Regents Chairman Calls on Wallace Hall to Resign

 

Regents Chairman Calls on Wallace Hall to Resign

The chairman of the UT System Board of Regents today called the long-running spectacle surrounding Wallace Hall a distraction and asked the controversial regent to resign.

Saying he had heard loud and clear from the House committee investigating Hall for possible impeachment, Paul Foster publicly urged Hall to do the magnanimous thing and remove himself from the board.

“Something must change,” Foster said to Hall. “And I urge you to take the selfless step for the benefit of the UT System and to resign.”

Foster’s appeal comes three days after the House select committee on transparency voted 7-1 that grounds do exist to impeach Hall. During that meeting, several committee members called on the UT System to clean up its own mess–to take action, or the legislators would. If impeached, Hall would be only the third official in Texas history to be so removed, and he would be the first gubernatorial appointee impeached.

In his remarks today, Foster said he decided against a vote of no confidence in Hall, saying he thought such a vote inappropriate since he thinks Hall has broken no regents rules. He told Hall he admired his tenacity and thanked him for the countless hours Hall has spent on UT issues. But it was clear that the chairman and several other board members had wearied of the near-constant controversy that has swirled around Hall and the UT System for months.

“The time has come to move beyond the controversy,” Regent Jeff Hildebrand said, “For far too long, [the controversy] has consumed too much of the UT System’s resources and time. I joined this board a year ago,¬†and I bet I’ve spent 80 percent of my time on this.”

Hall made no comments, but some other regents spoke up for him. Former chairman Gene Powell said that every one of Hall’s controversial records requests had been approved through the proper channels. Hall has had the interest of UT-Austin and the UT System at heart throughout his time on the board, Powell said.

“Something must change,” Foster said to Hall. “And I urge you to take the selfless step for the benefit of the UT System and to resign.”

“Now we are asking a man to resign who hasn’t broken a law or regents rules,” Powell said. “We are throwing him out because we don’t like his bedside manner?”

Regent Alex Cranberg argued that Hall was the victim of a “something like a lynch mob,” and he described the ongoing legislative impeachment proceedings as “highly inappropriate.” According to Cranberg, Hall’s actions have been largely mischaracterized by people who don’t know all the facts.

“Regent Hall has sometimes asked obnoxious questions,” Cranberg said. “But we are a big enough, rich enough system to be able to answer them.”

Many if not all of those questions have been directed at UT-Austin and some quite pointedly at its president, Bill Powers. Hall has accused UT-Austin of showing favoritism in admissions to the politically connected, of financial malfeasance at the Law School, and of inappropriate reporting of fundraising totals and travel expenses.

In today’s meeting, Hall made a motion to withdraw a request to the Texas Attorney General’s office to investigate the UT Law School and its now-defunct forgivable loan program and hire an outside firm to investigate, something he has long promoted. That motion was voted down.

For Foster, today’s comments were his latest in a series of public remarks in which he has intimated that he wants to restore the System’s relationship with the legislature and with the public, which he perceives to have been damaged by the controversy over Hall. The House transparency committee is set to meet May 21-22 to draft and possibly vote on specific articles of impeachment for the full Texas House to consider.

“I very much appreciated the chairman’s comments today that it is time to move forward,” said UT-Austin president Bill Powers after the meeting. “Let’s focus on the things that the System and our campuses need to do, like the medical school, like supporting our students.”

Hall declined to comment after the meeting, saying he was late to pick up friends from the airport.

File photo of Regent Wallace Hall.

 

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