The upcoming issue of Texas Monthly, which is now online, has an extended article regarding the controversy at the University of Texas at Austin and Regent Wallace Hall. It is an excellent article and gives great insight into Regent Hall and UT President Bill Powers.
Perhaps more importantly for the political observer, it lays bare the conflict with legislative leaders in the Texas House and Senate, some of whom have been exposed for using their influence to gain admission for unqualified students into UT programs. In fact, former State Rep. Jim Pitts is named as the legislator who began the idea of an impeachment investigation of Regent Hall. House Speaker Joe Straus established the “Select Committee on Transparency” to lead that investigation, in what is widely believed to be an attempt to stop Hall from pursuing the possible corruption at the flagship university.
The personal attacks on Hall in numerous Texas media stories have called him “vindictive,” “mean-spirited,” and worse. This name-calling does not seem to concern him in the least, although some legislators, like his neighbor, House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, no longer speak to him. The national media, however, seem to be taking Hall’s side, like the Wall Street Journal, which stated that Hall’s real offense is “exposing the cozy and possibly corrupt relationship between politicians and the university.”
The Texas Monthly article also shows that Hall is committed to doing what he believes is right and takes seriously his fiduciary responsibility as a regent who is required to oversee the university. Other previous UT officials have said he is merely doing the job that all regents should do and he should not be punished just because most regents are unwilling to do their jobs. Even current regents say he has broken no rules.
A close friend of Hall said, “. . . [I]f Wallace feels he is being misled in the slightest manner, it’s game over. He is a dog with a bone, and he doesn’t quit until he gets to the truth, regardless of the pain along the way.” While most legislators may have assumed that Hall would simply resign under the pressure, he apparently has no intention of doing so, and when asked how he felt about the impending impeachment vote in the Texas House, he said, “Bring it on!”
I have to say that in spite of the fact that I have never met Mr. Hall, I admire him—a lot. I think Speaker Joe Straus, former State Rep. Jim Pitts, House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, and Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kel Seliger may all rue the day that the Legislature tried to intimidate Wallace Hall.
In fact, Wallace Hall reminds me of what one longtime director of the Texas Department of Public Safety said about the men who wore the silver or gold star of the Texas Rangers: “They were men who could not be stampeded.” We could use a lot more of that kind of men in elected office in Texas.