Saturday, September 26, 2009

An idea for additional funding for the NCTM

Dear Sir:

I have been requested by the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing to contact you for assistance in resolving a matter. The National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing has recently received approval of the Texas A&M System Board of Regents for a plan immediately producing moneys equaling US$48,000,000. The National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing is desirous of moving forward immediately on highly profitable vaccine development for H1N1 flu and other diseases, however, because of certain regulations of the Texas Government, spending of these funds cannot be used for desperately needed supplies, such as soda, ice, and cups.

Your assistance is requested as a citizen to assist the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing in making these funds available for vaccine development. If the funds can be transferred to your name, in your United States account, then you can forward the funds as directed by the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing. In exchange for your accommodating services, the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing would agree to allow you to retain 10%, or US$4.8 million of this amount.

However, to be a legitimate transferee of these moneys according to Texas law, you must presently be a depositor of at least US$100,000 in a development account which is regulated by the Texas A&M University System. For an additional $100,000 you will be eligible for a job in the Texas A&M University System.

Yours truly, etc.

Onward with the NCTM!

As predicted, the Regents approved the NCTM on Friday. The Houston Chronicle reports
Friday's vote wasn't a surprise; regents already had earmarked $42.5 million of the grant to build the center, and the building is expected to open in 2011.

But the transition from a good idea with a fancy building to a profitable research enterprise and business venture will depend upon A&M officials finding additional funding and forming partnerships with other academic and health care enterprises.

Giroir said he expects an announcement on that subject soon.
Stay tuned.
A number of faculty members and alumni initially opposed the idea, citing it as a factor in no-confidence votes over the summer by both the A&M Faculty Senate and the Council of Principal Investigators, which represents faculty involved in research.

But the most vocal criticism appears to have died down.
That must mean they don't oppose the idea any more, right? What other possible explanation could there be?

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's not THAT big

The Batt on the ILSB
The facility provides space for the additional 447 faculty members that joined the University in accordance with the five-year faculty reinvestment plan, a University-wide initiative to increase faculty diversity that ended in 2008, said news & information services director Lane Stephenson.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

ILSB opening

Today was the long-awaited grand opening of the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building here at Texas A&M. Here's a description of the project from a few years ago:
The ILSB will be located near Simpson Drill Field and the Memorial Student Center on the Texas A&M campus and will include approximately 220,000 square feet of space for research laboratories, teaching, and related activities.
In addition to providing stellar accommodations for research and education...
Here's what Bob Gates said back when the ILSB was being planned
"This new facility will enable Texas A&M to play a critical role in the most advanced scientific research and teaching. It will greatly aid in our recruitment of additional high-quality faculty, in attracting significant new research grants and in enrolling the very best students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels."
Here's what President Loftin is saying now:
“It will unquestionably help in our Vision 2020 quest to rise among the ranks of the country’s top public universities and, even more importantly, serve our state and nation admirably in teaching and research endeavors in a host of emerging and exciting fields.”
Vision 1920 looks forward to seeing some pictures of the state-of-the-art teaching facilities in the ILSB.

The CPRIT of Aggieland

Sent to campus email today:
Subject: Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) Briefing

Date: September 28, 2009
Time: 1:00 - 4:00 pm
CPRIT: 1:00 - 2:30 pm
ETF: 2:30 - 4:00 pm
Location: Amphitheater, Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies
800 Stotzer Parkway, Bldg. 1904, 979-847-8477
Parking: Behind the building (map included)

Leadership from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and the Emerging Technology Fund (ETF) will be on campus Monday, September 28, to provide information updates about these programs. Attending will be:

Alan Kirchhoff - Director of the Emerging Technology Fund
David Nance - Executive Director, Innovate Texas Foundation
Ryan Confer - Director of Operations, Innovate Texas Foundation
Bob Pearson - Chairman of ETF Advisory Committee

Dr. William (Bill) Gimson, Executive Director, CPRIT
Dr. Alfred (Al) Gilman, Chief Scientific Officer of CPRIT
Dr. Rebecca (Becky) Garcia, Chief Prevention Officer, CPRIT
Ms. Heidi McConnell, Office of the Governor

You are invited to attend the briefing and meet key CPRIT/ETF staff members and learn how to apply for CPRIT and ETF funding. Breakout rooms will be available for you to meet one-on-one with both CPRIT and ETF staff regarding your specific research interests.

Teleconferencing capabilities will be available at all campuses for those who are unable to attend the briefing. You will receive information listing the remote TTVN locations shortly.

CPRIT is the Texas initiative to spend $3B over 10 years on cancer research. Al Gilman, the CSO of CPRIT, is a Nobel prize winner from UT Southwestern who described what they want to do to Science earlier this year (pdf at the CPRIT site)
Q: Is there going to be any attempt at geographic diversity?
A.G.: Not much. (Laughs.) I’ve said a pretty consistent line here that I’m going to take the politics out of this.
What's the point of having an Aggie governor if politics can't steer CPRIT money to A&M? Vision 1920 is confident that the ETF folks know who where their loyalties belong.
But if you look at the data, roughly half of NCI [National Cancer Institute]funding in Texas goes to M. D. Anderson [Cancer Center]. All of the UT components account for about 75% of NCI funding in the state. Now add Baylor [College of Medicine], and you are at about 90%. So that’s not evenly distributed geographically. It’s based on peer review. And so I think it will shake out roughly that way.
According to the NIH reporting tool, there are 1,406 NCI awards to Texas. 22 of them are listed as being in the 17th Congressional district, which includes A&M. Of these, 2 are to Lynntech, a local company. That's about 1.5% for A&M. If even if we only get that share of the CPRIT funding, it works out to about $4.5 million per year.
But I think the high-risk, high-impact program will provide opportunities for people in smaller schools to compete. A great idea can come from anyplace.
Smaller schools?!!

Vision 1920 is confident that Dr. Gilman will be impressed by the kinds of great ideas for biotech we embrace here at TAMU. After all, David Nance, who is on the ETF part of the event, was one of the founders of Introgen, a company we were ready to partner with.

BoR meeting

The BoR is meeting again this week. The next phase of NCTM approval is on the agenda. Thanks to a vigorous campaign of dealing with the insurgency, open dissent seems to have been successfully crushed.

Vision 1920's sources indicate that the attitude among the faculty is that even if the NCTM turns out to be a wildly overoptimistic money sink, it will get a new building for Engineering so it's not all bad. And it's not their money that will be thrown down the rathole. Assuming the IDCs really won't be swept... which is not a problem for those faculty who don't generate any IDCs anyway.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Changing Face of Texas - update

Today's Eagle covers the "Changing Face of Texas" Summit on Friday. One of the speakers, Bill Flores '76, past chair of the Texas A&M Association of Former Students noted our recent turmoil:
Bill Flores, a major financial contributor to Texas A&M who spoke about the responsibilities of former students, said that Murano, who resigned in June, was treated in a "disrespectful" and "unprofessional" manner.

The 1976 Aggie graduate told the crowd that former students have responsibilities, including maintaining the reputation of the school, mentoring younger Aggies and holding the university's governing authority accountable for its actions.

Chancellor McKinney's reaction was not reported.

Norman Borlaug

Vision 1920 notes with sadness the passing of Dr. Norman Borlaug.

Borlaug was a visionary, a hero, and a model for how science can be used to benefit humanity. Rest in peace, Dr. Borlaug.

Not dangerous?

Yesterday's Eagle:
Three upperclassmen have been removed from their Corps of Cadets outfit while officials investigate an incident they say caused blisters and abrasions to a freshman cadet's hands.

The injuries resulted from an exercise known as the "bear crawl" -- which is like crawling, but using feet instead of knees -- that was performed Monday on a concrete surface in the university's central parking garage, officials said.

"It's not the exercise," said John Van Alstyne, Corps commandant. "It's the place they chose to do it that resulted in injury. You can do the same thing on grass and it wouldn't be dangerous."
Vision 1920 notes that the high for Sept 7 was 98 degrees. And what about the fire ants?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

President Loftin, check with Austin

President Loftin on Sept 6:
Loftin also said he had no intention of considering bringing bonfire back to campus. Murano had settled the pending legal action surrounding the 1999 collapse that killed 12 Aggies and injured 27 others and had met with most of the families of the dead.

"I think it would take an extraordinarily large amount of interest on the part of our students here for us to get back to look at that again. ... I don't hear the students rising up and demanding it," he said. "To have it happen to you one time is something that you can get past. If you did it again, and it happened again, you have no way to excuse yourself."
Texas Monthly Senior Editor Pam Colloff, on Paul Burka's blog, Sept 8:
During our conversation, the governor made an intriguing comment about the future of the tradition. “It’s really going to be interesting when Bonfire is reintroduced on the campus again, and it will be. I will not be surprised if it happens by 2011, maybe even 2010. I think Bonfire will be back on campus. The kids will have the experience again.”
How would Bonfire be brought back to campus, I asked the governor? “I’d leave that up to the board and the current administration to sit down and decide the safety parameters, the oversight, et cetera,” he said. “They are very capable men and women, and I trust their judgment.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Reversing trends at tu

The Austin American Statesman reports on tu Regents ignoring the Governor's suggestions for their Chancellor
Revealing new details about the behind-the-scenes selection process, three men who were on the University of Texas System's governing board when it hired Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said Tuesday that Gov. Rick Perry privately encouraged them to back another candidate for the job.

The three former regents — Perry appointees Robert Rowling, John Barnhill Jr. and H. Scott Caven Jr. — said Perry urged them to hire John Montford, a former state senator and Texas Tech University System chancellor who is a telecommunications lobbyist. While others have said Perry favored Montford for the job, the regents had remained silent about his involvement until Tuesday.
Barnhill said he thought one of Perry's concerns was that universities had been overrun by liberal professors and he thought bringing in Montford could help reverse that trend.
Vision 1920 wonders how that was going to work.

Open forum on Tuesday

Apparently President Loftin had another open forum earlier today, with Grad students.

Leading by example

The Eagle reports
Texas A&M's former vice president of university advancement, who left the post when his position was eliminated following former President Elsa Murano's resignation, has been offered another administrative position.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Easing anxiety

The Eagle profiles President Loftin
"I've had to really prioritize and say, 'What can I do to bring stability to campus ... and to ease their anxieties and make them recognize that this place is going to go on just fine?'" Loftin said during an interview in his office Thursday, about 2 1/2 months after he was tapped by the Board of Regents to serve while a search committee looked for a permanent president.

Vision 1920 points out to President Loftin that easing anxiety is another benefit of our proposal for the NCTMj.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The important stuff

Aggies BTHO New Mexico to open the 2009 football season.

Search committee open forum

The Eagle reports on yesterday's open forum with the search committee:
"How are we going to make sure this is an independent search?" asked Daniel Dick, a senior political science major, adding later that he worried that "influence from Austin" would have a negative impact on the quality of candidates who apply.

"The next president of Texas A&M will have to go through this committee," responded Richard Box, committee chairman and former treasurer of Texans for Rick Perry, the governor's campaign fund. "The work that we do will put that question to rest."
Vision 1920 is has no question about whether this is an independent search. No influence from Austin will be applied or needed.

The Governor expects loyalty

The Houston Chronicle explains what happened with Tceh Regent Mark Griffin:
Griffin, who made a recent public appearance endorsing Hutchison, told The Associated Press that Perry's former chief of staff, Brian Newby, called him days later with the message: ``The governor expects loyalty out of his appointees.''
The governor isn't getting full compliance from his Regents appointees. Griffin isn't the only one to run afoul of the governor's expectations
One of the former regents, Windy Sitton, said that Scott Dueser, then chairman of the board, told her last year that the governor's office had said for Sitton "to cease and desist supporting Kay Bailey immediately or resign from the board." She said that she did neither. Perry replaced her this year after her term expired.
Former tu regent Robert Rowling and our own Erle Nye have joined the opposition team. Perhaps this is the real reason we need Jay Kimbrough as a special advisor to the BoR. Kimbrough can make sure anyone with wobbling loyalties gets the message that Griffin got:
[Griffin] withheld a public endorsement until after the legislative session ended in June so his political activity wouldn't harm legislation and funding for Texas Tech.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cost savings reported

The Eagle writes about a draft of the Shared Services reports:
About $15 million in savings has been identified by teams responsible for merging administrative functions of Texas A&M University and the 11-university system that governs it, according to a draft report.

The ideas include combining lobbying efforts in Washington at a savings of $298,000; eliminating LEED certification -- a designation of environmentally sustainable construction -- "while still meeting requirements," to save about $190,000;
Skipping certifications "while still meeting requirements" could save even more money if applied more generally. Vision 1920 wonders how much money we waste on things like maintaining our accreditation. It would be so much cheaper to just say we meet the requirements.
and sharing purchases of desktop computers systemwide at a savings of $2.5 million.
To save $2.5M/year on desktop computer purchases it seems like we must be buying a lot of computers. For the estimated 2,000 computers expected to be bought in FY10, that comes to a savings of $1250 per computer. How do we do it? From the draft report:
Based on the FY10 contract, we estimate a total savings of $908,000, and an increase in savings over FY09 of $227,000.
Translation: if we calculate total savings based on a high enough retail price, which we are not paying now, we can claim massive savings. The actual savings comparing what was done in FY09 vs what we could do in FY10 is a lot smaller.
"It's taking that money and saving it for the next biennium. I really think some of the California schools wish they would have gone through the same exercise a lot earlier," he said.
We get to save it for the next biennium?

Lifelong learning

Educators often like to talk about lifelong learning, and faculty will point out that they continue to learn in their roles as teachers. Vision 1920 points out an example of this in Thursday's story in the Batt about the NCTM.
The Council of Principal Investigators, CPI, which consists of faculty and researchers, expressed opposition for construction of the new center and institution during an open faculty meeting with the CPI, Faculty Senate and Giroir in late July.

Members of the CPI declined to comment on the center and institution.

"We assembled a lot of information about this at one point and it had a lot of comments from our members. We raised some issues, and I think the state is going to go ahead with this," said Norman Guinasso, director of Texas A&M's Geochemical Environmental Research Group.

He declined to comment any further.
See? They're learning.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Changing Face of Texas

In an email sent around campus:
Former students of The Texas A&M Hispanic Network will host their bi-annual Summit on the Texas A&M University campus this fall semester. With a focus on "The Changing Face of Texas: Achieving the Dream of Vision 2020 Imperative 6," the Summit will take place Thursday and Friday September 10 and 11, 2009. Interested faculty and staff are invited to attend and participate in the Summit. To defray costs this year, a $50 registration fee is being charged for the event.

The program will include a panel featuring distinguished legislators from across Texas. Other anticipated speakers include:
  • Dr. Raymund Paredes, commissioner, The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board,
  • Dr. Michael D. McKinney, chancellor, The Texas A&M University System,
  • Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, interim president, Texas A&M University,
  • Mr. Pete Garcia, vice president (retired), Continental Airlines, and
  • Mr. Bill Flores '76, past chair, Texas A&M Association of Former Students.
For more information about the Summit and to register, visit Questions? Call 979.862.4440 or email

The same event described at the Hispanic Network site:
Fellow Aggies, as you are probably now aware, we have had a very rough year with the resignation of President Murano. Our TAMHN leadership have met with the chancellor, Chairman of the Board of Regents and the Interim President to express our concerns and continued dedication to achieving the goals of Vision 2020 and Imperative 6.
The latter doesn't mention the $50 fee, or that Loftin and McKinney are scheduled for just 15 minutes each.

This is leadership! Vision 1920 bets that members of Congress wish they'd had the idea to charge a registration fee for the recent town hall meetings.