Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The UT administration's laughable anti-reform case

From today's Daily Texan:
The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations met Tuesday to hear testimony on the possible impeachment of Regent Wallace Hall. 
The committee is considering impeaching Hall because — among other reasons — he has filed multiple broad open records requests with the University, supposedly placing a burden on the University and requiring the University to hire more people to deal with the large capacity of requests. Some Texas legislators have called Hall’s requests a “witch hunt” with the goal of removing UT President William Powers Jr. On Aug. 15, Hall’s lawyers sent a letter to the co-chairs of the committee, defending Hall’s actions and claiming Texas lawmakers had unduly influenced UT student admissions.  
[UT Chief Financial Officer Kevin] Hegarty said prior to Oct. 5, 2012, the open records office employed one full-time person and one part-time person, but Hall’s requests increased the office’s workload so much it had to hire more employees. 
“Now, on any given day, we could have as many as seven people,” Hegarty said. “We have three [who] dedicated 100 percent of their time, and I might say we never had an attorney in the group, and now we need [one]. Attorneys are more expensive than other folks.”   
[UT open records coordinator Carol] Longoria said she and her colleagues frequently worked late into the night to meet Hall’s deadlines, often until 10:30 or 11 p.m. 
Hall’s attorney, Allan Van Fleet, said Hall filed some open records requests as a citizen instead of as a regent because doing so allows him to receive information sooner. He did not request protected information, Van Fleet said.
Well boo-friggin'-hoo, in response to someone finally attempting to get to the bottom of corruption at the University of Texas, a few bureaucrats had to work a few late nights (and even add temps).

Discussing this case, and the role of House Appropriations Committee Chair Jim Pitts, National Review's Kevin Williamson writes:
Mr. Pitts is also one of the leaders of a movement to impeach and remove from office UT regent Wallace Hall, who, among other things, has been making a stink about his belief that Texas legislators having been improperly leaning on the UT law school to give admissions preference to their friends and family. As I argued before, the fact that Mr. Pitts is directly and intimately involved in this case argues very strongly against his leading the inquisition into Mr. Hall. Mr. Hall is being impeached over his investigation into wrongdoing at the university and in the legislature, and the effort is being led by one of the wrongdoers — a political clown-show that is beneath even the lamentable standards of the Texas legislature.
Mr. Pitts here is taking a particularly lame position, maintaining that looking into the question of whether his son was admitted to UT law by substituting political connections for the necessary qualifications is a violation of his son’s privacy rights. Perhaps young Ryan Pitts, if not his father, should have thought about the long-term consequences of having daddy lean on the law school to let him in. I imagine this episode is embarrassing for Ryan Pitts — it should be.
The University of Texas claims "What Starts Here Changes the World"; sometimes, that's a scary thought!

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