Despite being repeatedly vindicated in his campaign to expose corruption at the University of Texas, Regent Wallace Hall was defeated Friday when the Texas Supreme Court sided against him and in favor of the university.
Appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the University of Texas Board of Regents, Hall originally began investigating admissions practices to determine the validity of whispers at cocktail parties in his hometown concerning a secret admissions process.
In Hall’s affluent community of Highland Park, rumors swirled that prominent lawmakers like the area’s state representative, Dan Branch, had the ability to push otherwise under-qualified students through the admissions process and secure a spot for them at UT.
As Hall investigated the rumor, his suspicions were more than confirmed and the scandal wasn’t limited to Branch, the corrupt system included many in the Texas Legislature and UT administration.
But as Hall’s efforts proved fruitful they also caught the eye of the lawmakers, leading them to mount a full defense of their actions and an all-out attack on Hall.
Ultimately their attempts to bully, intimidate, and even impeach Hall did not succeed and his dogged pursuit of the truth exposed much of the admissions scandal— leading to the ousting of UT President Bill Powers and spurring some lawmakers to retire from the legislature.
Though major victories, Hall would not be content until the entirety of the scandal was revealed and rooted out. To that end, Hall had been seeking access to un-redacted copies of the original documents underlying the report that brought much of the scandal to light. Attempts to see the documents – which would reveal which politicians were aiding which students in the admissions process – encountered fierce resistance from a crony cartel now fighting for its life.
Attempting to access the documents, Hall was denied by both UT Chancellor McRaven and a majority of his fellow board members, conspirators, and influence peddlers themselves. Rejected by the university, Hall was forced to sue McRaven in attempt to see the documents.
Hall’s quest for the truth and his lawsuit quickly proceeded to the Texas Supreme Court, where it was rejected on Friday.
The ruling means Hall’s efforts to expose the corruption at UT will not succeed and the names of the legislators, students, and schools participating in the secret admissions system will likely never be released.
The documents complied by Kroll, Inc. in preparing the group’s audit of the admissions system are currently in the possession of the university system administration. Those documents contain evidence of more than seven hundred students who were initially denied admission but ultimately admitted through a secret, backdoor program reserved for the wealthy and politically connected.
If released publicly, the report would show which students gained admission and at whose request. It would reveal the names of powerful lawmakers that abused the powers of their office to establish a system of patronage and it would allow them to be removed from office and brought to justice.
But it won’t be released publicly.
Instead, Hall’s investigation has been given a death sentence by the Texas Supreme Court, a sentence that will be swiftly administered once Gov. Abbott’s new appointees are confirmed by the Texas Senate and Hall is sent home.
While Hall hasn’t proven successful in unraveling the full extent of the corruption, his efforts have ferreted many of the conspirators out of the shadows. Though the winners of this battle may celebrate for now, they should remember that ultimately their victory will be short lived.
Thanks to Hall, Texans now know those lawmakers who are willing to combat the corruption at UT, those who stay silent, and those who are willing to be accomplices.
And though truth has not won out this day it shall ultimately prevail. In the meantime, the perpetrators of this scandal would be wise to remember the words to a song they know very well:
“The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the livelong day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them
From night ’til early in the morn —
The Eyes of Texas are upon you
Til Gabriel blows his horn.“