The University of Texas Board of Regents will meet today and probably name Heather Wilson the next president of the University of Texas at El Paso. Some public opposition has boiled up against the former South Dakota School of Mines president and current Air Force Secretary over her votes against LGBTQ equality during her terms as Congresswoman from New Mexico.
Mines assistant dean of students Dan Sepion acknowledges Wilson’s voting record wasn’t great, but she dispelled his concerns on the equality front when she went to work at Mines:
Sepion, 39, assistant dean of students at the small university in Rapid City, South Dakota, said Wilson’s voting record when she was a U.S. congresswoman for New Mexico “didn’t scream this is someone who would be inclusive with students, especially with LGBTQ students.”
…Some of the angst (in El Paso) is understood,” Sepion said. “But when you see Heather in action and working with students, I think all those anxieties will disappear.”
…But Sepion said Wilson was supportive of all students during her almost four years at the South Dakota university, with about 2,600 students, and interacted with students better than Sepion had seen of any university president in his 17 years working in higher education, he said.
“Her actions spoke much louder than the votes that occurred a long time ago,” he said [Vic Kolenc, “Heather Wilson Gets Good Reviews from Former South Dakota School of Mines Colleagues,” El Paso Times, 2019.03.28].
Given that UTEP sits less than a kilometer from Mexico, is 80% Hispanic, and has lots student, staff, and program connections with Mexico that are being harmed by the current Administration’s irrational border policy, one would hope Wilson’s strong statement in favor of immigration and against white supremacists who snuck around postering Mines in 2017 would improve her standing at UTEP:
With every wave of immigration in America, some have promoted the fiction that the only ones who belong here, the only ones who really contribute to this remarkable country, the only “real” Americans, are people who look and sound and speak and pray like the person we see when we look in the bathroom mirror in the morning.
But when we set aside our fears and our pride, and look around us, we know that’s just not true.
Here, at the School of Mines, we prepare leaders in engineering and science and we advance the world’s knowledge. Some of these young leaders gather in the Newman Center on Sunday nights; others pray five times a day facing Mecca. Our exceptional students are the descendants of slaves and the descendants of Norwegian farmers. Some are indigenous here, others arrived as refugees from wars that still rage. They are the children of wealthy parents who have been provided every opportunity, and the children of unknown fathers who have aged out of foster care. As faculty and staff we have similar winding paths that brought us to this place.
All of us are part of the rich tapestry of talent that will help solve the great challenges of the twenty-first century. Each of us deserves to be treated with dignity and respect [Heather Wilson, e-mail responding to white supremacist posters on campus, 2017.03.03].
Little of the fuss against Wilson’s appointment seems to be focusing on the swampiness of her defense-industry lobbying. But Trump appointees itching to escape should be heartened by today’s vote at UTEP to see that serving Il Duce hasn’t yet made one unemployable.