State Senator Charles Perry said he believes Texas Tech University System Chancellor Robert Duncan retired under pressure because of “internal friction” over the proposed veterinary school in Amarillo.
After four years as chancellor, Duncan announced Monday evening he plans to retire August 31.
“There’s no doubt that there was big power players, political power players, in the process,” Perry said. “You can’t take politics out of the politics.”
Perry said the politics surrounding the vet school ultimately led to Duncan’s sudden announcement.
He said the chancellor’s departure does not reduce the need for a vet school, however.
“We still need a vet school. It’s not a Tech thing, it’s not a Charles Perry senator thing,” Perry said. “It’s there is a legitimate need for a large-animal vet school. And to date, the provider of those veterinarians cannot guarantee they can meet that pipeline need.”
Texas A&M University has the only veterinary school in Texas.
In late 2015, the Texas Tech University System announced its plans to develop a veterinary school, which would focus on large animals and rural communities.
“We’re shipping and exporting our veterinarians, and the education thereof, around to multiple states, as well as out of the country,” Perry said. “The need for those large-animal vet clinics doesn’t go away because we lost a chancellor.”
Perry said Texas Tech’s proposal meets the needs of not only the university, but the region and state as well.
The region could be faced with economic issues if the large-animal veterinarian shortage is not addressed, he said.
Texas A&M leadership has opposed Texas Tech’s proposed vet school.
In June, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp wrote an editorial piece in the Dallas Morning News titled, “Texas doesn’t need another veterinarian school.”
The following month, Duncan said he had not read the editorial at the time he granted an interview with EverythingLubbock.com.
“There’s certainly room in a state of 28 million people for two vet schools,” Duncan added.
In March 2018, Texas A&M University System Regents announced plans for a $22.8 million building for veterinary education, research and workforce opportunities in the Panhandle. It was part of almost $90 million in new commitments to the state agriculture industry on the West Texas A&M University campus.
The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation pledged $69 million for the Texas Tech System to build the state’s first veterinary school in more than a century.
The Texas Legislature also approved a $4.1 million grant to help Tech plan for the vet school in July 2017.
“This is about a vet school, and it’s about a chancellor at another university that has a long political career with a lot of political power,” Perry said.
An article online from a group called Empower Texans suggested Duncan was asked to retire because of misappropriation of funds allegations.
Perry and John Steinmetz, who sits on the board of regents, both said the allegation is flat-out false.
“Allegations is exactly what they are,” Perry said.
Duncan bleeds red and black, Perry said, and the chancellor would not intentionally harm the university or take improper actions.
However, he said if people were to look closely enough and were looking to make a change, a reason could be found.
“This is about a statewide policy that Tech had, or has, the opportunity to lead on,” Perry said. “If they choose not to do that, then I have to question whether they have the best interest of the region, the state or the university at heart.”