University of Texas

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.

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

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.”

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

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.”

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

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!

Read the full article.

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Speaking in the nigh comprehensible language of deconstuctivism, Professor Ben Carrington gave a speech last year stating that the “’white sports media complex’ works to further ‘white privilege’ even as it claims to be ‘post-racial.’”

What makes this talk most interesting is that Carrington was a formal adviser to the university for the hiring of its first black football coach earlier this year. The professor had stated that “the only way for the university to escape its segregationist past was to hire a highly-paid black head football coach.”

The speech, titled “The Global White Sports/Media Complex and the Politics of Sport: Towards a Critical Communications of Sport,” often “referenced Marxist and ‘neo-Marxist’ sources, and

also argued … that “you might think of the sports media complex then as having an important role, a role arguably more powerful than any other social institution, in the ideological transmission of ideas about race and, essentially, of normative whiteness.

“In short, the sports media complex has become the modality through which popular ideas about race are lived.”

Uh huh.

World Tribune.com continues:

“[Charlie Strong’s hiring] reminds them that the institution was a historically white institution. It reminds us of the facts of racial segregation and discrimination that took place at UT and its legacy into the present.”

Carrington then bluntly stated that the whole point of Strong’s hiring was in fact to emphasize race.

“It’s not surprising that [for] some white fans, even mentioning the fact that Charlie Strong is African-American is itself, they’ll argue, a form of racism,” Carrington said.

“That’s to get things backwards. It’s really to acknowledge the existence of race.”

In a more recent lecture on another prominent football school campus, the British-born Carrington detailed how he sees college and professional football as an instrument meant to bolster white racial projections.

On April 4, Carrington gave a guest lecture for the Michigan State University African American & African Studies Department titled, “Love and Fear: Thugs, Sports and the Great White Hope.”

“Taking the so-called ‘epic rant’ of NFL player Richard Sherman as a starting point, I show how the framing of his actions as ‘thuggish’ needs to be located within a longer history of white societal attempts to discipline and control black expressive behavior.

“The invention of the idea of ‘the black athlete’ at the start of the 20th century produces black athletes as both objects for homosocial desire and figures of hate and loathing.

The article notes that Carrington has a history of tweets “on which white people have been the subject of criticism.” For instance:


Read the full article here.

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

OnIslam reports:

Created a year ago at the University of Texas, the U.S.’s first Muslim fraternity is gaining national attention as two chapters have been created at the University of California, San Diego and Cornell, and plans are being made to establish chapters at Pennsylvania, San Diego and the University of Florida. …

With this sense of brotherhood, the fraternity hopes to one day grant its members the networking opportunities that every other fraternity provides.

Read more.