Judge Throws Out Regent’s Suit Against Chancellor

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A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a University of Texas System regent against his own CEO.

The suit by Regent Wallace Hall against Chancellor William McRaven sought to force McRaven to turn over unredacted documents gathered by a third-party firm during an investigation into UT-Austin admissions. McRaven argued that the names of students mentioned in the documents were protected by federal privacy laws and thus redacted; Hall disagreed, arguing that he was entitled to see those names and that he could not fulfill his fiduciary duties without them, so he sued McRaven in June.

Today, state district judge Scott Jenkins dismissed Hall’s suit. The judge did not explain his reasoning, but he did dismiss the suit with prejudice, a legal term meaning that Hall cannot re-file the suit, either in another jurisdiction or under a different premise. It is a strong statement by the judge, for it means that the court finds no legal basis or standing for Hall’s case. But Hall and his attorney can and will appeal the ruling.

For almost as long as he has been on the board of regents, Hall has been a dogged investigator into UT-Austin and its admissions practices. He has maintained for years that there was and is too much favoritism in admissions. When McRaven became chancellor early this year, one of his first acts was to tweak the admissions policies at UT-Austin and around the System to clarify under what circumstances a president may influence whether a particular student gets in. Hall was the lone regent to vote against the new policy, saying it did not do enough to curb the influence a president can have.

Hall has been so dogged that a special committee in the Texas House censured him in August 2014 but did not call for his impeachment, a Travis County jury recommended Hall’s removal in March 2015 but did not indict him, and in October his own board rebuked what it said were untrue and misleading statements with regard to McRaven, saying Hall’s views did not represent the board’s.

The third-party report at the center of the latest dustup, known as the Kroll Report, found that the president’s office did enroll a limited number of students each year to UT-Austin over the objections of the admissions office. Investigators identified 73 students admitted in a five-year period who would not otherwise have gotten in.

Alcalde file photo of Wallace Hall

 

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