On Feb. 1 in Austin, Texas Senator, Dist. 19, Roland Gutierrez filed Senate Bill 522 in the 87th Legislature designed to move Sul Ross State University and its associated Rio Grande Colleges from the Texas State University System to the Texas A&M University System. Then on March 1, State Rep., Dist. 74, Eddie Morales filed a companion bill also aimed to move Sul Ross into the TAMU system.
The two bills generated lots of discussion in the Alpine community, both for and against the switch, and many thought university President Pete Gallego should retain his position regardless of the system finally chosen.
Then last week, both Alpine City Council and Brewster County Commissioners Court met to discuss the potential switch, and the consensus from both meetings was a standoff. At the city council meeting, Morales addressed the members remotely.
Mayor Andy Ramos was in full support of the bills, and in keeping Gallego as president.
Council, Ward 2, Chris Rodriguez opposed moving forward without a town hall meeting so Gallego and Sul Ross staff members could discuss the matter and hear input from both the State University System and Texas A&M.
Council, Ward 5, Rick Stephens voiced displeasure with the potential transfer, stressing the importance of having more data to back up the move. He indicated his constituents were opposed, and he asked Morales to amend House Bill 2336 to include keeping Gallego as president.
Morales told the council he supported retaining Gallego, but stressed that without the transfer, the university might risk being unsustainable.
In the end, the council decided to discuss the matter further at the next city council meeting on April 6.
Then Brewster County Commissioners Court held a special meeting on March 17 to address the issue, and to hear public comments. Both Gutierrez and Morales attended remotely.
A long list of citizens spoke both for and against the transfer, but after nearly two hours of public comment, a proposed resolution to support the bills failed.
County Judge Eleazar Cano and Commissioner, Pct. 1, Jim Westermann voted in favor, Commissioners, Pct. 3, Ruben Ortega and Pct. 4, Mike Pallanez voted against, and Commissioner, Pct. 2, Sara Colando abstained.
The court planned to address the issue again at its March 24 meeting.
Gutierrez later told the Avalanche he thought there was enough support for the move, and he would go forward with SB 522 as planned. He stressed Texas A&M and Sul Ross must be neutral, any switch was up to the Legislature exclusively, and legislators create the policy that the university systems must follow.
He said rumors circulating that the Texas A&M University System was against the transfer were completely false. Gutierrez added that no state employee was allowed to lobby for or against any legislation, and their job was only to react to the policies set by the Legislature.
As of press time, Morales offered no additional comment.