From the very beginning, top Texas legislators and key officials at the University of Texas have offered only one response to revelations of wrongdoing brought forward by UT System Regent Wallace Hall of Dallas -- absolute denial, backed up by a yee-haw hog-hunting bloodlust for Hall's scalp. The more they do it, the deeper they dig.
In the last few days, the corrupt practices discovered by Hall -- funny money at the law school, secret backdoor admissions for relatives of legislators, bogus accounting of endowment funds and more -- have spurred a cascade of negative external consequences for UT.
Plaintiffs in the longstanding Abigail Fisher reverse discrimination litigation this week filed a new writ in the U.S. Supreme Court charging that the university's system for achieving racial diversity "is a sham," citing evidence first discovered by Hall and confirmed in subsequent investigations.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni in Washington yesterday issued a blistering condemnation of efforts we told you about here Monday by a state senator who wants to pass a law against university trustees asking too many questions. Citing the Enron debacle, the council warns that putting directors in blindfolds and handcuffs is exactly the wrong way to go in seeking institutional responsibility.
Just in case somebody thought there was anything "conservative" about Amarillo Republican state Senator Kel Seliger's attempt to hog-tie university trustees and regents, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin, weighed in yesterday: Thomas K. Lindsay, director of the foundations' Center for Higher Education, wrote an open letter to Seliger explaining to him the concept of fiduciary responsibility:
"'Fiduciary'" derives from the Latin fiducia, for 'trust,'" Lindsay told Seliger. "A trustee possesses the legal power and duty to act on behalf of others, both the school and the Texas citizenry, under conditions requiring both complete trust and complete openness."
It's the same thing lawyers hired by a faked-up impeachment committee in the Legislature told the committee about the charges it wanted to bring against Hall for asking too many questions: Asking questions was the dude's job, people. You're supposed to ask questions, too, you know.
I am providing a copy of the new Fisher suit writ below. It points to incontrovertible evidence that the university already in the Fisher litigation has concealed important aspects of its admissions procedures from the original trial court, from an appeals court and from the Supreme Court. Whatever that position may be legally -- getting caught hiding stuff from the Supreme Court -- it feels to this layman like a bit of a pickle.
That's the whole thing here. Way back at the beginning when Hall started asking tough questions about practices at UT, there was another way the university and its sponsors in the Legislature could have gone.
First of all, Hall doesn't shoot to miss. Every single allegation he has made has been confirmed in full by subsequent investigations, and then some. University President Bill Powers and his legislative pals could have figured that out -- the guy just doesn't miss -- and then moved in exactly the opposite direction They needed to take the allegations seriously and act to reform the bad practices.
Instead every bloody inch of the way they have fought to muzzle Hall, to bring criminal charges against him and now to make it illegal for trustees and directors in the future to ask the same tough questions Hall has asked.
You may think this is overdrawn, but I think the Legislature so far had displayed the morals of the Mafia. Instead of seeing a truth-teller in Hall, they want to rub him out for squealing on them.
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And now this mentality has placed the university in front of the Supreme Court of the United States having to explain why it did not reveal to the court the secret backdoor admissions system for children of legislators with low test scores.
Whatever else that may be, what an absolutely stupid place for a university to find itself sitting in.