Seven Solutions Author Defends Wallace Hall

Supporters Rally Behind Hall as Hearings Loom

Editor’s Note: This article and its headline have been updated to improve clarity.

The author of the controversial “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” for higher education has a written an email calling on friends to support UT System regent Wallace Hall.

Under pressure for perceived micromanagement of UT-Austin and for failing to disclose some lawsuits in his application to be a regent, Hall is the subject of an investigation by the Texas House committee on government transparency. The committee received its charge from Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) after another powerful legislator, House budget chairman Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), filed paperwork to consider Hall’s impeachment.

In an email dated Thursday, August 15, and obtained by the Houston Chronicle, Jeff Sandefer, an educator and businessman who developed Gov. Rick Perry’s controversial “seven breakthrough solutions” after a public falling-out with UT describes what he calls Hall’s “bravery under fire.” Sandefer encourages recipients to email Hall to thank him, and to thank Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell for supporting Hall. Two of Hall’s fellow regents have criticized Hall’s conduct as divisive and “an abuse of power” and appealed to Powell to intervene, which he declined to do.

The subject line of the email is “A Profile in Courage,” a reference to the 1957 book Profiles in Courage, which depicts individual acts of bravery by eight U.S. senators, and was published under President John F. Kennedy’s name.

Sandefer was recently in the news in May, when documents gathered by state lawmaker Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) revealed that Perry arranged for Regent Alex Cranberg, a Perry staffer, and Sandefer to meet an individual Perry was considering for appointment to the UT System Board. Two new regents, Jeff Hildebrand and Ernest Aliseda, were confirmed to the board in late May.

Contending that Hall’s repeated document requests of UT-Austin are designed to prevent scandals, Sandefer mentions the Penn State sexual abuse case, the Illinois preferential admissions case, and the Enron debacle as examples. Notably, UT-Austin president Bill Powers served on the board of Enron prior to his position at UT, and led the committee that investigated the company’s bankruptcy. But Sandefer does not make explicit what, if any, connections exist between Penn State, Illinois, or Enron and anything that has gone on at Texas.

Since 2011, the year that Hall and Regents Cranberg and Pejovich were appointed, rumors have circulated that some regents—the 2011 appointees included—want to force Powers out of the president’s office. Legislators, students, and alumni have perceived the regents’ near-constant use of massive data requests as instruments of harassment.

The August 15 email points to an article by Thomas Lindsay, director of the Center for Higher Education at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a conservative think tank based in Austin of which Sandefer is a board member. The op-ed, published on the site defends Hall, saying university boards should be probing and open in order to properly oversee public institutions. Lindsay also attempts to dismantle what he dubs the “campaign against Wallace Hall.”

Sandefer ends his email with gratitude.

“Thank you for being the kind of person who isn’t afraid to stand up,” he writes “even when it may not make you the most popular person at the country club or the neighborhood BBQ.”

The newly publicized support for Hall comes hot on the heels of a nine-page letter from Hall’s attorney to the co-chairs of the transparency commission, which made the case against impeachment and defended Hall as an efficiency-minded, apolitical “proud Longhorn.” Hall’s attorneys also called on the committee chairs to allow Hall to subpoena witnesses and cross-examine them in the course of the impeachment hearings, conduct more similar to a trial than to a traditional committee hearing.

Sandefer’s letter comes two days prior to the UT board’s August 21-22 meeting in Austin. Regents are expected to evaluate the performance of all UT System institution presidents at the meeting.

 Photo courtesy Matt Valentine.


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