Lori Rice-Spearman named finalist for HSC president

Lori Rice-Spearman named finalist for HSC president
Lori Rice-Spearman has been named Texas Tech University's provost and chief academic officer. (Source: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center)

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Texas Tech University System Board of Regents met during its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday to discuss, among other topics, the impact COVID-19 has had on its facilities. But near the end of the day, a finalist was announced for an unfilled president’s position.

Lori Rice-Spearman, current interim president of the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, was named as the sole finalist to become the HSC’s president. There will now be a required 21-day notice period before Rice-Spearman can officially become the HSC’s president.

“I so deeply appreciate the opportunity to apply for the position and to be heard,” Rice-Spearman said during the meeting. “I am deeply honored to serve my university in this role.”

Before she was named finalist, the board also had a lengthy discussion throughout the morning on the COVID impact on the system.

All universities within the system are looking toward varied options when it comes to housing and room options for the upcoming fall semester. As announced in April, Texas Tech plans on having in-person classroom instruction in the fall semester but will make some social distancing changes.

Tech will decrease occupancy in dorm rooms with three-to-four students. There is a possibility some rooms could go down to one student, but that has not been finalized yet.

Talks are ongoing with local realtors to make apartments available for students.

The COVID pandemic has also had an impact on current construction projects throughout the system. Mainly, in Lubbock, Amarillo and El Paso, where positive COVID infections have halted projects for a short while.

“It’s a little rough right now, but we’re working through some of those issues,” Billy Breedlove, vice chancellor for Facilities Planning & Construction, said.

In Amarillo, where work continues on the School of Veterinary Medicine, one plumber who tested positive meant the entire crew had to be quarantined for three days. The near-same happened in Lubbock with work on the Tech campus’ Dairy Barn, where one positive crew member meant the rest quarantined for four-to-five days.

There are also delays because of issues outside of contractor’s control. Many manufacturers and plants outside of Texas have shut down, which is causing production and shipping issues.

One near-positive that has come from the pandemic is a low price on some materials like pipes, valves and fittings. Some suppliers are overstocked right now and are selling material at a price that is lower than average.

That means the system will more than likely see costs reduced in future projects.

“What we’re seeing, trend-wise, is a few (cost) percentage points down,” Christopher Huckabee, chairman of the board, said.

In terms of more future plans, there is also an anticipated drop in money that will be made from tuition and money given from the state in the next legislative session, Tedd Mitchell, Tech system chancellor, said.

There is also the thought a back-to-normal approach could not be a possibility for the upcoming football season, which is a big money-maker for Tech. Many options are being discussed, which could mean pushing the season back to October or having it as a spring sport.

But there are still plans to have football games.

“There’s not been a lot of talks about cancelling football in the fall because it’s critically important to the university for multiple reasons," Mitchell said.

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