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University of Texas System Board of Regents

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The University of Texas System Board of Regents is the governing body for the University of Texas System. Regents serve six-year terms and are appointed by the Governor with confirmation of the State Senate. There is also a student regent who serves a one-year term.[1]

There are nine universities and six health institutions that are part of the University of Texas System. The Board meets regularly in February, May, July, August, November and December.[2]

The mission of the Office of the Board of Regents is "to serve the members of the Board and provide the information and support such that each Regent's governance of The University of Texas System is based upon an informed judgment."[3]

At its July 10, 2014 meeting, the Board of Regents considered the possible termination of University of Texas, Austin President Bill Powers. In July 2014, University Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa asked Powers to resign or face termination at the July 10 University of Texas Board of Regents meeting. Powers at first indicated he would not resign.[4] However, on July 9, 2014, Cigarroa released a statement that Powers agreed to resign effective June 2015.[5] The Board meeting agenda indicated that the regents would discuss Powers in an executive session.[6][7] Some legislators on the transparency committee sent a letter requesting that the Board of Regents delay any personnel decisions regarding Powers or other witnesses from the impeachment hearings.[8]

Current members

There are nine regents that compose the Texas Board of Regents.[1]

University of Texas System Board of Regents
Regent Appointed Term End Date
Eugene Powell Vice Chairman 2009 February 1, 2015
Steven Hicks Vice Chairman 2009 February 1, 2015
Robert Stillwell 2009 February 1, 2015
Wallace Hall 2011 February 1, 2017
Brenda Pejovich 2010 February 1, 2017
Alex Cranberg 2009 February 1, 2017
Paul Foster Chairman 2007 February 1, 2019
Ernest Aliseda 2013 February 1, 2019
Jeffery Hildebrand 2013 February 1, 2019

University of Texas investigations


Seal of Texas.svg.png

University of Texas Investigations

Background
Wallace Hall impeachment trialPolitical favoritism in admissions to the University of TexasForgivable loans program at the University of Texas Law School House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations (TSAO)Joint Committee on Oversight of Higher Ed Governance, Excellence & Transparency

UT Regents
Wallace HallPaul FosterEugene PowellSteven HicksErnest AlisedaJeffery HildebrandBrenda PejovichAlex CranbergRobert Stillwell

Elected Officials
Rick PerryJoe StrausCharles PerryTrey FischerDan FlynnNaomi GonzalezEric JohnsonLyle LarsonCarol AlvaradoFour PriceJim PittsDan Branch

UT Individuals
Bill PowersLarry SagerBarry BurgdorfKevin HegartyFrancisco CigarroaCarol Longoria
See also: Wallace Hall impeachment trial

In 2013, regent Wallace Hall fell under investigation by a state house committee for possible impeachment, relating to various actions Hall had undertaken as regent.

After he was appointed in 2011, Regent Wallace Hall began looking into what he believed to be clout scandals within the University of Texas system. Hall investigated the university's forgivable-loans program, admissions policies and preferential treatment to politically-connected individuals.[9] Hall, as an individual citizen, filed a large number of FOIA requests with the University system after his inquiries via his role as a Regent were rebuffed.[10] According to his accusers, Hall filed requests of more than 800,000 pages, which some Texas administrators called an unnecessary burden.[11][12] However, a letter from University chancellor Francisco Cigarroa in February 2014 said that Hall likely requested fewer than 100,000 pages.[13][14] In addition, Cigarroa wrote: "During testimony before the Select Committee, some early witnesses implied that the U.T. System has not protected the privacy rights of students, staff, and patients. This is simply not true."[15]

An effort was begun in June 2013 to try and impeach Hall from his position as Regent. Some legislators are justifying the impeachment on the grounds that Hall did not disclose several lawsuits that he was involved in when he originally completed his Regent background check. Hall updated Governor Rick Perry's office in April 2013 with the full list.[16][17] No unelected official in Texas has ever been successfully impeached or removed from office.[18] Governor of Texas Rick Perry's spokesperson said the investigations send a "chilling message" to gubernatorial appointees.[19] He added that the investigation was "extraordinary political theater."[20]

Richard Legon, president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, criticized the impeachment process in a November interview with the Austin American Statesman. He called the impeachment process the "nuclear option" and said it could send a chilling signal to other members of higher education boards. Legon suggested that the board should have first been given the opportunity to address Hall's requests. "It’s fine for a board member to seek information through the appropriate path. The first layer of reining in an overly aggressive board member should be the board," he said.[21] In July 2013, University of Texas Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and Regent Eugene Powell responded to the ongoing investigation and negative remarks against Hall from some elected officials and University of Texas staff. Cigarroa said Hall was not allowed to access anything that was not reviewed by University lawyers to ensure they met federal privacy standards. In a July 15, 2013 letter to state representative Jim Pitts, Powell wrote: "Regent Hall's efforts extend to bringing the U.T. System into a competitive position nationally; especially related to offering blended and online learning opportunities to U.T. students. I would point out Regent Hall's excellent service to the Board in terms of time and energy. I appreciate his Board service and his dedication and hard work designed to fulfill his fiduciary obligations.[22][23]

In a November 11, 2013 meeting, the Board of Regents voted to ask the Attorney General of Texas for an opinion regarding the release of confidential information for the investigation. The Board waived confidentiality for some records to be turned over to the committee, while seeking input about other pieces of information.[24] Paul Foster, Regent Chair, asked Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott whether a House committee can hold University of Texas officials in contempt to the same extent as a district court.[25]

December 2013 board meeting

A December 12, 2013 Board meeting listed as an agenda item the "discussion and appropriate action related to recommendation by Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Chancellor concerning employment of Wililam C. Powers, Jr., as President of the University of Texas at Austin."[26] State legislators previously instructed the board not to make personnel decisions related to anyone current involved in legislative investigations -- including Powers.[27] Speculation was that the future of Powers could impact whether Texas Longhorns football coach Mack Brown is retained.[28] The Board met for four hours in an executive session closed-door meeting.[29] Because of the posting of the agenda, regents could have taken action following the closed-door session. "I do not know if there was a specific purpose in mind for the agenda item. I’m sure it was discussed between the chancellor and the chairman," said Regent Alex Cranberg. State Senator Judith Zaffirini said she hoped the board votes in favor of keeping Powers as University President.[30]

At the meeting, the board did not take any action on Powers employment. Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa told the Board that Powers needs to improve trust, respect and communication in dealings with regents and system officials. "I am hopeful that the strained relationships can be improved. It is my recommendation as chancellor that Bill Powers should continue his appointment as president of the University of Texas at Austin," he said.[31][32] Cigarroa said that the relationship between himself and Powers and himself had seen improvement.[33] Powers said: "There was a question about my employment, it got resolved positively. It is very positive to get this behind us and move forward in addressing these issues that face our campuses and face the system."[34]

Cigarroa detailed how in August 2013, he had explained to the Board of Regents the growing strain in his relationship with Powers.[35]

The main reason for the strain is that Bill and I would agree upon certain principles and then I would act on those principles, but then Bill Powers would often convey a message of misalignment, leading to conflict between U. T. System Administration and The University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, conversations with President Powers were frequently difficult, seeming like an ongoing negotiation," Cigarroa said.[35][36]

Legislator text message

In March 2014, it was revealed that State Senator Kirk Watson (R) sent a text message to Regent Chair Paul Foster during the December 12, 2013 meeting.[37]

Setting a future date for the President to leave is no more than a deferred termination. Three of the regents testified that they would not vote for termination absent a recommendation from the Chancellor[36]

Texas State Senator Kirk Watson (R), http://watchdog.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2014/03/WatsonFoster.pdf

Watson previously said the Board should make its decision regarding Powers without any "external influences."[37]

Criminal allegations

A January 2014 review by the law firm Hilder & Associates concluded that there was "no credible evidence of a violation of [the state government code] that would warrant a referral for criminal prosecution." The report concluded that Hall had a legitimate reason for having the documents in question. "In light of the fundamental role attorneys plan, it would lead to an absurd result were it criminal for an official to provide student records to his or her attorney in the face of litigation, or anticipated litigation, involving these records," Philip Hilder wrote in the report. Hilder submitted the report to the legislative committee. The Board of Regents hired the firm to review whether Hall may have violated any federal privacy laws in his handling of student information. November 2013 testimony prompted committee-member Trey Fischer to request the inquiry. Committee member Dan Flynn said he was not surprised by the findings and was pleased the university counsel reached a conclusion.[38][39][40][41]

Release of email documents

In late March 2014, as a result of public records requests made following the resignation of Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, the University of Texas system released over 2,000 email documents to news outlets. Although the documents were heavily redacted (including entire pages that were blacked out), they nonetheless underscored the longstanding tensions between the Regents and university administrators. Topics touched upon in the released correspondence include controversies surrounding the law school foundation, President Bill Powers' travel, and admissions policies.[42]

In particular, the documents revealed that four students were admitted to the University of Texas School of Law in spite of lower-than-average LSAT scores and grade point averages, further fueling allegations of admissions favoritism toward state lawmakers and other influential individuals.[43]

Hall's lawyers' response to the report

On May 6, 2014, Hall's attorney Allan Van Fleet sent a letter to the Transparency Committee in response to the report issued by Rusty Hardin. Van Fleet accused the committee of withholding information that would "exonerate Regent Hall from all of the committee's charges." The letter alleged that the committee "manipulated the process to prevent public exposure to the truth."[44]

Van Fleet's May 6 letter made reference to a previously sent letter on April 25, 2014, that requested the release of an audio recording from an August 22, 2013 University of Texas System Board of Regents board meeting. According to the letter, a recording made by Regent Alex Cranberg at the meeting pinpoints the exact position of the Regent members regarding President Bill Powers' employment situation. The letter maintained it is a key piece of evidence that has not been released to the public. Hall's lawyers requested that the recording be released and sent to the Travis County District Attorney. The Texas Tribune also requested the recording. University of Texas System officials then asked the Attorney General for permission to withhold the recording.[45][46]

The letter from Van Fleet lists seven facts that he alleges refutes the committee's assertions. Those facts listed were as follows:[47]

  1. "Regent Hall fully disclosed information on his nomination application"[47]
  2. "Regent Hall did not violate FERPA protections"[47]
  3. "Regent Hall did not “leak” or otherwise disclose student information"[47]
  4. "Regent Hall properly represented the UT System in discussions about charitable donations"[47]
  5. "Regent Hall’s information requests were reasonable and necessary"[47]
  6. "Regent Hall did not tamper with or coerce testimony"[47]

Call for Hall to resign

At a May 15, 2014 Board of Regents meeting, Board Chair Paul Foster said he believed Hall should resign from his position as Regent. "I implore you to deal with the results of the actions that now have the potential for significant consequence for the UT system," Foster said.[48] Regents Alex Cranberg and Eugene Powell defended Hall's actions while Jeffery Hildebrand, Robert Stillwell and Steven Hicks supported Foster in his call for resignation. No formal vote on Hall was taken by the board.[49]

Foster implied that Hall's resignation would be the best course of action in order to end the distraction that was caused by the impeachment trial.[50] Hall was present at the meeting but did not comment to media.[51]

Hall's attorney Allan Van Fleet sent a letter to Foster indicating that Hall would not resign.[52][53]

Chancellor

On February 10, 2014, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced he would resign from his position as Chancellor. He said he felt he had accomplished the goals he set out to do five years earlier, and was prepared to return to medical practice full-time. "Education saves lives on many levels and I thought I could bring value to the UT system with that perspective in mind. Now it’s time to return to saving one life at a time," he said.[54] Cigarroa said his resignation had nothing to do with the turmoil and investigations within the University of Texas system. Cigarroa will continue to serve as chancellor until a replacement is found.[55][56] Cigarroa's new position will be as head of pediatric surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.[57]

Committees

There are six standing committees within the Board of Regents.[58]

Academic Affairs

Audit, Compliance, and Management Review

Facilities Planning and Construction

Finance and Planning

Health Affairs

Technology Transfer and Research

External links

Meeting minutes

Contact

Ashbel Smith Hall, Suite 820
201 West 7th Street
Austin, Texas 78701

  • Phone: (512) 499-4402
  • Fax: (512) 499-4425
  • Email: bor@utsystem.edu

Recent news

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 University of Texas System, "Current Regents," accessed October 31, 2013
  2. University of Texas System, "Regent Meetings," accessed October 31, 2013
  3. http://www.utsystem.edu/sites/utsfiles/offices/board-of-regents/files/MissionStatements.pdf University of Texas System, "Mission Statements," accessed October 31, 2013
  4. Texas Tribune, "Cigarroa Tells Powers to Resign or Be Fired," July 4, 2014
  5. Watchdog, "UT President Bill Powers to resign -- in 2015," July 9, 2014
  6. University of Texas System, "Schedule of Events for Board of Regents' Meeting on July 10, 2014"
  7. Watchdog, "Board to decide UT president’s fate Thursday," July 7, 2014
  8. Texas Public Radio, "House Committee Wants UT Regents To Hold Off On Any Action Against Pres. Bill Powers," July 8, 2014
  9. American Spectator, "Transparency for Thee," October 25, 2013
  10. Daily Texas Online, "Facing impeachment, Regent Wallace Hall defends actions in debate with Sen. Kirk Watson," September 28, 2013
  11. Daily Texas Online, "Former UT System vice chancellor alleges Regent Wallace Hall’s ‘clear intent to get rid of Bill Powers’," October 24, 2013
  12. Dallas Morning News, "UT regent sought 800,000 documents, official says in impeachment hearing," October 22, 2013
  13. Watchdog, "‘Witch hunt’ fallout: Speaker calls for narrower public records law," February 5, 2014
  14. Texas Tribune, "UT System Responds to Transparency Committee Directives," February 3, 2014
  15. Texas Tribune, "Cigarroa letter to the Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations," February 1, 2014
  16. Texas Tribune, "UT Regent Wallace Hall Updates Lawsuit Disclosures," April 30, 2013
  17. Real Clear Policy, "The Campaign Against Wallace Hall," August 15, 2013
  18. News-Journal, "University of Texas regent not worried by impeachment inquiry," September 9, 2013
  19. Texas Tribune, "Transparency Committee to Mull Impeachment of UT Regent," June 25, 2013
  20. Texas Tribune, "Perry Blasts Impeachment Probe of Wallace Hall," October 30, 2013
  21. Austin American Statesman, "A UT regent impeachment could make other boards cautious, expert says," November 29, 2013
  22. Texas Tribune, "UT System Pushes Back Against Criticism of Regent Hall," July 16, 2013
  23. University of Texas System, "Letter from Eugene Powell to Jim Pitts," July 15, 2013
  24. Houston Chronicle, "UT regents seek AG opinion on legislative info requests," November 11, 2013
  25. Dallas Morning News, "UT wants attorney general’s opinion: Can House committee punish for contempt?," November 14, 2013
  26. University of Texas System Board of Regents, "December 12, 2013 Meeting Agenda
  27. Texas Tribune, "UT Regents to Discuss Employment of Bill Powers," December 9, 2013
  28. ESPN "Mack Brown's future in limbo," December 10, 2013
  29. Dallas Morning News, "Could Mack Brown lose an ally? Texas' Bill Powers to be reviewed by regents," December 9, 2013
  30. Austin American Statesman, "University of Texas regents to discuss Powers’ job status," December 9, 2013
  31. Austin American Statesman, "UT’s Powers gets a lecture but keeps his job," December 12, 2013
  32. Houston Chronicle, "UT President Powers ready to get back to work," December 12, 2013
  33. Daily Texan, "While board takes no action on President Powers, Chancellor Cigarroa issues strong warning," December 12, 2013
  34. ESPN "Chancellor: Powers should keep job," December 12, 2013
  35. 35.0 35.1 University of Texas System, "Board of Regents Meeting Minutes: December 12, 2013"
  36. 36.0 36.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Watchdog.org, "Senator texted warning into closed session on firing UT president," March 13, 2014
  38. Dallas Morning News, "UT Regent Hall didn't commit crime, university attorney concludes,"January 16, 2014
  39. Watchdog, "UT Report: Charge against Hall is legally 'absurd'" January 14, 2014
  40. Texas Tribune, "Report: Regent Didn't Violate Student Privacy Laws," January 15, 2014
  41. Texas Tribune Uploads, "Hilder & Associates Report," January 13, 2014
  42. The Texas Tribune, "As UT Inquiries Mount, So Have Frustrations," March 26, 2014
  43. Watchdog.org, "Four more get into UT Law despite low LSATs," March 27, 2014
  44. Austin American-Statesman, "UT regent’s lawyer accuses panel of withholding information," May 6, 2014
  45. Texas Tribune, "Hall's Lawyer Accuses Committee of Withholding Information," May 6, 2014
  46. Watchdog, "Attorney: Secret tape covered up by lawmakers proves regent’s innocence," May 7, 2014
  47. 47.0 47.1 47.2 47.3 47.4 47.5 47.6 Texas Tribune, "Letter from Van Fleet to the Committee on May 6, 2014
  48. Austin American-Statesman, "Chairman of UT board of regents calls for resignation of Wallace Hall," May 15, 2014
  49. Houston Chronicle, "Board chairman asks embattled UT regent to resign," May 15, 2014
  50. Texas Tribune, "UT Board Chairman Calls for Regent Hall to Resign," May 15, 2014
  51. The Alcalde, "Regents Chairman Calls on Wallace Hall to Resign," May 15, 2014
  52. KXAN, "Texas Regent Hall defies call for him to resign," May 19, 2014
  53. Houston Chronicle, "Wallace Hall to UT Chairman Foster: I won’t resign," May 19, 2014
  54. KXAN "UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa resigning," February 10, 2014
  55. Texas Tribune, "Cigarroa: Political Upheaval Did Not Prompt Resignation," February 10, 2014
  56. Idaho Statesman, "UT chancellor Cigarroa says he'll resign" February 10, 2014
  57. Dallas Morning News, "UT chancellor Cigarroa to resign, return to medical practice," February 10, 2014
  58. University of Texas System, "Board Committees," accessed October 31, 2013