Today we received a copy of a letter sent to current University of Texas Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster by Charles Miller, criticizing his recent call for fellow regent Wallace Hall to resign. Charles Miller was appointed to the University of Texas Board of Regents in February 1999 by then-Governor George W. Bush. Miller served as Chairman of the Board from 2001 until 2004 and later as the Chairman of the United States Commission on the Future of Higher Education.
He sent the letter via e-mail to the entire Board of Regents early Tuesday afternoon, May 27. His subject line was “From Charles Miller re Your Call for Hall to Resign from U.T. Board of Regents”.
We re-print Chairman Miller’s letter in full:
Dear Chairman Foster,
I was deeply disappointed to read your remarks, and those of other Board of Regents members, suggesting that Regent Wallace Hall resign. It’s hard to imagine more troubling behavior from you than to see such a weak response to other people’s angry criticism of a fellow board member after the Chancellor, with approval of the Board, had firmly declared Regent Hall has violated no laws nor any board rules or procedures.
It’s understandable that the unconscionable behavior of the Texas Legislature puts great pressure on you and the U.T System. Their actions constitute a rare example even considering the behavioral license we grant elected officials.
During the last session the legislature passed resolutions of support for a sitting institutional president, based on an unsubstantiated, false rumor without even the glimmer of fair process—an example of improper interference worse than micro management.
A ‘special’ joint committee was appointed to ‘investigate’ some behavior of appointed U.T. officials that annoyed the ‘leadership’ of the legislature, as if there aren’t enough committees capable doing of their oversight duties. This ‘special’ committee met once to organize and never met again! This follows a ‘special’ committee on the same topic appointed the previous session which spent large amounts of public money and never even produced a report.
Then, in the 2013 session an important legislative leader threatened impeachment of Regent Hall—without a single legislator having a clue what the duties and responsibilities of the legislature are in that serious endeavor. The only shred of evidence was the elevated anxieties of some prominent people. As a result, the Transparency Committee was appointed by the Speaker to examine the possibility of impeaching a successful Texas citizen who volunteered his time and energy in a position of great responsibility.
Only in a totalitarian state would a ‘committee’ behave in such an egregious manner, publicly condemning Regent Hall, meeting often in private, calling and questioning witnesses designed to lead the conclusion, leaking information improperly to the public and making public statements conditioning opinions. In line with show trials in other venues, there was the irony of the Transparency Committee investigating Regent Hall, not about his right to ask for information, not about his obvious interest in transparency as his duty, but whether he wanted too much transparency.
If you allow the despicable behavior of this committee and the earlier interference by the legislature to affect your management of the U.T. System, you will only encourage such behavior in the future. Other crowds—or mobs—will gather and demand this Alice in Wonderland behavior, “Sentence First! Verdict Afterwards.”
You, as Chairman of the Board of Regents, and the Chancellor of the U.T. System need to come clean. You need to describe to the public the serious difficulties that have existed continuously for a long time between the leadership at U.T.–Austin and the Chancellors, the System staff, the various Board members and Chairs—and that these management problems existed long before Regent Hall joined the Board. Only by letting the public know the full story can the full context of Regent Hall’s activities be understood and the wider range of issues be publicly addressed.
Based on the principles of fairness and full disclosure it is the duty of the Board and the Chancellor to tell the whole story to the public and there is no reason to avoid it any longer.
As Edmund Burke, the great 18th century English statesman, wrote to his voters in Bristol, “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion”. It is clear that Regent Hall has been industrious and has given you and the public his best judgement, inconvenient as it may be to the opinion of powerful, special interests.