"We have a great system," Powell said. "Chancellor Cigarroa is going to take it to another level."
But some prominent critics of the UT board said they remain concerned about its direction, with one asserting that it has four "runaway members": Powell and Regents Brenda Pejovich, Wallace Hall and Alex Cranberg.
That description was offered by Gordon Appleman, a lawyer in Fort Worth and a former chairman of the Chancellor's Council Executive Committee, a group of more than 300 donors to the UT System.
"Until we see some actions consistent with the comments (by Powell), we'll have to be vigilant," Appleman told the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency.
Part of the problem is that the UT board lacks firm, written conflict-of-interest policies, said Charles Matthews, chairman of the UT-Austin Development Board, a fundraising group, and a retired vice president and general counsel for Exxon Mobil Corp.
Another critic, Kenneth Jastrow, said the controversy was a result of "failed governance," and he urged an overhaul of the structure of public university governing boards by the Legislature.
The nine-member boards should be expanded somewhat, and the regents' terms, currently six years, should be shortened, said Jastrow, former chairman of Temple-Inland Corp. and chairman of UT-Austin's ongoing $3 billion capital campaign.
The special legislative panel was established by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus earlier this year amid roiling debate over the direction of higher education generally and of UT-Austin and Texas A&M University in particular.
Powell precipitated much of that debate with his hiring of a special adviser, Rick O'Donnell, who had written that much university research lacks value. O'Donnell was dismissed after seven weeks on the job.
"I would say that it was a mistake on my part," Powell told the legislative panel, adding that a number of people had recommended O'Donnell for the job.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who leads the legislative panel with Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, asked who recommended O'Donnell, but Powell declined to say.
"These people have not given permission to use their names," he said.
O'Donnell had close ties to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based think tank, and one of its board members, Jeff Sandefer. The foundation and Sandefer, in turn, have close ties to Gov. Rick Perry.
Perry urged university regents at a meeting in 2008 to pursue the "breakthrough solutions" outlined by Sandefer and promoted by the policy foundation, including separation of research and teaching budgets and awarding bonus pay to teachers based solely on student evaluations.
The Texas A&M University System was rebuked by the prestigious Association of American Universities after it instituted such bonus pay and compiled detailed data on faculty salaries, research grants and other metrics. The former is superficial, and the latter ignores quality, the association said.
The UT System has also compiled detailed records on faculty members. But Powell said the "breakthrough solutions" are now a moot issue. Richard Box, chairman of the A&M regents, agreed.