The UT Board of Regents officially named Heather Wilson as UTEP’s next president, upsetting many studets and faculty.
As KTSM reported, Wilson has submitted her resignation as the U.S. Air Force Secretary, which will be effective in May.
“Today is a day of mourning for me,” Yolanda Chavez Leyva, UTEP associate professor said.
Many students and faculty questioned Wilson’s experience to serve as a university president, speaking on her prior role as president of a smaller university in South Dakota.
“I don’t see how that translates over to a school with over 23,000 students in a population that’s 80 percent hispanic,” Hira Ali, leader of We the Student Coalition at UTEP said.
El Paso billionaire Paul Foster, who served as the Vice Chairman of the Regents still maintains Wilson is the best choice.
“Despite uninformed comments from those who believe this was a politically motivated appointment, I feel obligated to state that unequivocally she’s been brought forward based on her merits, her skills and her abilities,” Foster said.
Students and faculty voiced their concerns during Tueday morning’s regents meeting about the former New Mexico Congresswoman’s anti-LGBTQ voting record.
“As a student body we are just trying to do this as a strategically as possible, nothing rash, nothing irrational, we want to make sure that veryone here on campus is safe,: Ali said.
For now, students say they’ll continue protesting and become more active and involved in student government organizations at UTEP.
“We’re going to have people that are going to be running for government, running for organizations on campus that are going to hold her accountable, that are going to call her out no matter what she does and we’re going to protect the people of our insitution,” student activist Michael Gutierrez said.
Outgoing UTEP President Dr. Diana Natalicio released a short statement to KTSM following Wilson’s appointment saying:
“I thank all the students, faculty and staff members in the UTEP and El Paso-Juárez communities who engaged in the recent UT System presidential search process,”said UTEP President Diana Natalicio. “UTEP’s successful transformation over the past 30 years has become a national model for other public research universities, demonstrating that a quest for excellence can be successfully accomplished without ever compromisingon a deep commitment to create higher education opportunities for a diverse and historically underserved regional population. I have every confidence that the resilience and momentum we’ve built on our campus will serve as a strong foundation for continuedsuccess in fulfilling UTEP’s access and excellence mission in the years ahead.”
Wilson’s first day as UTEP president is August 15, 2019.