A ceremonial signing of SB 24 was held Tuesday at the University of Texas-Pan American and University of Texas at Brownsville celebrating the merging of both schools. The bill, authored by State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), creates a new public university through joining UTPA and UTB, and a regional medical school that officials aim to grow into a national-level research institution.
The historic accomplishment has been several years in the making. The change is expected to positively affect the region's developing economy, education opportunity and healthcare industry.
Gov. Rick Perry (to the right), who was to speak in the ceremony, was greeted by a crowd of friendly faces and pro-choice student protestors.
Read more below the jump.A group of pro-choice students stood outside the Student Union at UTPA, where Perry was to speak, protesting the recent abortion legislation called for by Perry in a second special session. The event was held by VOX: Voices For Planned Parenthood at UTPA, an active student organization on campus. Their public Facebook event's page, “Protest Rick Perry at UTPA,” stated they would be taking “signs and coat hangers” in order to promote Planned Parenthood.
These students were protesting another different kind of change brought to them by the Governor.
The Valley is one of the regions in the state that will be most affected by the strict new anti-abortion measures. Owners of the only two abortion clinics in the Valley, located in McAllen and Harlingen, believe they will have to shut down. Many fear this will then force local woman to seek misoprostol, the “abortion pill,” a drug that can induce miscarriages openly available in Mexico and covertly at some flea markets in Texas.
The region faces some of the largest poverty, health, healthcare, and education problems in the country. These issues have largely been ignored by state and national officials that seem only to remember the region exists when a new opportunity to further militarize the border occurs.
Perry signed SB 24 on June 14, two days before the deadline that would have allowed the bill to become law anyway.
Board of Regents Chair Gene Powell, a native of Weslaco, says the new university promises to transform education, opportunity and the economy of South Texas. The new university combines the resources of both institutions and will be eligible to participate in the Permanent University Fund. The new university will automatically be the second-largest Hispanic-serving institution in the country.
It was said during the ceremony that an official name will be announced by the end of this year. First class of students starts Fall 2014.
It is inspiring to see this kind of change brought to the Rio Grande Valley. While the Rio Grande Valley may continue to face tremendous social challenges, this new gem has the potential to further develop the region and bring about much needed growth. It is to be recognized as a proud accomplishment. Something even a visit from Gov. Rick Perry cannot spoil.