Reeve Hamilton, Texas Tribune

Texas Tribune Reporter

Reeve Hamilton has interned at The Nation and The Texas Observer, for which he covered the 2009 legislative session. Most recently, he was a desk assistant at The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. A Houston native, he has a bachelor's degree in English from Vanderbilt University.

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Stuart Seeger via Texas Tribune

Recommendation letters written by elected officials and submitted directly to a university president have been a source of controversy at the University of Texas at Austin. And while Texas A&M University’s president has received similar letters, they have not set off similar alarms.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

In a 6-1 vote on Monday, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations approved a motion to admonish and censure University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall for “misconduct, incompetency in the performance of official duties, or behavior unbefitting a nominee for and holder of a state office.”

The focus of the committee's inquiry has been the regent’s behavior since being appointed to the board in 2001, in particular his lengthy personal investigations of the University of Texas at Austin administration and his subsequent handling of private student information.

Some of Hall’s findings, such as his allegations that the flagship university is subject to undue political influence in its admissions processes, have led to formal inquiries and policy changes.

US Navy

On a conference call Tuesday evening, the University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously named Admiral William H. McRaven the sole finalist to be the next chancellor of the system.

McRaven, a Navy Seal and current commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, is perhaps best known for designing and coordinating the successful operation to kill Osama bin Laden.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

The University of Texas System Board of Regents has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, when they are expected to name the sole finalist to be the system's next chancellor. Sources with knowledge of the search told the Tribune that Admiral William H. McRaven is likely to be chosen.

McRaven is a Navy Seal best known for coordinating the successful operation to kill Osama bin Laden. He is currently the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, which is headquartered in Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Bob Daemmrich / Marjorie Kamys Cotera

University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa has asked University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers to resign ahead of the Board of Regents’ July 10 meeting or be fired at it, multiple sources confirmed to The Texas Tribune on Friday. The sources said Powers informed Cigarroa in writing that he will not resign, but is willing to discuss a timeline for his exit. 

UT-Austin officials said they could not comment on any private conversations between Cigarroa and Powers. Neither Powers nor Cigarroa could immediately be reached for comment. 

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall, who was asked to resign last week by the chairman of the board of regents, sent a letter to the chairman on Monday saying he does not intend to do any such thing, according to Hall's lawyer.

At Thursday's board meeting, chairman Paul Foster said that Hall could take "a selfless step to benefit the UT System" by stepping down from his post. According to a system spokeswoman, as of Monday afternoon, Foster had not yet received Hall's letter responding to his comments.

Last week, a legislative committee had agreed that grounds exist to impeach Hall, who has been scrutinized for conducting personal investigations of the operations of the University of Texas at Austin that some have characterized as an abuse of his office.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Three days after a legislative committee said there were grounds to impeach University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall, the chairman of UT’s board of regents called on Hall to resign.

During an open meeting of the board Thursday, Paul Foster said that Hall has created controversies that have distracted the board from its obligations.

"We spend a huge percentage of time dealing with him rather than dealing with the issues of the system," Foster said. He also directly addressed Hall, saying his resignation "would be the most beneficial action you can take at this time." 

Texas Tribune

Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas-Pan American are on a list of higher education institutions under investigation for possible violations of federal law in their handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

For the first time, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released the comprehensive list of schools under investigation for issues relating to Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender at institutions that receive federal financial assistance.

KUT News

More than 100 faculty members at the University of Texas at Austin signed a letter this week expressing concern and dismay over a proposal to centralize and consolidate services such as human resources and information technology.

That shared services model would combine administrative services now located and staffed in individual departments of the university in an attempt to save millions of dollars annually.

In the letter to UT-Austin President Bill Powers, faculty members posited that such a move would harm the university's sense of community. "People choose to work at the University of Texas at Austin because they believe in its educational and social mission," the letter said. "Adoption of a shared services model will weaken departments’ commitment to those missions by devaluing bonds between faculty and staff that develop from working toward common goals."

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

There could be grounds to impeach University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall on at least on at least four different counts, according to a report by the special counsel to the legislative committee that has been investigating the controversial gubernatorial appointee.

The report, which was obtained by the Tribune on Monday night on the condition that it not be published in its entirety, is the handiwork of a team led by Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, which reviewed more than 150,000 pages of documents and sat through dozens of hours of interviews and testimony before the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations during the second half of 2013.

Texas Tribune

The SAT, a standardized test that for many students is an intimidating hurdle to clear en route to college admissions, is about to undergo a major redesign. Among the changes being announced by The College Board in Austin on Wednesday: The test will revert to a 1600-point scale, and the essay portion will be optional and scored separately.

According to the Texas Education Agency, more than 182,000 Texas public high school students took the SAT, the ACT (another test used in college admissions developed by ACT, Inc.) or both exams in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. That total represents nearly 69 percent of all public high school graduates in Texas.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

 Among young Texans who started eighth grade in 2001, less than one-fifth went on to earn a higher education credential within six years of their high school graduation. And rates were even lower among African-American and Hispanic students and those who were economically disadvantaged, according to data analyzed by two state education agencies and presented Tuesday in a Texas Tribune news application.  

Since 2012, Houston Endowment, a philanthropic foundation and sponsor of the news app, has advocated for the use of “cohort tracking” to evaluate the state’s education pipeline. The analysis begins with all Texas students entering eighth grade in a given year and follows them for 11 years, giving them six years after high school to earn a post-secondary degree.  

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

After reviewing University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall's handling of information that may be confidential under federal student privacy laws, outside lawyers for the system have concluded that there was "no credible evidence of a violation of [the state government code] that would warrant a referral for criminal prosecution."

Callie Richmond for Texas Tribune

University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall has declined an invitation to testify this week before the legislative committee that is conducting an investigation of his actions as a regent — an inquiry that could result in a recommendation that he be impeached.

The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations is scheduled to meet on Wednesday and Thursday. They have subpoenaed UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers to testify. They opted not to issue a subpoena for Hall, though they hoped to hear from him.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The University of Texas System Board of Regents plans to discuss the employment of University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers during a closed-door executive session at its board meeting on Thursday.

Powers' job at the flagship university, which he has held for nearly eight years, has been believed by some to be in jeopardy since the appointment of new board members in 2011. Multiple board meetings have been preceded by rumors of his impending ousting, but the speculation has consistently proven incorrect.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

As the University of Texas System Board of Regents convenes for its annual August meeting Wednesday and Thursday, a gathering fraught with tension and anxiety is all but assured.

The nine regents have been bathed in controversy for more than two years, and — despite racking up a number of accomplishments, including the creation of a major new university in South Texas — have only managed to sink deeper over time.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

As his followers know, Attorney General Greg Abbott, widely considered the frontrunner to be Texas' next governor, manages his own Twitter feed. It's not uncommon for him to use it to thank his supporters. 

But his appreciation for a supporter's tweet on Sunday night — one that called state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, an "idiot" and a "Retard Barbie" — has fast become the most controversial moment of Abbott's young gubernatorial bid. And it has highlighted the high-risk, high-reward proposition of letting a candidate handle his or her own social media.     

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Update (June 21, 3:26 p.m.): State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said Friday afternoon that his effort to unseat University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall is still very much alive in the last days of the session, and said he is confident he has the necessary support in the House. Aides to Gov. Rick Perry have been lobbying members to leave Hall in office, but Pitts said he's got the numbers right now.

Original story: The House's chief budget writer and a longstanding critic of the University of Texas System regents is attempting to launch impeachment proceedings against University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed a bill on Monday to clarify the open records obligations of state agencies, including — some would say specifically — the University of Texas System.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Longtime employees of the University of Texas System said they could not recall a split vote on the board of regents, which has traditionally settled differences behind closed doors and presented a unified front. That changed on Wednesday, catching higher education observers and even some lawmakers off guard.

The board voted 4-3 — Chairman Gene Powell and another member were absent — in favor of commissioning an external review of the relationship between the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas Law School Foundation, an independently run fundraising organization.