February 19, 2015

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE, U. TEXAS CULTURE OF CORRUPTION EDITION: Dallas Observer: Wallace Hall Was Right About UT All Along.

Maybe the University of Texas at Austin and its many passionate defenders had reason to beware of Wallace Hall when Governor Rick Perry appointed him to the UT System board of regents in 2011. Perry was pushing some plan he got from a rich oilman to eliminate research as a criterion for granting professorial tenure, an idea scathingly denounced by detractors as tantamount to book-burning.

But having a good motivation only makes this story worse. When Hall began to criticize the way UT-Austin was run on strictly administrative grounds, he was roundly denounced as a sort of fifth-columnist for Perry’s assault on tenure. Later when he accused the university of corruption, he was hunted like a witch.

A campaign launched against Hall included impeachment proceedings in the Legislature and a criminal complaint brought to the Travis County district attorney. Even the establishment press turned on Hall, whose greatest sin was doing what the press is supposed to do — ask questions that make powerful people uncomfortable. An unbroken chorus of editorial page shrieking from Texas’ biggest newspapers denounced Hall and called for his resignation.

The dramatic denouement is threefold: Hall has been vindicated of charges he abused his role as a regent. The charges of mismanagement and corruption he brought against UT are all being re-investigated because now people are admitting he was on to something. And finally, Hall’s biggest accusers are starting to look like the biggest rats, the ones who had the most to hide.

Well, that’s often how it works. Plus: “And maybe all of that is Austin politics. But what is to be said for the Texas press and its handling of the Wallace Hall story? Every major newspaper in the state has either called for Hall’s head at one point or questioned his integrity, most of them basing their complaints on an allegation that Hall asked for too much information from the university — in other words, that he did too much reporting. . . . That feels like the sort of thing beat reporters in the capitol covering the story from the beginning should have been able to discover early on, perhaps by asking Hall what he was doing. Instead, the establishment press parroted the charge brought against Hall by detractors that he was asking too many questions and for too much public information — an accusation especially strange when brought by the press.”

Not so strange as all that. The press sees itself first and foremost as political allies of Democrat-dominated institutions, which most emphatically includes universities, a major source of funding, foot-soldiers, and ideological suport for Democrats. When outsiders want information that might hurt Democrat-dominated institutions — see, e.g., ClimateGate — they are always portrayed by the press as partisans, malcontents, and evil. That is because the press today functions largely as a collection of Democratic operatives with bylines.

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