SFA Acting President Responds to Questions About University System Affiliation

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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) — The acting president of Stephen F. Austin State University expects a decision on affiliation with the university system by the end of the fall semester. In an interview with East Texas News, Dr. Steve Westbrook answered questions about the process and whether or not the university can retain its identity if the Board of Regents chooses to affiliate with a university system.

“For many years, the SFA was one of the few unaffiliated universities in the state,” said Dr. Steve Westbrook, the university’s acting president.

Westbrook told KTRE’s Blake Holland that discussions with university systems were nothing new, but with the Board of Regents looking to begin their search for a new university president, they thought it would be wise to consider more seriously the possibility of affiliation to the system.

“They (the board) decided it would be prudent first to take a more formal look at those invitations from systems that had expressed interest in determining whether there was benefit to the university in considering affiliation” , Westbrook said. “Then the next presidential research would be conducted in conjunction with whatever system the university would be affiliated with.”

The university is currently collecting feedback from faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Westbrook said this is happening alongside reviewing the benefits of joining the system.

“Volume purchases, software licenses, the cost of that being reduced. These are just a few examples of things we would like to evaluate to see. Is there an advantage to this?

Representatives from the Texas A&M University System, Texas State University System, Texas Tech University System, and University of Texas System have expressed interest in participating in formal discussions. For now, Westbrook said all systems are on “level playing field”.

“I can’t say there is a favourite. All systems that have expressed interest will certainly be engaged and they will all have the opportunity to respond to the same set of questions from each of our groups,” Westbrook said.

Among our questions for Westbrook: Will the university keep its name? This is something achieved by other affiliated schools like Sam Houston State University, which is affiliated with the Texas State University System.

While Westbrook said it was written in state law that SFA’s name could not be changed, he said laws could be changed. However, he said he is certain that identity preservation will be a main topic of discussion during the selection process.

“It is true that it is in the law of the State. It is true that it could be amended. And it’s true that we hope that’s not the case,” Westbrook said.

Membership in the system requires state legislation and the next legislative session begins on January 10, 2023.

“The reason to consider this is to improve our ability as a university to provide the programs and services that are important to our students,” Westbrook said.

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