The University of Texas System regent who is facing impeachment defended himself this week with a nine-page letter to the House committee investigating his conduct.
In it, Regent Wallace Hall Jr. says he has found evidence that lawmakers sought to influence the admissions process and that school officials inflated donation statistics, among other things. Hall says the documentation was included among the thousands of pages he has requested and obtained via open records requests with the Austin campus.
Hall’s requests for voluminous records have become part of the impeachment case against him. Members of the state House have accused him of conducting a witch hunt against University President Bill Powers, and of interfering with the university’s management by making burdensome requests. Hall, a Dallas businessman, has also been faulted for failing to disclose litigation and bankruptcies when he applied to serve as a regent, omissions that have since been corrected.
Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, who is co-chairman of the committee considering Hall’s impeachment, said the information in the letter might prompt additional questions the committee will want to look into.
Much of the letter airs issues that have already been the subject of discussion and inquiry by UT and UT System administrators, school officials said.
One section of the letter says a state senator pressured UT into admitting an applicant by reminding a school official “of recent legislative action taken to benefit The University.” The letter also says a state representative’s child who did not meet admissions standards got into a UT graduate school.
The letter does not name the legislators or the students who allegedly benefited. The UT System chancellor became aware of Hall’s concerns about a month ago and an inquiry is underway, said Karen Adler, a UT System spokeswoman, in a statement.
“We are proud of our admissions policy,” said Gary Susswein, a UT spokesman. “We are happy to discuss it with the legislative committee and happy to talk about applicant recommendations that we receive from lawmakers, and from other state officials, including regents.”
Hall also says that UT inflated or made up donations, which could produce higher rankings, and compared them to the effects of steroids that “inflate a slugger’s statistics.” For instance, the letter says UT improperly reported more than $224 million in software grants under the gift-counting standards developed by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
Months back, Hall challenged UT’s way of reporting the donation and a critical UT System audit report followed. The Austin campus revised its donation reports, and all UT campuses have stopped counting software donations toward annual fund-raising totals, Adler said.
Susswein said the council’s president has since praised the university. The campus raised record amounts of money this past year.
Hall requests in the letter that he be allowed to interrogate witnesses, call additional witnesses and subpoena witnesses in proceedings of the committee that is investigating his impeachment.
Flynn said Hall’s requests will not be granted.
“We will conduct a hearing. It is not a trial,” Flynn said.
Flynn said the committee is close to settling on an attorney and hearings will likely begin in September. If the committee decides to pursue impeachment, the state House will have to consider the matter.