Image ©John Branch for the Rivard Report, 2017.

On Feb. 14, University of Texas at San Antonio President Ricardo Romo was placed on administrative leave “pending a review of allegations related to his conduct.”

What followed was more than two weeks of near-silence: requests for comment went unanswered and UTSA officials remained tight-lipped; Romo himself issued only one brief statement through his attorney Ricardo Cedillo saying he looked “forward to a speedy resolution and the clearing of [his] name;” speculations ran rampant and the greater community wanted answers.

The San Antonio Express-News reported that unnamed sources said Romo was placed on leave following a formal sexual harassment complaint and two firings, which could be viewed as retaliatory. It was unclear who the complaint was filed against.

On Friday, March 3, Romo submitted his resignation to the university and the University of Texas System, rendering his retirement effective immediately.

“I have been made aware that the manner in which I embraced women made them uncomfortable and was inappropriate,” Romo stated in a letter. “I understand and respect Chancellor McRaven’s concerns about my behavior and I deeply apologize for any conduct that offended anyone.

Romo became UTSA’s fifth president in 1999 and the first Hispanic to lead the institution. During his leadership, the university expanded from four colleges to nine and from 91 academic programs to more than 160. The university’s physical footprint has grown from 1.8 million sq. ft. to 5.4 million sq. ft., and he led a capital campaign that raised more than $200 million. Following several honors and recognitions in the spring of 2016, Romo announced last September that he would retire in August of this year. 

Romo’s abrupt departure casts a shadow over his successful 18-year tenure, the UT System, and a city that is still trying to make sense of what happened to one of its most beloved public figures.

“This is not just any elected official or businessman. This is one of San Antonio’s favorite sons,” Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) told the Rivard Report.

Pedro Reyes, former executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the UT System and currently special assistant to the chancellor and professor of education policy at UT Austin, will assume the role of president until Romo’s replacement is announced.

Cartoonist John Branch has commented on San Antonio and Texas politics for decades; his work is syndicated nationally by King Features.