SFA interim president addresses questions about university system affiliation

Concerns addressed include preserving SFA’s identity
SFA interim president discusses possible affiliation
Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 6:52 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2022 at 9:57 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The interim president of Stephen F. Austin State University expects a decision on university system affiliation by the end of the fall semester. In an interview with East Texas News, Dr. Steve Westbrook addressed questions about the process and whether or not the university will be able to keep its identity if the Board of Regents chooses to affiliate with a university system.

“For many years SFA has been one of the few unaffiliated universities in the state,” said Dr. Steve Westbrook, interim university president.

Westbrook told KTRE’s Blake Holland that talks with university systems are 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 take a more serious look at the possibility of system affiliation.

“They (the board) decided that first it would be prudent to really take a more formal look at these invitations from systems that had expressed interest to determine if there was benefit to the university to considering affiliation,” Westbrook said. “Then the next presidential search would be conducted in collaboration with whichever system the university would affiliate with.”

The university is currently gathering input from faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Westbrook said this is happening along with looking into the benefits of system affiliation.

“Volume purchasing, software licensing, the cost of that being reduced. Those are just some examples of things that we would want to evaluate to see. Is there an advantage to that?”

Representatives from the Texas A&M University System, Texas State University System, Texas Tech University System, and The University of Texas System have voiced interest in taking part in formal discussions. For now, Westbrook said all systems are on “equal footing.”

“I can’t say there’s a front runner. All the systems that expressed interest are certainly going to be engaged with, and they’ll all get a chance to respond to the same set of questions from each of our groups,” Westbrook said.

Among our questions for Westbrook: would the university get to keep its name? It’s something achieved by other affiliated schools like Sam Houston State University, which is affiliated with the Texas State University System.

While Westbrook said it’s written in state law that SFA’s name can’t be changed, he said laws can be amended. However, he said he’s certain that identity preservation will be a primary topic of discussion during the selection process.

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

System affiliation requires state legislation, and the next legislative session begins Jan. 10, 2023.

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