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Grand Jury Recommends UT Regent's Removal

Mar 31, 2015
Charlie Pearce/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: In an unusual, strongly worded report, a Travis County grand jury recommended this week that University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall be removed from office.

It didn’t, however, indict him or accuse him of any criminal wrongdoing. Instead, it called Hall’s behavior “unaccountable and abusive.”

"Transparency and accountability are key elements in maintaining citizens' trust in their government," the report said. "Regent Hall demonstrated neither accountability nor transparency in his actions."

Mengwen Cao/KUT

A $50 million donation to the forthcoming Dell Medical Center at UT-Austin will establish the Livestrong Cancer Institutes.

The gift, which will be doled out over the next decade, has pushed the university over its fundraising goal to raise $3 billion over eight years and looks to provide a new model of care for cancer patients in Travis County and beyond.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The passing of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has raised talk of his legacy, especially with respect to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Several groups of American scholars, including the American Studies Association, are calling for US universities to boycott their Israeli counterparts. The president of the University of Texas at Austin, William Powers, is hosting a conference of several key figures in higher education this week. One such figure, Hunter Rawlings, President of the Association of American Universities, spoke with KUT's David Brown.

flickr.com/wallyg

The Texas House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations wraps up its investigation this week that could lead to the impeachment of UT Regent Wallace Hall. 

University of Texas President William Powers Jr. and UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa will testify in hearings today and Thursday. Hall is not expected to testify this week. 

Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

Tickets for Microsoft founder Bill Gates' talk at UT are now available online at eventbrite, but for UT computer science students only.

On March 6, Bill Gates will be speaking at UT-Austin to help break in the brand new, $140 million Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall.  The talk is part of the event ">goto_GDC", which is the grand opening event of the new building.

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The UT College of Liberal Arts is co-hosting an open house today that may place thousands of Saudi Arabian students in Texas community colleges.

The open house is organized by The Global Initiative for Education and Leadership and hosted by the Saudi Arabia Cultural Missions (SACM), The US-Alhabra Chamber of Commerce and the College of Liberal Arts.

At the event SACM officials will present their intention to place 8,000 Saudi Arabian students in two-year community colleges. The students are fully funded and sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government, which will includes their tuition, books, medical and housing needs as well as $2,000 to $4,000 a month stipends. 

UT says its main goal is to foster relationships and knowledge between our countries. "Education is one of the ways in which we can begin to build collective futures across these boundaries," says Richard Flores, senior associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts. "Where students begin to know each other, recognize the differences but begin to see the similarities, and begin to build those relationships."

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Over the weekend, some University of Texas email users that read their mail on certain mobile devices received a puzzling pop-up notification. Users on Google Android tablets, or iPads with an older iOS, were asked to sacrifice some privacy features.

When users opened their email app they were not allowed to read their mail until they gave permission for UT to erase data at will, disable cameras, set storage encryption, lock the screen, and monitor log-in attempts. The message looked like this:

Protesters were arrested for occupying UT President Bill Powers' office yesterday.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

UT Students Protest for Workers Rights

The Daily Texan reports a total of 19 protesters, not all of them students, were arrested yesterday for occupying UT President Bill Powers’ office. They were there in protest against alleged sweatshop-like conditions where UT apparel is produced.

The protesters are members of the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition and included 17 students and two members who are not students.

According to the Texan, the demands of the protestors was a request for the University to switch to the Workers Rights Consortium, an independent monitoring organization that conducts investigations of working conditions in factories. A statement on the WRC homepage specifically mentions their goal to protect the rights of workers who make clothes.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/perspective

The University of Texas at Austin has kicked the smoking habit.

The UT System Board of Regents approved the policy this week. So while there are no signs up yet – and ashtrays can still readily be found around the 40-acres – smoking is no longer allowed. UT-Austin Human Resource Services director Adrienne Howarth-Moore says those no-smoking signs will be up soon.

"We have already received an order of our tobacco free campus signs,” Howarth-Moore says. “And so we are developing a plan for implementing those exterior signs, so that they will be prominently displayed for not just our campus community but for the variety of visitors and the general public that come to our campus on a daily basis."

Photo courtesy flickr.com/-jocelyn-

UT to Go Tobacco-Free?

Smoking is already banned in practically all indoor spaces on the UT campus, but to earn a sizeable grant, that ban could soon extend outdoors too.

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UT Board of Regents Negotiate Sale of Players Restaurant

As reported by The Daily Texan, UT’s Board of Regents affirmed their desire to purchase Players Restaurant from owners Carlos Oliveria and Edward A. Hempe. The news came at a Regents meeting in San Antonio on Wednesday.

The university does not have definite plans for the land but is considering adding a building to house the Red McCombs MBA program.  

University spokesman Gary Susswein would not comment on specifics of the sale because a discussion would undercut negotiations.

Photo by Katrina Tollin for KUT news.

If you see uniformed emergency response teams around the University of Texas' Wooldridge Hall this week, don't worry. The U.T Police Department and other Central Texas first responders will use the vacant building for training exercises through Thursday.

Sergeant Scott Weyland said UTPD tries to train in an empty building when one is scheduled for demolition, usually about once a year. Weyland says this week’s training will focus on “active-shooter” scenarios, including suicide-bomber and hostage situations.

Photo courtesy the Texas Forest Service

APD Officer Shoots and Kills Armed Suspect

One man was killed by an Austin police officer early this morning in Southeast Austin.  About 1:00, police responded to a "shots fired" call in an apartment complex on Burton Drive, near East Oltorf Street.

"The suspect's a male Hispanic, about—approximately 29 years of age.  And what occurred in this incident is he was trying to gain entry by shooting into—at a apartment door, trying to get into a house where his ex-girlfriend resided," said Police Chief Art Acevedo.

Courtesy UT-Austin.

University of Texas at Austin President William Powers has been hospitalized.  University officials say Powers was admitted today for treatment of a blockage in an artery leading to his lungs.  The pulmonary embolism was found during a medical exam this morning. 

"They just want to keep him in the hospital for three days, and just monitor it and make sure it goes away.  And he's doing fine," said Nancy Brazzil, a deputy to the President.

Powers was scheduled to speak to a legislative committee tomorrow morning about higher education and the state budget.

Photo by KUT

Wondering why those green signs are taking up parking spots on the UT campus? That’s ZipCar and they are now on campus. It’s similar to the Car2Go car-sharing program in Austin. ZipCar is also on the Baylor and Rice University campuses.

Students, faculty, staff and community members can rent out a ZipCar vehicle. You’ve probably seen them parked at Gregory Gym and near some dorms. The company rents out full-sized vehicles like trucks and mid-sized sedans. Cars can be rented from an hour to as long as four days.

Cleve Bryant
Photo courtesy UT Athletics. Used with permission.

University of Texas’ associate athletic director for football operations Cleve Bryant has taken a leave of absence while UT officials investigate what only being described as “an accusation” made against him.

UT Athletics confirms Bryant took an administrative leave of absence, but won’t say why.