A&M only looking after itself in opposing Tech vet school

AGGIE PRETENSION is becoming Aggie tradition.

With all the hullabaloo about “saw varsity’s horns off,” one would think Texas A&M veterinarian graduates actually handle large Bevo animals.

In all bragging about being a land grant and a Permanent University Fund heir (Aggies got $215 million in 2014), one might assume A&M is busy addressing critical needs of the state upon which it’s so dependent.

But as nearly 20 years of reports show, College Station has ceremoniously pumped out grads to declaw house cats and perform ACL surgeries on overweight Labradors.

Why work rural hard when you can work suburban smart.

So Texas Tech has called the question: What about a $13 billion cattle industry and more than 248,000 farms and ranches in Texas with large animals and food-producing livestock?

And Tech has provided an answer: An Amarillo-based nontraditional veterinarian school. Two or three-year degrees earned by pre-screened applicants likely to stay in West Texas and specialize in Bevo-sized animals.

A reasonable proposal by the standards of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. A proposal that only needs a $17 million appropriation from a $200 billion state budget.

So why are Aggies preparing to beat the proposal all to Chigaroogarem?

UNDERMINING UNIVERSITIES is a new study for Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp, would-be Lord of the Texas Higher Education Galaxy — from Coastal Bend to the Panhandle.

Lord Sharp recently tried to merge A&M-Kingsville and A&M-Corpus Christi through at least one secret meeting. The attempt failed, then the meeting’s details became public. And then state Rep. J.M. Lozano (R – Kingsville) went rogue.

“I am still shocked at the methods that one person has taken upon himself when there is a process in place for (mergers),” Lozano, a meeting attendee, told the Texas Tribune’s Matthew Watkins, questioning whether Sharp should remain at the A&M helm.

Sharp denied Lozano’s account, then called him gutless.

“This may be a manner that is going to become a personnel matter because it’s a character issue now,” Lozano railed. “Lie after lie. And that is part of the Aggie code — that you don’t lie.”

Sharp, a 40-year political pro, dismissed the claims with his staple aww-shucks bit and pledged no reprisals — and vowed that he has the votes to march on the Bend again.

But the coastal claims — shrouded transparency, going into hyperdrive past taxpayers and governing boards, usurping lawmakers, and reprisal threats — remain in observers’ minds.

UP IN THE PANHANDLE part of the galaxy, Lord Sharp has set coordinates on Tech vet school rebels. And now the school is “on pause”.

In this pause, A&M will tout how their new $120 million veterinary complex (thanks, PUF) meets a 2009 coordinating board guideline to increase enrollment.

But they won’t discuss failure on another guideline: funding a loan repayment program for vets practicing in rural communities, for less pay, on large animals.

All building, no cattle. The pause won’t last.

This debate is about adequate distribution of state resources. A debate settled by Plains loaded with livestock and strip malls loaded with A&M diplomas.

Besides, attempting to force choke West Texans is ill-advised.

LAST WEEKEND, Amarillo Globe News columnist John Beilue caught Lord Sharp violating Aggie code.

Beilue recounted comments that no one could duplicate A&M’s vet school in their “wildest dreams” and that “this is the place — and it will always be the place — where veterinary medicine reigns king in the United States of America…”

To which the Panhandle’s pen quipped: “Actually, A&M’s vet medicine ranks seventh in the country and Tech’s proposal was not to duplicate.”

The title of Beilue’s piece asked “Is A&M looking after itself or after West Texas?”

That answer is becoming increasingly clear.

The eyes of Texas are upon you, College Station.

Jay Leeson is, among other things, a writer and talk radio host in Lubbock and editor of OtherSideofTexas.com. Contact him on Twitter @jayleeson or by email.

This column first appeared in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

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