The years 1969–1973 were a tumultuous time on university campuses throughout the United States. Student protests against the Vietnam War led to a broad rejection of authority and institutions that spread across the country. The University of Texas did not become one of the centers of student revolt, but it did not escape them either. Much of the tumult on the Austin campus in these years, however, resulted from politics within the university.
In Horns of a Dilemma: Coping with Politics at the University of Texas, Kenneth Ashworth relates what it was like to work for the UT System at a time when the university’s board of regents and system administrators struggled for control. At the center of the action was Frank Erwin, chairman of the university’s board of regents, a hard-driving, hard-drinking, well-connected political operator who made the University of Texas his passion. He tolerated no opposition to his plans for the university, cutting down his opponents and critics as relentlessly as he cut down the trees and their student defenders that stood in the way of the expansion of the Texas football stadium.
In this insightful memoir, Ashworth provides both the eyewitness account of a participant and the analytical perspective of forty years of subsequent work in Texas higher education. Ashworth worked with, occasionally around, and sometimes against Erwin, other regents, and university leaders on behalf of the university. Throughout the book he keeps coming back to the existential dilemmas he faced—the conflict between what loyalty he owed to his superiors, on the one hand, and to the university, on the other.
Dr. Kenneth Ashworth is a former commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and former vice chancellor for academic affairs for the University of Texas System.