Air Force Sec. Heather Wilson is now officially set to become the next University of Texas at El Paso President, following a unanimous vote by the UT System Board of Regents.
Wilson’s confirmation was decided at the beginning of the board’s April 2 meeting.
The board listened to the concerns of several public speakers before voting to confirm Wilson.
Paul Foster made the motion to appoint Wilson as president, which was second by another member. The board discussed the appointment and then voted to approve her.
“I am very excited about Dr. Heather Wilson and I have no reservations about her appointment,” Foster said.
Foster said he appreciated the comments by those who opposed Wilson but said he had heard from many others who praised Wilson’s work in the past. He added that the move was not a “political” decision.
Wilson was announced as the sole-finalist during a meeting in early March. Since then her record of voting against LGBTQ rights as a New Mexico Congresswoman has raised concern among some students, faculty, staff and community members.
Wilson did take two trips to El Paso, meeting with members of the UTEP community during her second visit last week.
“Wilson’s voting record as a Congresswoman clearly shows a bias against the LGBTQ community and bias of voting against Black and Hispanic universities,” said Nancy Green, a public speaker at the meeting. “As a former upward bound student at UTEP, I recommend the board vote against Heather Wilson UTEP President.”
Wilson is replacing Dr. Diana Natalicio, who served as president for 30 years.
The appointment drew a response for State Rep. Lina Ortega.
“I am disappointed that the selection process did not produce a candidate who is more attuned to the unique needs of a border community,” Ortega said in a statement. “It is my expectation that all members of the UTEP community, including students, faculty, and staff, should be treated with dignity and respect. In particular, members of UTEP’s LGBTQ community, members of UTEP’s immigrant community, and members of UTEP’s ethnic and religious minority communities should be treated in a respectful and dignified manner at all times. I will respond to any discriminatory acts, policies, or practices by future UTEP leadership disregarding the above with immediate public and political opposition.”