University of Texas

McRaven Approved as Next UT System Chancellor

The group overseeing the University of Texas System has officially approved Admiral William McRaven as the next chancellor.

The UT Board of Regents approved his appointment at a scheduled meeting today. McRaven will be paid $1.2 million per year to oversee nine universities and six health institutions spread across the state. In a prepared statement, McRaven thanked the regents for their support and praised the current chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa, for his leadership. He added:

“Great universities not only teach—they educate, they build leaders, they create thinkers, and doers—across every aspect of life. This university system should be known for producing tomorrow’s leaders in every field of endeavor.”

Admiral McRaven is a Navy SEAL who has headed the U.S. Special Operations Command since 2011. He led the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden and is a UT graduate who delivered the 2014 UT commencement address. McRaven beat out finalist Richard Fisher, the CEO of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. The board voted to make him a non-salaried UT system employee starting in December, when he’ll begin his term as Chancellor-Designate. He’s then set to replace Cigarroa, who announced in February he would step down from the position, at the start of 2015.

McRaven’s appointment is the first of several major changes coming to the University. After pressure — and threats of firing — from Cigarroa, UT Austin President Bill Powers announced he would resign in 2015. The board is in the early stages of searching for Powers’ replacement.

Capital Tonight: While Politicians Debate Border Issues, Volunteers Step In

The buzz surrounding President Barack Obama’s Texas trip is getting louder, amid calls for him to see the situation at the border while he’s in the state. After much back and forth, he and Gov. Rick Perry have worked out plans to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Dallas, along with some of the volunteer groups who have been helping Border Patrol handle the influx of undocumented children.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard how the Salvation Army and other groups are helping, and why they say the influx of immigrants goes beyond politics. Plus, we spoke to Rep. Dan Flynn about the call for UT Austin President Bill Powers to resign

CAPITAL COMMENTATORS

Political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi joined us to talk about Perry, the president and the border crisis, along with how the location of hazardous materials in Texas is playing into the governor’s race.

CANDIDATE CONVERSATION

Republican Ken Paxton had to fight his way to the Republican nomination for attorney general. Now, the Democratic candidate for that office is making sure the general election is even tougher. Sam Houston joined us to talk about his run to be the state’s top lawyer.

Capital Tonight: What’s Next for UT President Powers?

The fate of University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers is back in the spotlight. The UT System Chancellor and the Board of Regents are set to meet this week and discuss how to handle Powers’ refusal to resign by year’s end.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we heard how Powers and his supporters are responding.

BORDER DEBATE

Meanwhile, the political rhetoric on the border keeps getting hotter, with Republicans and Democrats criticizing the president’s response. We checked in on the latest on that story, plus state Rep. Tony Dale joined us in-studio for an update on the state’s response.

 

ON THE AGENDA

The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to give his take on the day’s political news.

Capital Tonight: A Lesson in Texas’ Rare Impeachment Process

A Texas House panel took another careful step forward Wednesday, beginning the process of drawing up articles of impeachment for UT Regent Wallace Hall. Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry expressed his support for the embattled appointee, calling the committee’s efforts “overwhelming opposition from bureaucrats.”

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard more on how the impeachment process could move forward. Plus committee member Trey Martinez Fischer joined us in-studio to respond to the governor’s comments and talk about where things go from here.

CALM BEFORE THE STORM

The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg gave his take on a surprisingly cordial debate between the Republican runoff candidates for lieutenant governor.

FOOD FIGHT

House Republicans want to let some schools opt out of providing healthier food options if they’re losing money on the federal lunch program. But First Lady Michelle Obama has stepped in, vowing to fight attempts to roll back the standards. We heard from all sides of the debate, including how kids are responding.

Perry issues statement of support for Regent Hall

Gov. Rick Perry today issued a statement of support for UT System Regent Wallace Hall. A select House committee is drawing up articles of impeachment against Hall, who has been accused of conducting a “witch hunt” against UT Austin President Bill Powers.

Here’s the governor’s statement:

“Wallace Hall should be commended for his persistence – in the face of overwhelming opposition from bureaucrats – in trying to ensure the institutions of higher education under his purview are operating effectively, efficiently and within the law. Hall is doing exactly what every regent and every appointee in the State of Texas should be doing: asking tough questions, gathering facts and searching for the truth. Even the chairman of the Board of Regents has said Hall did not commit an impeachable offense or a crime. Texans should be outraged by his treatment, and deeply concerned it will have a chilling effect on those who are tasked with the oversight of state agencies and institutions that they are responsible for.”

UT regent says he will not resign

An embattled University of Texas regent is standing firm, despite calls for his resignation.

According to his lawyer, UT Regent Wallace Hall sent a letter to Chairman Paul Foster today, in response to Foster’s suggestion that he step down. The contents of the letter haven’t been released, but Hall made his opinions clear in a statement released afterward.

“Which approach benefits the UT System, asking the Board of Regents to address wrongdoing, or asking regents who uncover the wrongdoing to resign? Will the public ever know the truth about problems in our institutions if legislators are allowed to impeach Board members who reveal them?”

Hall is accused of abusing the power of his office while investigating UT President Bill Powers. He’s also the subject of an investigation by the Travis County District Attorney’s Office for his handling of confidential student information. Last week, Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster asked Hall to step down but stopped short of a board vote of confidence, which could force Hall out.

Hall’s response comes two days before a House panel is expected to draw up articles of impeachment, which they could then send to the full House. If lawmakers follow through, Hall would be the first non-elected official to be removed from office in state history.

UT reacts to Supreme Court ruling in Michigan admissions policy case

The University of Texas is reviewing Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold a Michigan ban to use race as a factor in college admissions.

In a 6-2 ruling, the justices said voters had the right to change their state constitution to prohibit public colleges and universities from considering race as part of the admissions process. The decision reverses a lower court ruling.

Meantime, the University of Texas at Austin is awaiting a ruling from a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel over its own admissions policy. The Supreme Court ruled on the Fisher v. University of Texas case last summer and sent it back down to the appeals court to enable a look at UT’s admissions policy under a more narrow set of standards.

Prospective student Abigail Fisher sued the university after being denied admission. Fisher, who is white, claimed she was the victim of racial discrimination because other, non-white students with lower test scores were admitted.

Reacting to Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling regarding the Michigan case, UT President Bill Powers said that based on its preliminary review, the university does not believe it has any effect on UT’s admissions policy or decisions.

Powers added:

“In today’s ruling, the court recognized that the Schuette case from Michigan was not ‘about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education.’ The court also reaffirmed that in the case of Fisher versus the University of Texas, the court ‘did not disturb the principle that the consideration of race in admissions is permissible, provided that certain conditions are met.’ UT Austin’s admissions policy meets those conditions and we are awaiting a ruling from a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel. UT Austin uses race as one of many factors in our holistic review of applicants. Assembling a diverse student body is vital to the education of all students on campus and helps train the future leaders of our state and nation who will increasingly work in a diverse and global society.”

Report on UT regent referred to district attorney’s office

The legislative committee investigating UT Regent Wallace Hall has referred a draft report to Travis County officials for possible criminal prosecution. The report, released last week by special counsel hired to investigate Hall, accuses the regent of “gotcha! governance,” “bullying” and “tarnishing of the reputation of UT Austin.”

The Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations was originally convened to look into Hall’s request for massive amounts of documents from the University of Texas, part of what Rep. Jim Pitts referred to as a “witch-hunt” against UT President Bill Powers. But the draft report went much further, pointing out Hall’s actions during the investigation itself as possible grounds for impeachment. Among other things, the report accuses Hall of attempting to coerce witnesses and the disclosure of confidential student information.

Now, investigators are categorizing their findings as possible criminal violations. In a letter to the full committee, co-chairs Carol Alvarado and Dan Flynn said:

“As Co-Chairs, we believe that the Committee has a responsibility to do all it can to safeguard the credibility of its inquiry, the integrity of our state’s institutions of higher education, and the privacy rights of students at the University of Texas. The report notes that Regent Hall’s conduct with respect to protected student information is serious enough to implicate two possible offenses in the Penal Code. In addition, Regent Hall’s conduct may constitute a criminal offense under the Texas Public Information Act.”

Today, the House Sergeant at Arms sent the full draft report to Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and County Attorney David Escamilla, along with the letter outlining those same charges.

The joint committee has not officially adopted the report. If they do, they could still refer their investigation to the Texas House for impeachment proceedings. If the House passes articles of impeachment, the Senate would then conduct a trial.