Thursday, February 12, 2015

U.T. Admissions: Other Shoe Drops; Powers squirms....

"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
Galatians 6:9

Earlier this morning, Kroll Brothers released a BOMBSHELL report into admissions corruption at the University of Texas.  It confirms everything we've known for close to a year.  We'll have more to say in the coming days, but for now we want to highlight some of the other coverage.

The basics, from the Dallas Morning News:
University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers used his authority to get “must have” applicants admitted to the state’s flagship school and misled internal lawyers looking into influence peddling in the admissions process in both the undergraduate college and UT’s top-ranked law school, an independent investigation obtained by The Dallas Morning News has found.

The wide-ranging investigation ordered by former Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa found that Powers overruled his admissions office and exercised broad control when it came to favored applicants – some of whom had the recommendation of powerful people in this state.

And when questioned about it by the system’s own general counsel, both he and his chief of staff, Nancy Brazzil, failed to offer up the whole truth, the 104-page report concludes.


The report’s findings indicate that Powers frequently put his hand on the scale to help applicants get into UT Austin’s undergraduate program even when the schools’ admissions office objected to a candidate.

“There are instances in which applicants do not succeed in the standard admissions process and the President’s Office will request, in some cases direct, that certain files be reviewed again,” the report states.


It is clear, however, the legislators, wealthy donors and influential alumni frequently attempted to influence admissions by reaching out to Powers. And Powers was far more hands-on when it came to admissions than his predecessors.

“Under President Powers, the tone and style if not the substance of the end-of-cycle meetings (with the admissions office) has changed from previous presidents. Through the Chief of Staff, it has been made clear that final admissions decisions are the prerogative of President Powers,” the report states.
Next up, the Dallas Observer:
To every single applicant who ever got turned down by UT, I say this: Your wildest most paranoid imagining of why you got screwed and how they really do admissions at UT was nowhere near wild or paranoid enough.

We're talking about admissions meetings where university officials shred all their notes before leaving the room, like Bookie Bob with his flash paper.

We're talking about kids so dumb and so unqualified in every other respect that the admissions director begs not to have to let them in, but UT President Bill Powers tells him to do it anyway.

One of my favorite vignettes from the report: "It was stated by the admissions director that the student under discussion was 'so bad for so many reasons, there is no way I can admit this student.'"

At that point, Powers' chief of staff Nancy Brazzil, who has already told the admissions people that she "speaks for the president," says to the admissions director, "Do we need to talk to Bill?"

The Kroll report says: "Then, sometime after the meeting, the President's Office called the Admissions Office and said, 'Nancy talked to Bill and we have to do this.'"

I love that. "Do we need to talk to Bill?" It's like The Sopranos.


The Kroll report suggests that legislators and even persons merely connected to legislators could have their way with Powers. In one case a former elected official and UT alumnus tells Powers that a state legislator who is a member of an "important ... committee" has a strong interest in getting an applicant into UT law school and then talks about "the political and funding implications of having (the applicant) in our law school."

Come on down!

So how is it that this entrenched, off-the-books, paper-shredding, Bookie-Bob, secret admissions system failed to garner even a mention when UT did its own internal investigation? The Kroll report puts the blame for that not on the internal investigators but squarely on Powers and his top staff:

"Although President Powers and his Chief of Staff appear to have answered specific questions asked of them with technical precision," the report says, "it appears that by their material omissions they misled the inquiry. At minimum, each failed to speak with the candor and forthrightness expected of people in their respective positions of trust and leadership."
Moving on, from Empower Texans:
This morning brings sad revelations that House Speaker Joe Straus has undoubtedly participated in what is one of the most disgusting cover-ups in Texas’ modern history. This is, of course, referring to Straus’ attempt to bully, threaten and intimidate a whistle-blowing UT Regent, Wallace Hall.

It is time for those in the legislature who are responsible to be held accountable for this sordid tale. Yes, it includes Joe Straus. But there are still unnamed members of the Texas House and Senate who should be forced to resign.

Hall, as you might recall, uncovered financial malfeasance at UT. That led to uncovering a clout-abuse scheme in which politically connected (though academically unqualified or under-qualified) students were given preferential admission. Straus and his cronies went into attack mode. Disgraced State Rep. Dan Flynn was tapped by Straus to use the Orwellian-named “Transparency” committee as the blunt instrument in attacking Hall and threatening impeachment. The crime alleged? That Hall asked too many questions.

Now a private investigation has revealed that, yes, Hall was spot-on about the clout-abuse scandal managed by the office of UT President Bill Powers.

Republican members of the Texas House who supported Straus are now confronted not only with the Straus attacks on conservative policy initiatives, but his cover up of (or participation in) a clout-abuse scandal.


Just as importantly, the unnamed members of the Texas Legislature — the House and the Senate — described in the investigation must be named and forced to resign. Absent those members being named and removed from office, it will be rightly assumed that anyone who participated in the cover-up did so to protect their own abusive actions.

Members of the Texas House can be pawns in the corrupt dealings of the Austin powerbrokers aligned with Joe Straus, or they can be heroes for honesty and integrity in government. Quite frankly, there are a small number of Republican House members who are probably too far-gone, too deeply bought, or just too timid. But a great many are not, and Texans will applaud them for doing the right thing.

Finally, the piece de resistence, Powers' press conference today:

  • "Thorough, accurate, and fair report."
  • "Relatively small number of students."
  • "In every case, I acted in what I believed was the best long-term interest of the University."
    • Translation: You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.
  • "I inherited this practice."
  • Blah, blah, "long term interest of the University."

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