What You Missed at Today’s Transparency Committee Meeting

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Inquisitive, passionate, disruptive, smart, a lightning rod, a bully, talented, and the Terrell Owens of higher education: Those are just a few of the words legislators and UT System officials used to describe Wallace Hall at a Wednesday meeting of the special committee charged with investigating whether the UT System regent has overstepped his bounds.

During the sometimes testy meeting, members of the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations grilled board chairman Paul Foster, system chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, and executive vice chancellor of academic affairs Pedro Reyes. They covered topics including the “July 4th coup” that led to UT president Bill Powers’ resignation, the controversy over how recommendation letters written by legislators may influence UT admissions, why Cigarroa is stepping down as chancellor, and, of course, the relationship between Hall and his fellow regents.

The committee has been investigating Hall’s conduct for more than a year, and voted in May that grounds exist to impeach him. Hall’s detractors say that his numerous document requests constitute a witch hunt to oust Powers; he and his supporters argue that he’s simply doing due diligence. (This recent Texas Monthly story details the saga.) The committee, which is still in the process of drafting up articles of impeachment, didn’t take any action at the meeting, but the day did yield some memorable quotes. Here are four:

“I woke up to ‘I Got You Babe’ this morning.”

—Rep. Lyle Larson (R – San Antonio), alluding to the seemingly interminable Hall controversy. In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character wakes up to the song by Sonny and Cher playing on the radio as he repeats the same day over and over again. Larson’s joke got laughs from both the System officials and the committee members. He also compared Wallace Hall to football players Terrell Owens and Randy Moss: “He’s a talented player, but he tears down the team.”

“We have other options.”

—Price Walter “Four” Price (R – Houston), suggesting that the committee consider issuing a public statement on how regents could work more effectively. The committee also discussed the possibility of waiting to move forward with the impeachment process until there is news regarding the criminal investigation into whether Hall broke any laws by releasing private student data.

“This wouldn’t be necessary, quite frankly, if you had your house in order.”

—Rep. Carol Alvarado (D – Houston), chastising UT System officials over their handling of the controversy.

“You have to be careful not to let a single instance change how boards of regents work. It’s worked for 100 years in Texas.”

—Board of Regents chairman Paul Foster, in response to questions from Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D – San Antonio). Martinez Fischer repeatedly questioned Foster about the regents’ relationship with Hall and asked whether legislation might be needed to curtail micromanaging from the regents. Foster—who asked Hall to resign in May—replied, “I’m not in agreement with a lot of what Regent Hall has done,” but also said he believes the system is working.

The committee’s next meeting is set for Aug. 11. In a press conference after a two-hour executive session, co-chairman Dan Flynn (R – Canton) said he believes the committee is “very close” to reaching consensus on a course of action.

Photo by Phil Roeder.


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