University of Texas student media director forced out

TEXAS — Thestudent media director at the University of Texas was forced to resign earlierthis month after seven months on the job.

Gary Borders said after a meeting with Juan Gonzalez andJennifer Hammat, vice president and assistant vice president of studentaffairs, he was given the option to resign or be fired. Borders was fired forfailing to fulfill a “critical job requirement,” said Kevin Hegarty, vicepresident and chief financial officer of UT.

“Mr. Borders is a university employee,” Hegarty said. “Helost the confidence of Vice President Gonzalez and Jennifer Hammat; theconfidence he could deliver or get Texas Student Media to an operating plan orbudget.”

Borders, however, believes he was fired because he proposedselling the licenses for Texas Student Media’s two broadcast stations.

“I was stunned,” Borders said. “At first I decided to goquietly. But, then I received word indirectly that Dr. Gonzalez was saying thereason I had been let go was because I was unwilling to work on the budgetdeficit, which is untrue.”

Viviana Aldous, editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan, said the resignation does not reflect well on TSMand was poorly timed.

“We’ve had a number of transitions and the controversy anddiscussion surrounding Borders’ resignation has slowed things down for us,”Aldous said. “Mostly, because right before he resigned we were in the middle ofchanging our TSM policies and we were hoping to hire a new online adviser orweb multimedia adviser and all of that has been put on hold because of thisincident.”

Borders was hired in June to minimize TSM’s estimated budgetdeficit of about $175,000, according to TheDaily Texan. Borders said he was hoping to increase revenue by selling thebroadcast licenses for the TV and radio stations.

Borders said he floated the idea in a phone conversationwith his boss, but had not filed a formal proposal at the time. Borders said hebegan writing the proposal, after which he was told Gonzalez was upset over it.Submitting another revision for a second review, Borders said Gonzalez wasagain unhappy. Borders said his supervisor, Hammat, did not voice concern aboutthe proposal.

“I knew when I was hired, those were my marching orders andthat’s what I’m going to do,” Borders said. “I’m going to produce a balancedbudget. I know that if I’m told I need to produce a balanced budget than by allmeans necessary I’m going to produce a necessary balanced budget.”

UT President Bill Powers asked Hegarty to review thecircumstances leading to the forced resignation of Borders. Hegarty said Powerswanted an outside, objective point of view on the matter, which is why Gonzalezis no longer involved.

Hegarty said he has seen forms submitted by Borders butwould not call them a comprehensive proposal addressing the budget issues.After receiving feedback on the proposal, Borders submitted a revision – whichwas a list of ideas, Hegarty said.

Wanda Cash, former chair of Texas Student Media’s executivecommittee, said she is surprised how the situation has been handled. She was onthe committee that hired Borders last year.

“What is troubling is that the action was taken without anyconsultation to the board members of TSM,” Cash said.

TSM’s board of directors was not informed about Bordersresignation and Hegarty said it is not clear what the board’s responsibility isto a university employee but that the board should have been contacted out ofcommon courtesy.

“I would encourage anyone at the university that deals withthis to keep the board as informed as possible in these types of discussions,”Hegarty said.

The board is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss Borders’resignation. Borders said he plans to attend.

Texas Student Media is a UT auxiliary organization, with itsassets held in trust by the university. The relationship between TSM and theuniversity is spelled out in a formal declaration of trust. Under thedeclaration, any board action concerning the director of student media issubject to the university president’s approval.