Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wallace Hall Speaks: "Fundamentally, nothing has changed."

"Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,"
Ephesians 6:14

The Austin Club -- This morning, a dedicated University of Texas regent Wallace Hall spoke to a crowd of approximately 150 people.  Out of realistic jeopardy from Dan Flynn's committee, Hall discussed his investigation into impropriety at the University of Texas - Austin in the greatest detail to date.  His discussion with Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith covered the University's open records process, financial improprieties at the University, and favoritism in admissions.

"I'm very comfortable with my actions" Hall said at the beginning of the discussion.  His allegedly voluminous open records requests were done as part of an effort to improve transparency at the University.  Regent Hall desired to move the open records process to the internet.  As part of that endeavor, Hall made five requests in June 2013 to see what requests the University had received.  The total was 40 boxes of documents.

Hall spoke about financial impropriety at the University, including the $215 million software donation scandal and questionable service contracts: "As a board and an institution we failed to police ourselves."

The longest section was the discussion on admissions favoritism.  Hall explained his belief in an admissions process that treats everyone equally.  He was indignant legislators could secretively gain favored status.  Hall isn't even a fan of legacy admissions "certainly at public universities."  On the other hand, "if we want Senators and Representatives to be able to get people [into higher ed. institutions], lets just be upfront about it."

Hall's strongest words came for Joe Straus and David Dewhurst.  Hall revealed an attempt by Straus to browbeat Governor Perry's staff following the Hardin report while the Governor was out of the country.    Hall "absoluely" lays the blame for the impeachment at Straus' feet.  He also disclosed a threatening text message Dewhurst sent regent Alex Cranberg in early 2013.  SB 15 appeared a few days later.

By contrast, Hall evaluates outgoing UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa's tenure "very positively."  He also has "great confidence" in incoming Chancellor William McRaven.  His three criteria for a new UT-Austin President are someone with a leadership history, who has run a multi-billion dollar organization, who isn't from UT Austin.

Wallace Hall's investigation has roiled the status quo, both at UT-Austin and in the Texas Legislature.  Clearly, he has uncovered evidence of financial improprieties and favoritism on behalf of powerful legislators.  Today's conversations with the Texas Tribune was Hall's most detailed discussion to date.

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