AUSTIN (KXAN) — A University of Texas regent has filed a lawsuit against the Office of the Chancellor of the UT System.
Wallace Hall says Chancellor William McRaven’s office is wrongfully withholding information from an independent investigation looking into claims that some prospective students received preferential treatment when applying to the Austin campus. The document says admissions office staff was “pressured by legislators and other influential people to admit prospective students who were less qualified than those whose applications were denied.”
Hall said he is entitled to the documents, which contain private student data, because “legitimate education concerns” outweigh any privacy matter.
In a statement, the University of Texas System said McRaven believes a regent’s access to information is not above the law, and laws protecting health information, student academic information and other information made confidential by law must be followed. However, McRaven has reportedly offered Hall requested materials on numerous occasions, with the exception of a student’s personal information.
“Where federal or state law makes confidential information that relates to a specific individual, whether it is private health information or an individual student’s protected information, it is our duty to ensure that we strictly comply with those confidentiality requirements,” said McRaven. “I regret that Regent Hall believes the lawsuit is necessary or appropriate, but I am confident that my actions are in compliance not only with what the law requires, but also with what is in the best interest of our students, patients, and employees across the UT System.”
A report released in February by Kroll International private investigators concluded former UT President Bill Powers intervened far more extensively than his predecessors to provide special consideration for certain applicants to the school. The report, which was commissioned by the Board of Regents, found there was nothing improper or illegal, and Powers insisted at the time that it is the smart way to run a major university.
Following the investigation, McRaven created a committee to study admissions practices at the Austin campus.
In March, a Travis County grand jury declined to indict Hall on criminal charges in an investigation into the release of confidential student records. State lawmakers had already censured Hall over his actions during a years-long personal investigation of the campus administration, including Powers.
The four-page report issued by the grand jury contained no charges, but said Hall “used his positional power to the point of abuse,” that his actions lowered morale and caused talented staff to leave or avoid the university, and that he purposely avoided scrutiny by making verbal demands instead of written ones that could be documented.
The grand jury statement echoed previous reports prepared for state lawmakers that criticized Hall’s record requests that topped 800,000 pages, cost more than $1 million in expenses and overwhelmed University of Texas System and Austin campus officials.
The grand jury said that while Hall didn’t break any laws, it was “appalled at (Hall’s) unaccountable and abusive behavior.”Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.