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A&M System chancellor visits campus

Sharp addresses state education cuts, struggles with guns-on-campus question

By Adam Troxtell
On February 2, 2012


Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp visited the A&M-Commerce campus Thursday for the first official time since taking the position last September.

Sharp – who previously visited the campus for the dedication ceremonies of the Music Building and Pride Rock Residence Hall – spent the day touring the campus, talking to administrators and meeting with student leaders.

He ended the visit with a public forum at the Alumni Center, in which he addressed questions from the crowd of students and university faculty. Dean Grady Blount from the College of Science, Engineering and Agriculture asked Sharp about the potential impact felt by Texas higher education from the national economic crisis.

Sharp said the A&M System would focus on sending a positive message to those in government to show them the importance of higher education and what has come from research at A&M schools.

"Over the last years, those of us supporting higher education have been talking to each other," Sharp said. "We assumed everybody else knew about it; they do not. The research projects that are going on and the 120,000 [new students] coming in and being educated right now within the A&M System make huge impacts on people's lives."

The key to ensuring the future of higher education in Texas, according to Sharp, is about showing what the A&M System has done with state funds. This will include setting up camp right in the backyards of state officials when they start legislative session.

"What we have to be about is making sure that legislators are supporting [higher education,]" Sharp said. "We are moving to Austin when the legislative session starts, and we're going to stay there the entire 140 days. We are going to make sure that we take nothing for granted."

Sharp also said the recent increase in sales tax revenues over the past year should help ease the political climate he and other members of the A&M System will be working in.

While he said the A&M System was prepared to tackle one major issue affecting Texas universities, Sharp was less than sure when addressing a question about the legislative action that would allow guns on college campuses.

Student Government Association Vice President Adam Haney asked Sharp about the issue, and he replied "I don't have a clue." Sharp did joke around with the question, but he also said there would be a time when he and the A&M System have something to say about guns on campuses.

"My personal opinion, I'm kind of a Second Amendment kind of guy," Sharp said. "I have a concealed handgun permit. I don't bring them on campuses, and frankly, this is the first time I've thought about it. When I do talk about it, I guarantee you I'll have consulted the regents."

Sharp also addressed the growth at A&M-Commerce during times of financial struggle and how it would offset any negative effects the economy has on the university.

"I think because of the leadership and great faculty you have here, students see it, parents see that growth," he said. "This is a great jewel of the A&M System, and I am so proud to be a part of it. The most important thing about this university is the faculty and the students. You run those two away, you might as well not have a university to begin with."

Sharp is a 1972 graduate from Texas A&M University, and he also served in the Texas State Government as a senator and State Comptroller.

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