UTSA President Romo Steps Down After Conduct Review

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UTSA President Ricardo Romo announces his retirement following 18 years of service . Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

Ricardo Romo, shown last September at the announcement of his retirement, is resigning effective immediately.

University of Texas at San Antonio President Ricardo Romo has submitted his resignation to the university and the University of Texas System. His retirement is effective immediately, according to a statement released by UTSA on Friday afternoon.

The announcement comes more than two weeks after Romo, 73, was placed on leave “pending a review of allegations related to his conduct.” University officials provided no additional information on the nature of the conduct being investigated, but Romo released a statement in which he alluded to the review.

“I have been made aware that the manner in which I embraced women made them uncomfortable and was inappropriate,” Romo stated in his letter. “I understand and respect Chancellor McRaven’s concerns about my behavior and I deeply apologize for any conduct that offended anyone.”

The Ricardo Romo resignation letter.

Romo announced last September that he would retire this August after 18 years leading the university. He had planned to take a brief sabbatical before joining the staff of UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures.

“I am now declining the position of Director of the Texas History Center, and instead plan on continuing my work with Father David Garcia and San Antonio’s World Heritage Designation efforts,” Romo wrote in his letter.

The announcement comes after weeks of silence from the UT System. Communication accompanying the resignation praised Romo’s years of service.

“With tremendous gratitude for your patience and understanding, I write to inform you that Dr. Ricardo Romo is stepping down as president and retiring from The University of Texas at San Antonio effective immediately,” UT System Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Steve Leslie stated in a message to UTSA staff and faculty. “We are profoundly grateful for his service and for the privilege of working with him.”

The ongoing search for Romo’s replacement will continue, with the goal of a Sept. 1 start date for the new president, Leslie stated. Until one is selected, Dr. Pedro Reyes will serve as president ad interim. Reyes was installed as interim after Romo was placed on leave.

“The search process for a new president is proceeding as planned, and we look forward to appointing a president in the fall, prior to the start of the next academic year,” Leslie said.

UT System Chancellor William H. McRaven praised Romo’s accomplishments in a statement made available on the university’s website.

“During his 18 years as president, he has put the University on a critical path toward Tier One status and changed the culture of education in San Antonio,” McRaven stated. “I know that Ricardo and Harriett [his wife] look forward to continuing their special relationship with the San Antonio community. I wish him all the best.”

Romo was UTSA’s fifth and longest serving president. Under his leadership, the university expanded from four colleges to nine and from 91 academic programs to more than 160. The university’s physical footprint has grown from 1.8 million sq. ft. to 5.4 million sq. ft., and he led a capital campaign that raised more than $200 million.

Research initiatives and community outreach grew throughout his tenure. The 2014 Goldstar Initiative pledged $40 million in institutional resources over four years to bring 60 additional world-class researchers to UTSA.

At a recent town hall forum to discuss the UTSA Master Plan, Romo said that the university had achieved Tier One in cybersecurity, big data analytics, anthropology, and a handful of other fields.

“One way to identify Tier One is when you have multiple centers of excellence,” Romo said during the forum. “Having various centers that are top 10 is my definition of Tier One.”

District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg, who hosted the forum, considers UTSA one of his primary partners in the district. While saddened by the news of Romo’s resignation, he looked to the future of the institution and the community.

“We want to make sure that the best interest of the students remains paramount in the university’s transition. We hope that the system, the regents and the community will work together to ensure that this remains the case,” Nirenberg said. “There’s no reason to believe that the next era of UTSA won’t be equally as bright as the previous one.”

Reyes, the man chosen to lead the university during that transition, until today served as special assistant to the UT System chancellor. Reyes joined the UT Austin faculty in 1991, and was named the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Planning and Assessment for The University of Texas System in 2003, and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in 2012. He rejoined the faculty in 2016 as the Ashbel Smith Professor in Education Policy in the Department of Educational Administration. A fellow with the National Academy of Education, Reyes has also received the Distinguished Faculty Award from the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education.

“As we move forward, I am pleased to begin working with the university’s acting president, Pedro Reyes, and continuing our partnership with one of San Antonio’s most important institutions,” Mayor Ivy Taylor said.

In 2015, UTSA received the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, an acknowledgement of the institution’s outreach efforts. Partnerships with local school districts and community literacy initiatives are part of the university’s commitment to a more educated San Antonio.

Under Romo’s tenure, UTSA has become a leading institution in the service of first-generation, non-traditional, and minority college students. Under both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, he served White House Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Romo was named the 2016 President of the Year by the Association of College Unions International (ACUI). In his nomination letter for Romo, Zach Dunn, UTSA’s Student Government Association president (2013-2015), wrote that Romo, “genuinely cares about the students and shows it through his engagement with students, devoting countless hours to bringing together a diverse UTSA community.”

UTSA also launched its NCAA Division I football program under Romo. Games have been well-attended, creating a much-needed touchpoint between the university and the community.

In 2011, UTSA won its first game against Northwestern in front of 56,743 fans at the Alamodome, an NCAA record for a team playing its inaugural game. Last December, the Roadrunners played in a bowl game for the first time.

This story was originally published on March 3, 2017. 

8 thoughts on “UTSA President Romo Steps Down After Conduct Review

  1. Dr Romo will be sorely missed. He is a good man period. Our blessing go with Dr Romo and his lovely wife. Thank you for all you have done for UTSA and San Antonio. We wish you the very best in the years to come.

  2. Romo was a local hero for those of us who attended Tech and inner City schools. His career and his tenure at UTSA have been brilliant. My heart aches that such a tremendous SA leader would betray us. Sexual harrasment for women in the workplace continues to be a nightmare for whether it’s unwanted abrazos or worse. A man in power and in such high esteem could not easily be rejected. He should have known this.

    • Trump will release his tax returns before UTSA tells us the rest of the story. I suspect there was a gag order on faculty and staff, money changed hands, and non-disclosure forms signed.

      How many women made these accusations? For how many years? Why the firings of staff in the President’s inner circle?

      False accusations are horrible as well. Yet if Romo believes his abrazos are just culturally misunderstood hugs, why didn’t he stay around to “clear his name” as he stated he would do?

      UTSA releases the story of his resignation on a Friday, hoping by Monday that the plea to move in a new direction will replace the cry for transparency.

  3. The San Antonio community is indeed fortunate not to have been under the rule of Maximillian and Carlotta during recent times for then we would be inundated with stories of the customary double french cheek kiss greeting rather than the South Texas abrazo. President Romo’s career snuffed over an abrazo; what an unmitigated challenge to the operators of the order of all things right in the world of academia to be viewed as clothed in wisdom and justice.

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