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Regent: Officials received threatening messages

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Education,Texas,Higher Education

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The chairman of the University of Texas' governing board said Thursday that the chancellor and board members have received personal and "threatening" attacks in the debate over whether to fire the popular president of the Austin flagship campus.

The board met a day after University of Texas President Bill Powers submitted his resignation effective June 2015 after several years of squabbling with Gov. Rick Perry and the governor-appointed board of regents over higher education policy.

Powers had survived several previous attempts to fire him and resigned under pressure from Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. But the latest move to fire him caused an uproar from prominent alumni, major donors to the university, and faculty and students.

In remarks at the close of Thursday's meeting, board Chairman Paul Foster said that Cigarroa had been sent "derogatory and sometimes threatening notes."

"I sincerely hope we never revisit this unfortunate chapter in the history of our great state," Foster said.

When pressed after the meeting to give details of the message contents or who sent them, Foster declined but said, "I felt I needed to say something."

Foster also asked state lawmakers, who must confirm regents to their post, to "let us do our job."

Many lawmakers, including House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, had rallied behind Powers. A special House panel recently determined there are grounds to impeach Regent Wallace Hall in relation to his relentless probes into university records and questions about Powers' leadership.

Foster said he wasn't trying to limit that investigation but said the board should be allowed to conduct its own personnel evaluations.

"We are not political. We are not politicians. We should be left alone to do our business. It's fine for people to let us know their opinions, but not to try to exert outside influence through threat and innuendo," Foster said.

Foster said a national search for Powers' replacement will start soon. Cigarroa also is leaving his post as chancellor but his departure date has not yet been set.

Regent Alex Cranberg, who has been a chief critic of Powers, agreed with Foster that tensions had become too heated.

"It's time for some of the people to put their swords down and look to the future," Cranberg said.

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