It should probably go without saying that the University of Texas should not have been admitting unqualified candidates. The place that anyone but an Aggie will tell you is the crown jewel of the Texas higher education system should, at a bare minimum, require that those admitted by able to successfully progress academically. Thursday, University of Texas System took a step in that direction, creating a uniform set of admission standards across its nine campuses.
Under the new standards, students can only be admitted outside of the normal admissions process in "very rare" circumstances, quid pro quo admissions are no more and any deviation from the standards must be reported by the UT System chancellor to the Board of Regents. The regents approved the new policy with an 8-1 vote. The lone dissenter was the guy responsible for much of the scrutiny of UT's admission standards in the first place, Regent Wallace Hall.
Hall is the Rick Perry appointee who blew the whistle on a series of admissions decisions made by UT's law school that, if you're being charitable, you might describe as questionable. Texas elected officials and other prominent or wealthy alumni pushed through unqualified family members or friends's family members regularly. Three separate reports on the university's admission's practices in 2014 and 2015 backed up Hall's claims about unqualified applicants getting into UT-Austin and led to the new policy, but Hall doesn't buy that things are going to be fixed.
"I don't think you can say that students were not disadvantaged, and will not continue to be disadvantaged. It's a continuation of the policy," Hall said Thursday. "This memorializes bad acts from a hidden admissions process. That's all this is doing."
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Hall has repeatedly asked to see the results of the Kroll Associates report on UT admissions performed in 2015 but has been refused by UT System Chancellor William McRaven. Both sides have sued the other in the dispute. McRaven said Thursday the new policy maintains needed wiggle room for campus administrators.
"It is important to me that we have a policy that is fair to aspiring students, transparent to the public, and that supports excellence at our institutions,” McRaven said. “We also have designed a policy that gives our presidents the flexibility and authority to do their jobs and to advance their universities.”
As for what might constitute "very rare" circumstances, Deputy Chancellor David E. Daniel, who oversaw writing the policy, cited two examples. A relative of a major donor who was otherwise qualified but went to private high school, might get in, bypassing a state rule that guarantees acceptance for students in the top 10 percent of Texas public high school graduating classes. and so might the child of a professor who was considering leaving the school in question if the kid was not admitted.