- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents said Friday that the board still has great confidence in Chancellor Bill McRaven after his decision to scuttle a controversial expansion project in Houston.

In a letter to McRaven on Friday, board Chairman Paul Foster praised McRaven’s leadership, despite McRaven’s acknowledgement he couldn’t muster widespread support for the expansion plan, which came under fire from state lawmakers and others.

McRaven ended the project on Wednesday, saying it was distracting from other important projects. Asked then if he still had the support of the board he worked for, McRaven said, “I think you’d have to ask the Board of Regents that, but I certainly think so.”

Foster answered that question with a letter to McRaven on Friday that called him a “strong servant leader.”

McRaven is a retired four-star admiral and former Navy SEAL. Before taking the job as chancellor, he was the head of U.S military special operations and planned the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He is in the last year of a three-year contract with the university system.

“Your decisive leadership and willingness to step forward and assume responsibility are among the many reasons that my fellow regents and I are so proud that you are at the helm of the U.T. System. We have great confidence in and respect for you and your leadership,” Foster wrote.

The University of Texas System doesn’t have an academic campus in the nation’s fourth largest city and McRaven’s plan to build a data and research center surprised state and local officials, who said they weren’t consulted. McRaven and Foster recently sparred with state lawmakers over the project at a legislative hearing.

Lawmakers last month also appointed three new members of the board, which means more than half the nine-member panel wasn’t involved in McRaven’s hiring.

Although Texas had already moved to buy land in the Houston area, McRaven announced Wednesday that he was ending the project and that any purchased land would be sold.

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