Opinion

This University of Texas regent uncovered influence-peddling, and now the state legislature wants to impeach him

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Texas,Ashe Schow,Higher Education

Rather than take steps to correct problems uncovered by a University of Texas regent, the Texas state legislature has decided to work toward impeaching him.

UT Regent Wallace Hall (who was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry) began investigating political influence in the admissions process at UT Law after he was appointed in 2011, and in June 2013, the state legislature began seeking an impeachment.

Hall filed a large number of Texas Public Information Act requests to obtain documents pointing to what he believed was an admissions scandal. Some of the requests were filed as a private citizen and some were filed in his role as regent.

UT claims that Hall violated student privacy and conducted a “witch hunt,” accusing him of requesting more than 800,000 pages of information over the last year. But in February, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa wrote that the number was “perhaps fewer than 100,000.”

Cigarroa also noted that Hall “did not make 1,200 requests under the TPIA for documents and emails,” but only requested “information concerning the TPIA requests previously made by others.”

An investigation from Watchdog.org into UT's admission's scandal found that many students with political connections had underwhelmed on the bar exam - with dozens failing the exam twice or more. Some of the students who failed the exam twice or more had connections to Texas state lawmakers, including the son of state House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts.

UT is regarded as the state's top law school, but in 2014, it had the lowest percentage of first-time examinees that passed the bar.

The Watchdog.org investigation also found that “some of the least-qualified graduates” had “high-level connections in the legislature.”

In April 2014, the Texas House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations claimed Hall may have violated state and federal law while conducting his investigation. This happened despite a January 2014 report from an outside law firm for the university found “no credible evidence of a violation of [the state government code] that would warrant a referral for criminal prosecution.”

Gov. Perry responded to the committee's report by saying Hall “should be commended” for what he uncovered.

The chairman of the UT System regents asked Hall to resign in late May, but Hall refused.

It could be months before the committee votes on articles of impeachment.

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