December 7, 2016

APPARENTLY, THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE PEOPLE WHO RUN THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS IS “SNITCHES GET STITCHES:” When a University Regent Tries to Blow the Whistle: The Wallace Hall Case.

It wasn’t long before he began to suspect corruption and mismanagement.

First, there was a scandal involving a large slush fund run by the dean of the law school, allowing him to hand out “forgivable loans” to select faculty members. The university’s president, William Powers, promised an investigation by an in-house lawyer, who dutifully produced a “nothing to see here” report. Hall argued that the matter required a more objective assessment, but his complaints were ignored.

Quoted in this piece, Hall said, “I was overruled. That’s when I first felt like, one, there’s a problem at UT, and, two, the system has set up a scheme that gives the opportunity for a less than robust investigation.”

But Hall kept pushing the Board to insist that the Texas attorney general’s office dig into the matter. It did, and then the truth finally came out that the dean of the law school was using the fund simply to hand out favors, including a $500,000 “loan” to himself. The AG’s report brought down the house of cards. The dean resigned and the scandal contributed to the pressure on president Powers to choose between resigning and being fired.

That fight was just a minor skirmish compared with the coming war over the secret, back-door admissions process at UT-Austin.

In 2013, Texas media began running articles such as this, suggesting that some students, despite their low scores and grades, were being admitted to UT as a favor to influential people.

In response, then-chancellor Francisco Cigarroa asked university general counsel Dan Sharphorn to investigate. The result was a mild report saying that the study had found “no evidence of overt pressure on Admissions Office staff to admit applicants based on the recommendations of persons of influence.” Sharphorn’s findings were accepted by president William Powers, who said that the report would be helpful.

Powers hoped that would be the end of the matter, but shortly afterward, Hall announced that he had found evidence in internal UT emails of blatant admissions favoritism at UT’s law school. That led to furious demands for his removal from office by Texans who didn’t like the way he kept turning over rocks. Several members of the legislature called for Hall’s impeachment and the Board of Regents formed a committee to see if there were legal grounds for doing so. When the lawyers it hired concluded that there was no ground for impeaching Hall, the committee voted to censure Hall for “disloyalty.”

We need more activist trustees at universities all over the country. There are a lot of rocks to turn over.

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