to attack the University of Texas. If the center can’t fund its graduate students, it will definitely affect recruit.”
Perry said in a statement explaining the veto that he opposed a trend over the last few decades in which public universities receive funds as special items rather than requesting money through the main budget legislation.
“The university did not request this special item in its Legislative Appropriations Request for FY 2014-15,” said Perry in a statement explaining the rationale for the veto. “If the Department of Mexican-American Studies is a priority, the university can use its $2.2 million appropriation for Institutional Enhancement.”
U.T.’s Mexican American Studies Center wasn’t the only one that saw a funding request rejected by Perry. He vetoed more than $5.2 million in special funding for the Office of International Affairs at Prairie View A&M University, the University of Houston’s School of Public Affairs and Texas A&M International University’s Petroleum Engineering program, among others.
The Republican Texas governor and like-minded conservatives have long viewed the state’s premier university as an overly expensive luxury whose intellectual ambitions should be scaled back to cut costs to the state and tuition-paying students, the Associated Press reports. That position has locked Perry in a political battle with the university’s advocates who regard the elite institution as a public good that should be expanded.
Some conservatives have also taken an interest in the content of U.T.’s classes. A bill proposed this year by conservative state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) would have exempted ethnic studies and other courses from counting toward state-mandated history requirements. Latino activists, professors and the U.T. administration viewed the proposal, which failed to pass, as an attack on academic freedom.
Perry vetoed a slew of other legislation on Friday as the regular session came to a close, including a bill that intended to prevent wage discrimination against women, several that dealt with transparency issues, and a bill that would have provided $10 million for the state to train teachers who arm themselves at school.
All told, Perry’s vetoes trimmed some $500 million from the biannual Texas budget, an amount the Houston Chronicle referred to as “a small share of a state budget for the next two years that totals $197 billion in state and federal funds, plus a supplemental measure that includes spending about $4 billion from the state’s rainy day fund.”