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Photo: Sarah Gibbens

While some believe a licensed gun holder can stop a shooter, UTSA President Ricardo Romo disagrees. He believes only a very experienced gun holder can stop a shooter without furthering damage — experience that many students do not have.

“It’s not The Lone Ranger coming to the rescue,” argued Romo.

Many students and faculty, he believes, mirror his sentiments, and it is only a small few who desire to carry a gun to school.

When asked explicitly how he felt about concealed guns being allowed on campus, Romo responded by saying, “I’m totally opposed to it.”

This question was asked of Romo by editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune, Evan Smith, in light of last year’s legislative push to allow guns on campus.

On Aug. 19, UTSA and the Texas Tribune co-hosted a mental health symposium in the Business Building of UTSA’s main campus to address issues commonly faced by people with mental illnesses and to open a dialogue for solutions.

While the event featured mental health experts, state legislators and members of academia to speak on their areas of expertise, the most anticipated conversation was the featured interview with Dr. Romo.

The conversation also addressed the condition of higher education, and the challenges UTSA faces.

Romo attributed the growth of UTSA in part to the growing demographics in Texas. With a population about to reach 27 million, Texas is one of the fastest growing states in the nation.

In 2000, 70 percent of UTSA students came from within Bexar County; today 70 percent of students will be moving to San Antonio from other regions of the state, particularly the Houston area.

As admission to schools such as UT-Austin is becoming increasingly difficult, UTSA is becoming a more accessible option. Romo compared UTSA to schools in California noting that, while UC Berkeley had once been the most highly regarded school, its sister schools (UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Irvine) have now become well respected in their own right.

Smith then asked Romo what it was about UTSA specifically that allowed it to see so much growth compared to other UT affiliates.

Romo stated that having “a great faculty and recruiting great students,” are essential to improving a university’s reputation. He noted that, just this fall, UTSA recruited 60 new professors.

Romo also believes that word of mouth about successful UTSA graduates will draw people to campus.

One way UTSA attracts students is by awarding more than $220 million in financial aid every year. When asked if this was enough, Romo responded, “We always need more.” More than 70 percent of UTSA students require some type of financial aid; however, UTSA is able to help only between 40 and 50 percent of students.

UTSA is also a highly diverse campus, another attraction for many students. This fall, 51 percent of UTSA students are Hispanic, reflecting the demographics of San Antonio which is itself 60 percent Hispanic.

“We’re very proud of our diversity,” stated Romo.

Smith believes UTSA and San Antonio are modeling the demographic changes that may soon be statewide, saying, “San Antonio was majority Latino before majority Latino was cool.”

One struggle UTSA is facing is the extremely low four-year graduation rate of 14 percent, which Romo believes is an inaccurate representation of student success. He instead chooses to focus on the more than 5,000 degrees awarded every year.

Whether or not students came to college prepared was another difficult question. While most students come to college with the necessary skill set, Romo believes that those who need remediation have suffered from a lack of funding to Texas public schools. “Every time we have a budget crisis, we find a way to hurt these schools,” stated Romo.

When asked why Tier One status was such an emphasized goal at UTSA, Romo explained that it will make funding more accessible and available for students.

Looking towards the future, Romo hopes to continue student success by obtaining membership to the National Academy (an esteemed artist association), creating Rhodes Scholars and recruiting faculty from prestigious universities.

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