It has been a little under a year since Midwestern State University President Suzanne Shipley announced MSU Texas had been invited to join the Texas Tech University System, and on Jan. 14, Shipley provided an update on the university’s efforts to join the system.
“Where we’re at is that we are in the legislative process, so the legislation has been written; it has been submitted. We hope it will go forward with a group of bills that they take and do a group vote on it in the early, early days of the legislation. We’re hoping by mid-March that vote will be through the [Texas state] house and senate, maybe late March, maybe early April… So, once the legislative piece is approved we do not anticipate any negative voices,” Shipley said.
Whether or not MSU joins the Tech System is now entirely up to the Texas state government.
“Once that legislation is positive, then it just sits there and awaits the governor’s final approval of the whole session. That doesn’t happen until late August, because what he is really approving is not just the legislation but the budget that goes with it…. We should have it all signed up in a bow Sept. 1… as the classes start, we would be a member of the Tech system…. If this doesn’t go through Sept. 1, it means they don’t approve our shift of board from MSU to Texas Tech,” Shipley said.
While there is always a chance the university could not be approved, Shipley says those odds are very low.
“[While] anything could go wrong with anything anytime, our chances of being approved are 99%,” Shipley said.
Christopher Huckabee, TTU Board of Regents Chairman, said that other universities had approached to join the Tech system before, but they didn’t see the same kind of fit that caused TTU to approach MSU. Accepting MSU into their system expands TTU’s political reach and influence in Austin, but Huckabee says that wasn’t the leading factor in Tech’s decision.
“The driving factor really was a student pipeline. It creates opportunity for students who are at MSU to come to Texas Tech for things like law and medicine, and those are the things to us that are really more important. We are very focused on having a diverse student population. Creating the pipeline for grad school, med school, law school [and] things like that – kind of that next step in the educational system – we feel it creates a nice pipeline for students to come from the Wichita Falls region or for those who happen to be at MSU getting their undergrad,” Huckabee said.
When the news first broke that MSU was attempting to join the TTU System, there was minor but significant resistance from past students.
“Alumni are generally the most resistant to change anything. There were alumni who had problems with joining the system. We were surprised there wasn’t a larger group and a larger voice, but I’d say 10-15% of responses we got from alumni were negative, and some of them were very thoughtful and very convincing in how they felt it could hurt us,” Shipley said.
There was, Huckabee noted, no such resistance on the Texas Tech side.
“Everyone that we’ve ever talked to has said, ‘Gosh, that makes tons of sense.’ I’ve never had anyone that said, ‘What are y’all doing? That’s crazy.’ Everyone has said, ‘Wow, that’s a great idea. Wonder why you didn’t do it years ago,'” Huckabee said.
One of the concerns most raised by both alumni and current students about the change is the potential for the university to lose its identity. Shipley was adamant that this would not happen.
“I’ve been in offices with people and they have diplomas on their walls behind their desk, and the name on the diploma is defunct. They’ve got the name of a university that no longer has that name, on their diploma – don’t you think that would make you mad? Even if it’s not the name that you like that much… it just pulls too much out from under our alumni to change our name,” Shipley said.
At the first meeting between Texas Tech and the MSU Board of Regents, Tech representatives assured MSU they would not change their name or identity. Huckabee says MSU’s identity was one of the factors that drew Tech to MSU, and as such, they never considered changing it.
“One of the first questions [the MSU Board] asked was, ‘Would you change our name?’ We laughed and said, ‘No, I mean look at Angelo State (a TTU System member) as an example. Of course not, that’s your identity. That’s not even on our radar,'” Huckabee said.