The resulting larger university would help all three branches get more funding for teaching and research, proponents say.
UTA could become one branch of a larger university if the Legislature passes a bill aimed at grouping together the UT System’s three Metroplex schools, but, like a similar bill, it is not likely to pass, university President Robert Witt said.
Rep. Kenn George, R-Dallas, introduced House Bill 3568, which aims to group UT-Dallas, UT-Southwestern Medical Center and UTA together as one college under the UT System to enhance the chance for flagship status. The university would be named the University of Texas at Dallas Campus at Arlington, making UT-Dallas, located in Richardson, the central campus.
But Dr. Witt said that merging these schools is not likely to happen and that the initiative set forth to get a flagship in the Metroplex is important.
“I understand the goal that Rep. George is trying to achieve,” he said. “However, I believe it is unlikely that the three components would merge. I am, however, very encouraged at Rep. George’s strong interest in trying to ensure that the Metroplex is well represented in terms of flagships. He is to be commended for the time and effort he is devoting to this topic.”
Allan Saxe, a political science associate professor here, said the bill is not likely to pass during this session because of the confusion about renaming universities and maybe moving them into different systems.
“I understand their concern and their right, but, boy, how do you arrange it without hurting a campus’ ego?” he said. “It is going to be very difficult to do.”
Dr. Saxe said there may be serious discussion about merging the universities, but because the session is coming to an end in May, there is little hope to sort out the confusion before it ends.
A similar bill was filed that aims to move these three universities into the University of North Texas System. The bill, filed by Rep. Domingo Garcia, D-Dallas, also is an attempt to gain a flagship university in the Metroplex.
The Legislature is looking to increase public universities’ funding by designating more schools as flagships, which are considered premier institutions. Flagships offer a greater variety of doctorate, graduate and undergraduate programs than other universities, and more funding would allow the schools to offer competitive faculty salaries and build better research facilities. The University of Houston and Texas Tech University are being considered for flagship status.
Only two flagship universities exist in the state — Texas A&M University, in College Station, and UT-Austin.
Witt said a merger would not ensure achieving the status.
“A combination of schools does not automatically guarantee either increased funding or, necessarily, increased strength,” he said.
Garcia said in an earlier interview that he is hopeful some form of this legislation is passed so the Dallas/Fort Worth area will not be denied a flagship university. Garcia said no best method exists in getting a flagship in the area but it is a necessity.
Saxe said if a merger like this does happen sometime in the future, Arlington would be the preferred central location, not Dallas. He said Arlington is sometimes overlooked partly because the City Council has not been as active as the council in Dallas.
“I wish the Arlington City Council and the Chamber (of Commerce) would be more aggressive in regards to this issue,” he said. “UT-Arlington is still the single most important asset this town has, and I think it has been taken for granted because it just can’t get up and move.”