The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Board of Regents approves new conflict of interest policies, weighs in on white nationalist event cancellation

The Board of Regents addressed a wide range of topics from across the A&M System during their meeting Wednesday afternoon, including construction projects, conflict of interest policy adjustments and the recent cancellation of a white nationalist rally.
As the meeting opened, Chairman Charles Schwartz made a statement regarding A&M’s decision to cancel white nationalist Preston Wiginton’s “white lives matter” rally originally planned for Sept. 11 on the A&M College Station campus.
“The administration and its advisers consulted with experts on the law and on public safety,” Schwartz said. “As a result of that evaluation, the administration had a firm factual basis to conclude that violence at this event was probable and therefore the safety of our campus was impaired.”
The Board passed a resolution supporting the administration’s cancellation of the event, emphasizing A&M’s commitment to free speech while asserting that violent situations are an exception.
“Across the System, we strongly embrace the First Amendment and believe that a university is a marketplace of ideas,” the resolution said. “However, we do not believe that the First Amendment requires us to allow violence on our campuses and our obligation to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff is first and foremost.”
The Board also approved a strict set of revisions to the A&M System’s conflict of interest policies. State law prohibits state agencies from contracting with vendors if certain high-ranking employees or their close family members have a financial interest in the vendor. The new policies extend these same restrictions to many additional employees within the A&M System.
“The Texas A&M System now goes far beyond what the law requires to be sure we provide transparency and a level playing field for anyone doing business with the System,” System Chancellor John Sharp said.
The changes come shortly after former Provost and Executive Vice President Karan Watson was removed from her post due to conflict of interest concerns which stemmed from business dealings between the university and her spouse.
Several construction projects slated for 2017 and 2018 were approved, including a new Agriculture building and Music Activities Center on the College Station campus and renovations to the Memorial Football Stadium at Tarleton State University. Additional projects include replacement of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in the Hobby and Clements residence halls on the College Station campus.
The Board also authorized a new addition to the RELLIS campus in Bryan, The Gateway Education Complex, where students can earn bachelor degrees from the A&M System. The complex will stand across from a building already being constructed by Blinn College where students will be able to complete their first two years of college and earn an associate degree. Sharp said the educational facilities offered by Blinn and A&M at the RELLIS campus will benefit Texas’ economic performance.
“The future of Texas is tied to education,” Sharp said. “Without an educated population, Texas cannot compete in a global economy. The Texas A&M System is leading the way with this groundbreaking RELLIS collaboration.”
Kelly Quintanilla was appointed President of A&M-Corpus Christi. Quintanilla previously served as A&M-Corpus Christi’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
During the meeting, a demonstrator from animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) went to center of the meeting hall to protest animal testing practices at Texas A&M and briefly resisted security personnel before being escorted out. Throughout the meeting, several more demonstrators stood at the back of the room with signs displaying similar messages.

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