Virginia: A Cautionary Tale for Texas

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors met today to vote on whether to re-instate President Teresa Sullivan, who was forced to resign earlier this month. While President Sullivan was unanimously reinstated during the meeting, the subsequent turmoil after her resignation – prominent resignations, negative national publicity, tensions among faculty, students and alumni, complaints about a lack of transparency – offers another cautionary tale for Texas about the importance of boards and administrators working collaboratively for the good of the institution and student body.

Today, the Coalition issued the following statement viewing Virginia as a cautionary tale for Texas.

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  • Turmoil resumes at UT over admissions, records requests

     
    The University of Texas System was a battleground over the summer as a legislative panel voted to censure a divisive regent, and President William Powers agreed under pressure to resign next year. The selection of a widely respected new system chancellor, Adm. William McRaven, added to hopes that the controversy might be winding down. University officials confirmed this week that regent Wallace Hall's public records requests, a key issue in the legislative hearings that led to his censure, had continued unabated. And in an Oct. 16 letter to regents Chair Paul Foster, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, expressed dismay that Hall had asked to examine certain unspecified, "potentially confidential" documents.
     
    For nearly a year before his censure, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations looked into the lengthy, personal investigation Hall had undertaken into UT-Austin under Powers. Powers' supporters called the probe a witch hunt to oust the president. They said Hall bullied staff, released confidential student information and sullied the school's reputation in the process. A preliminary investigation found no evidence of punishable wrongdoing. But additional information provided to system officials reignited concerns over UT-Austin's admissions practices and led the regents to hire corporate investigations firm Kroll Associates to undertake a deeper, independent inquiry. Lawmakers hoped the censure and the launch of the independent probe would tamp down Hall's personal investigations, but they haven't.
     
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  • Pressure on the Presidents

     
    Twenty-eight percent of public four-year college and university presidents say they feel pressure from their governors to conduct their presidencies in ways that differ from their judgment about what's best for their institutions.
     
    That is among the findings of the latest snap poll of presidents -- conducted by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed -- on breaking issues. A total of 620 presidents responded to the latest survey. They were assured anonymity, but their answers were grouped by sector. The latest survey was conducted amid the latest push by allies of Texas Governor Rick Perry to force out Bill Powers as president of the University of Texas at Austin, and amid growing debate over the use of climate surveys as one tool to combat sexual assault on campuses. (Powers survived, but in part because he was agreeing to retire anyway, just on his schedule instead of the governor's.)
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