Joseph Jamail Jr., a prominent Houston attorney, has donated tens of millions of dollars to his beloved University of Texas over the years — for law, athletics, nursing and other programs. On Monday, Jamail and two other generous alumni accused Gov. Rick Perry and some of his appointees to the UT System Board of Regents of trying to tear down their alma mater.
The charges came in the form of a 1-minute, 41-second video posted at www.wakeuplonghorns.com. The video identifies its sponsor only as “Wake Up Longhorns,” but the trio confirmed to the American-Statesman that they funded its production, saying they are upset about what they described as micromanagement of the Austin flagship.
The video was released on the same day that UT Regent Wallace Hall Jr. showed up at the Austin campus to continue what officials have described as an unprecedented review of thousands of pages of open-records materials.
Campus employees had worked until 1:30 a.m. Saturday to organize the documents for Hall, but his visit ended abruptly in a dispute over whether he would have access to sensitive records, such as allegations of sexual assault, said Kevin Hegarty, the university’s vice president and chief financial officer.
The Board of Regents and the campus have been engaged in something of a power struggle for more than two years, clashing over tuition, faculty productivity, the organization of the fundraising office and other matters. All nine regents, who serve without pay, were appointed by Perry.
A UT System spokeswoman said the system had no comment on the video. Josh Havens, a spokesman for the governor, rejected its criticisms.
“A strong UT is crucial to a strong Texas, and Gov. Perry has worked hard to strengthen the University of Texas in order to improve the status, infrastructure and impact of the school,” Havens said in a statement. “It’s a shame that some put petty rivalries ahead of improving graduation rates, efficiencies and innovation at our great Texas universities.”
Former longtime Perry aide Ray Sullivan offered a more pointed take: “I’ve long thought the small but vocal status quo/anti-reform forces at UT-Austin were motivated by profound elitism and a deep paranoia and hatred of Aggies. Especially against the state’s top elected Aggie who has worked hard to improve the infrastructure, effectiveness and economic impact of UT. This (video) proves it.”
The video, which asks viewers to convey their concerns to state legislators, ascribes dark motives to the governor, a graduate of Texas A&M University.
“Wake up, Longhorn nation,” the video’s narrator intones, “or we will end up singing Rick Perry’s song.” The video then flashes a couple of “Aggie War Hymn” lines: “Goodbye to Texas University. So long to the orange and the white.”
Jamail told the Statesman that Perry “has appointed people who think like him and act like him.” By sifting through thousands of pages of campus records and insisting on an exhaustive examination of the nonprofit UT Law School Foundation, the regents are denigrating a first-class institution of higher learning, Jamail said.
“It looks like an intended agenda,” said Jamail, who is a member of the law foundation’s board.
The other two underwriters of the video are Charles W. Tate, chairman of Houston-based Capital Royalty LP, an investment firm, and Julius Glickman, a retired Houston lawyer.
Tate’s involvement is a sign that even some longtime Perry supporters have become disaffected with his appointees to the UT board. Tate has contributed $339,000 to Perry’s campaigns since 2000, according to Texans for Public Justice, a group that tracks money in politics.
Tate said he agrees with regents that access to affordable higher education and transparency in financial and other matters are important principles.
“The way they are going about it is entirely wrong,” said Tate, who serves on the board of the UT regents’ investment arm. “Individual regents are meddling in affairs at the operating level of the University of Texas. It’s damaging the university.”
Glickman, a multimillion-dollar donor to his alma mater, said: “I love the University of Texas. I just want to do all I can to protect it and nourish it.”