University of Texas

A regent with the University of Texas System isn’t satisfied that the Austin campus’s acknowledged admission of several dozen “less qualified” students is all there is to the scandal.

The Daily Texan reports that Wallace Hall is appealing to the state attorney general after the chancellor said his requests for files used in an external review go “well beyond any reasonable desire to be better informed as a regent”:

In early March, Hall asked to be provided with the documents Kroll Associates, Inc. used to review admissions. The results of the investigation, released in February, found that UT President William Powers Jr. had exerted influence in the admission of a handful of students but concluded that no formal rules were broken. 

Three regents voted to support Hall’s requests, but the Chancellor said Hall would not be given the records unless the Board authorized such access by majority vote, according to the letter Hall’s lawyer sent Paxton, first obtained by the Texas Tribune.

“The Chancellor asserted that giving Regent Hall access to the Kroll records constituted reopening the investigation of student admissions practices or involved FERPA-protected records,” the email said. “The Chancellor decided that Regent Hall did not have an ‘educational purpose’ for reviewing the Kroll records that was sufficient in the Chancellor’s opinion.”

In the email, Hall’s lawyer, Bill Aleshire, asked the attorney general to consider two questions: whether the Board of Regents can prohibit a regent from obtaining access to records the regent believes are “necessary to review to fulfill his duties as a regent,” and whether the chancellor can do to the same.

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IMAGE: The Texas Tribune/Flickr

Student president: ‘Jefferson Davis stood for some things that are pretty abominable today; Slavery, racism. They’re just not in line with the university’s core values’

The student government at the University of Texas has passed a resolution calling for the removal of a statue of Confederacy President Jefferson Davis from campus, saying the monument is a “racist symbol of slavery” that’s offensive to many students and not in line with the school’s “core values.”

A campus spokesman said administrators will review the resolution, approved Tuesday, and possibly take action, the Austin-American Statesman reports.

The resolution was touted by two newly elected student leaders, Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu, who edit the school’s satirical campus paper and ran on a humorous platform that included disparaging themselves in campaign ads and promising to reduce the campus study centers’ hours for more time to party, USA Today reports. RPfacebook

(At right, Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu / Facebook)

But part of their campaign pledge also included getting rid of the statue of the large, bronzed Davis, who served as president of the Confederate States during the Civil War from 1862 until 1865 and was later given a presidential pardon.

The statue – situated in a prominent place on campus – has reportedly been the target of controversy and consternation in recent years. A similar effort to remove the statue in 2010 stalled, according to the Gainesville Daily Register.

As a result of Tuesday’s vote, the debate over the statue among the campus community has reignited.

“His legacy is not consistent with the university honor code,” Ciaran Dean-Jones, a 22-year-old senior and co-author of the student government resolution calling for Davis’ eviction, told the Gainesville Daily Register. “When a university erects a statue, we are saying that person embodies the values for which the university stands.”

According to University of Texas officials, it was installed after World War I alongside a Woodrow Wilson statue to symbolize the JDstatue.KeithEwing.Flickrreuniting of the nation as one. Rotnofsky said he isn’t buying the administration’s position, telling KXAN news “the message of unity gets lost. If anything, the unity that’s happening is the unity of students coming together in opposition to the Jefferson Davis statue. I suggest a statue of Rohit and myself, but that’s just a suggestion.”

“We just found it funny,” he added. “A very racist man is still on a very prominent part of the university. Jefferson Davis stood for some things that are pretty abominable today; Slavery, racism. They’re just not in line with the university’s core values.”

Rotnofsky told the Statesman that “statues are meant to glorify individuals and what they stood for and Jefferson Davis stood for some really abominable ideas that not only offend students but affected the groups many students identify with. It’s a slap to their face.”

Rohit has made similar statements, telling The Daily Texan campus newspaper “it goes without saying that [Davis’] legacy continues to affect us today. This statue serves as a permanent reminder of the atrocities committed against fellow humans.”

Rotnofsky has offered a compromise, suggesting to the Texan that perhaps the statue could be placed in a museum.

But not everybody is against the Davis statue. In comments posted under some news stories on the issue, the student leaders have been accused of trying to “whitewash” history. Others have said they’re embarrassed by the resolution’s passage.

What’s more, former Texas land commissioner Jerry Patterson told the Statesman that removing the statue does a disservice to history, and more statues of black historical heroes should be added to campus.

“I think the monument should stay because it provokes a lot of conversation and thought,” he said. “The University of Texas is an institution of higher learning and isn’t that what they’re supposed to be doing?”

University of Texas freshman Michael Tatlovich agrees, telling KXAN news, “The statue, I’m sure, wasn’t erected to celebrate the fact he was racist. I mean, I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me that it’s there.”

There are reportedly a total of four statues of Confederate figures at the University of Texas, including Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Other statues on campus include George Washington, Martin Luther King. Jr., and Woodrow Wilson.

College Fix reporter David Hookstead is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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IMAGES: Main, KXAN; secondary, Facebook screenshot; bottom, Keith Ewing/Flickr

Outside group questions accuracy of report given missing documentation

An external investigation of the University of Texas-Austin’s admissions practices has concluded that several dozen undergraduates were “less qualified” but that political connections weren’t the only factors in their admission.

The report by corporate investigative firm Kroll came under fire from a government watchdog group, however, regarding its conflicting numbers on “subpar” law students who were admitted, acknowledgment that many relevant documents had been destroyed and narrow time window examined.

The investigation followed an internal admissions inquiry dating back to August 2013, which sought to determine if influential figures, particularly state politicians, had exerted “undue influence” to alter admissions results.

That earlier inquiry concluded there were no serious improprieties, despite finding that applicants whose letters of recommendation were sent directly to the UT-Austin president – a “widespread and longstanding practice” – had “significantly higher” admissions rates than others.

The University of Texas System ordered a second investigation last summer after a former admissions official claimed the president’s office sometimes pressured admissions officials to admit unqualified students.

Applicants with a ‘hold’ had higher admission rate

Following a six-month investigation of admissions practices going back to 2004, which included more than 60 interviews with school officials and review of documentation and emails, Kroll said it found no evidence of political influence or improper quid pro quo.

The report said the Admissions Office and the Office of the President had occasionally clashed during “end-of-cycle” meetings regarding undergrad applicants who have been placed on “hold” – a designation that prevents an applicant’s rejection before the party who placed the hold is notified.

BillPowers.TheTexasTribune.flickr

Kroll said only “a select handful of applicants each year are admitted over the objection of the Admissions Office,” and that there’s no evidence of an inappropriate exchange of benefits.

But the “hold” applicants had a substantially higher admissions rate – 72 percent over a six-year period – than the overall rate of 40 percent.

Only 73 “arguably less-qualified” undergrads were admitted through the hold system from 2009 to 2014; political connections may have been involved in a “small number” of cases, while several others “suggested a demonstrated commitment to ethnic and racial diversity” or “other appropriate criteria.”

Kroll criticized President Bill Powers and his chief of staff for not disclosing the holds and “watch lists” during the internal review, calling those “material omissions” that “misled the inquiry.”

‘Diversity considerations’ played into half the ‘outlier’ admissions

In the case of the law school, Kroll found no evidence of improper conduct but noted that the admissions process was inherently subject to influence because only two officials made “almost all” decisions – meaning they faced “potentially difficult balancing acts and ethical quandaries.”

The investigative firm found that about half of the “outlier” files – applicants with either low GPA or LSAT score – were admitted based in part on “diversity considerations.”

Kroll said only four admitted students had LSAT scores below 150, widely considered the floor for admissions, and identified just four cases where low scores and lack of relevant “holistic factors” showed evidence of political or alumni connections in admission.

There was only one “brazen attempt” to influence law school admission without regard to merit, from a retired elected official who said the applicant’s admission had “political and funding implications” for the school, the report said.

LawrenceSager.UTAustinSchoolofLawLawrence Sager, who resigned as law school dean in late 2011 at President Powers’ request, admitted that the president’s interest in certain candidates may “have on occasion swayed [his] decision.” Current Dean Ward Farnsworth echoed that but said the law school has never been pressured to admit a specific candidate despite direct recommendations from politicians.

Powers admitted that he accorded more weight to calls and recommendations from politicians due to legislative oversight over the university, but insisted decisions were always made with the “best interests of the university” in mind.

Kroll, despite not finding any improprieties, recommended implementing a “limited firewall” in admissions to reduce external influence, so that recommendation letters, unsolicited communications, holds and other practices are governed by formal policies.

Just the tip of the iceberg?

The report was deemed questionable by Watchdog.org, an investigative project of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity that had previously flagged “politically connected [UT-Austin law] graduates who have failed the bar repeatedly.”

Watchdog.org noted the report provides conflicting figures on how many “subpar applicants” were admitted to the law school after Powers forced Sager’s resignation in 2011: One section says 169, while another says 140.

Though Kroll requested grades and scores going back to 2004, when Powers was law school dean, it only received files for 2010-2014. It opted not to follow up with Watchdog.org when it provided names of the the earlier grads who repeatedly failed the bar, the group said.

No reputable school would admit applicants with LSAT scores under 150, Watchdog.org said- the lowest that Kroll flagged, 128, means the student got less than a quarter of answers correct.

Those numbers of subpar admissions might be low, Watchdog.org said, because Kroll only got 70 files out of the 169 it flagged as subpar: The school said the rest, for “admitted applicants who’d chosen to go elsewhere[,] had been destroyed.”

Kroll’s explanation of many admitted applicants as having desirable “holistic attributes” only goes to show the law school’s admission process “protects administrators, who can cite just about any personal characteristic as reason good enough for ignoring low scores,” Watchdog.org said.

College Fix reporter Curtis Chou is a student at Northwestern University.

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IMAGES: The Texas Tribune/Flickr, UT-Austin School of Law

Sigh. News from the University of Texas at Austin. The Daily Texan reports:

Student Government voted Tuesday to oppose a state Senate-proposed campus-carry policy at the University. Twenty-one of 27 assembly members voted in support of the resolution, a statement against allowing concealed handguns on campus.

Under current state laws, licensed students, faculty and staff are allowed to keep handguns in their cars on campus. With the passing of SB 11 in the Texas Senate, the University would not be able to prohibit licensed students, faculty or staff from carrying concealed handguns on campus.

SG’s resolution, AR 30, was heavily debated in the open forum during the assembly meeting, with both sides coming forward to address the issue. Most students who spoke in opposition to the SG bill echoed the statement that the bill would not be representative of all students. 

The motto of Austin is “keep Austin weird,” and it seems like the students running its public university are living up to that – because most real Texans wouldn’t stand for such nonsense.

Speaking of which, in the real world, Breitbart reports that the “Texas Senate State Affairs Committee has voted to recommend that the Texas Senate pass both SB 11, the ‘campus carry’ bill, and SB 17, the ‘open carry’ bill. Both bills now head to the full Texas Senate for consideration.”

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IMAGE: ScottBeale/Flickr

After the shooting deaths of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, a Muslim student at the University of Texas, Arlington, claimed she was stalked and threatened by a guy with a gun.

And she had some pretty serious descriptions to dole out to police: Her harasser was white, in his mid-30s, wore a camouflage baseball hat, a short-sleeve blue shirt, jeans, and a black bracelet and a wooden bead bracelet on one wrist, the student told authorities.

The detailed claim prompted the school to put out a security alert.

“The Muslim student told police she was followed by the man for six miles before reaching campus,” the Dallas Morning News reported. “The man who followed her was driving a white Ford pickup with a Texas flag on the antenna.”

“When the student parked her car … she said the suspect got out of his truck, yelled a threat and pointed a gun at her. Afterward, the man left the scene.”

The Daily Caller reports that the student got very emotional about the incident on her Facebook page:

… the student, identified as Ambreen Sharif, wrote, “Im [sic] not going to generalize and say all Americans are like the ones that followed me today but I have to say that others like him will use the Chapel Hill incident of today and continue to do such hate crimes.”

“All we can do is protect ourselves and continue to pray to Allah that this country and its people learn to accept Muslims.”

Sounds pretty serious. Except: It … never … happened.

“The student who reported being threatened at gunpoint by an unknown suspect on campus earlier this week admitted to police Friday that the incident did not happen,” the Dallas Morning News reported.

“University spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan said in a follow up interview with police, the student told police she had not been on campus that day and the confrontation did not happen.”

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The University of Texas has a new Gender Equity Council which is tasked with — get this — researching and battling gender inequality!

It seems that proportionate representation is a big deal at UT, as the college employs almost 800 male professors, but only 230 female professors.

“Imbalance” of this sort is not a “good” thing, you see.

The Daily Texan reports:

The council, which consists of at least one faculty representative from each college or school at UT, met to discuss and advance gender equity efforts on campus. In 2013, the University employed 784 male full professors compared to 230 female full professors, according to data from the University’s Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems.

Janet Dukerich, senior vice provost for faculty affairs and head of the council, said the 25 council members split up at the first meeting into three separate subcommittees to tackle different issues relating to gender inequality at UT: family and health, employment and climate.

This is not the first time the University has looked into the issue of gender inequality. In 2007, Steven Leslie, the executive vice president and provost at the time, established the Gender Equity Task Force to research faculty gender inequality issues on campus and provide recommendations for improvement. The task force published its findings in 2008 and cited promotional lags and salary gaps between male and female professors.

Hmm, I wonder if those “promotional lags and salary gaps” are anything akin to the mythical “women earn only ’77 cents to the dollar’ that a man makes”?

Committee member Hillary Hart, an engineering lecturer, said that “climate issues are harder to attack because the data is more qualitative and more anecdotal, so we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to do this.”

Of that I’m certain. If your university has a council devoted to gender equity, you can bet your bottom dollar it will find those (gender inequality) anecdotes!

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