by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef’s latest Forbes column focuses on one member of the University of Texas’ governing board who’s unwilling to sit back and rubber-stamp bad actions.
The University of Texas has a governing body – the Board of Regents — that is supposed to oversee its administration. In recent years, one regent has taken his job “too seriously” in the view of top university officials, probing into matters they wanted kept dark and quiet. He was determined to investigate all threats he perceived to the university’s integrity, but school bigwigs so obstructed him that he has been compelled to take them to court.
The regent is Wallace Hall. Mr. Hall, a graduate of UT himself, was appointed to the University of Texas Board of Regents in February 2011 by then-governor Rick Perry.
Hall soon began to suspect corruption and mismanagement. He acted as regents are supposed to, probing for facts.
First, there was a scandal involving a large slush fund run by the dean of the law school, allowing him to hand out “forgivable loans” to select faculty members. The university’s president, William Powers, promised an investigation by an in-house lawyer, who dutifully produced a “nothing to see here” report. Hall argued that the matter required a more objective assessment, but his complaints were ignored.
Quoted in this piece, Hall said, “I was overruled. That’s when I first felt like, one, there’s a problem at UT, and, two, the system has set up a scheme that gives the opportunity for a less than robust investigation.”
But Hall kept pushing the Board to insist that the Texas attorney general’s office dig into the matter. It did, and then the truth finally came out that the dean of the law school was using the fund simply to hand out favors, including a $500,000 “loan” to himself. The AG’s report brought down the house of cards. The dean resigned and the scandal contributed to the pressure on president Powers to choose between resigning and being fired.