Dismissal procedure sheds light on recent UT resignations

Liz Farmer

The University's forced resignation of two former administrators falls under University employment rules that give the president the power to hire and fire. However, a vice president took the dismissal action against the Texas Student Media director instead of President William Powers Jr.

Under these rules, some administrators serve “at the pleasure of the president.” Serving at the pleasure of the president means that they do not have formal contracts with the University and therefore do not have the same job security as other staff members. Administrative officers including vice presidents, deans, department chairs and various program directors, serve under these terms. Since December, Larry Sager, former dean of the law school, and Gary Borders, former Texas Student Media director, were asked to resign or be fired under this procedure.

Kevin Hegarty, chief financial officer and vice president for the University, is employed at the pleasure of the president and spoke to The Daily Texan on Feb. 21 about this type of employment. He is also the contact for matters about the Feb. 8 resignation of Borders. Borders told The Daily Texan that Vice President of Student Affairs Juan Gonzalez said Borders had to resign or be fired.

“They gave him some time to think about it, but rather than think about it, he resigned,” Hegarty said. “It's viewed as a more graceful way out.”

Hegarty said he is investigating the situation and said Powers cannot delegate such a personnel action to a vice president. He said Powers gave Gonzalez verbal approval to take the personnel action and he has not seen written approval from the president.

Hegarty said this form of employment is also seen in the private business sector.

“It's the freedom to make employer decisions at will,” Hegarty said. “Otherwise, you get into a situation where employees are given bargaining rights.”

Debra Kress, associate vice president for Human Resource Services, said administrative officers are the highest level employees that would serve at the pleasure of the president. Other employee positions require specific criteria for dismissal, but Kress said administrative officers can be dismissed “for any reason or no reason, as long as it's not an illegal reason.”

Kress said dismissals under this process are “not exceptional, it's not infrequent.”