Regents to discuss Dell Medical School, recommendations to improve transparency


Charlie Pearce

The UT Board of Regents will discuss recommendations to complete the first phase of the Dell Medical School project on Wednesday and Thursday.

Madlin Mekelburg

At its February meeting Wednesday and Thursday, the UT System Board of Regents is scheduled to discuss plans for the Dell Medical School and recommendations made by Chairman Paul Foster to improve transparency in the System.

Committees within the board will meet Wednesday to consider several issues, but all decisions will be up for approval by the full board at Thursday’s meeting.  

On Wednesday, the Facilities Planning and Construction Committee will discuss recommendations to complete the first phase of the Dell Medical School project. The medical school, currently in the final stages of design, is expected to receive its first class of students in 2016. In January, Clay Johnston — associate vice chancellor of research and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine — was named inaugural dean. 

The board will vote to approve design development plans and an amendment to revise funding for the Capital Improvement Program, a projection of major construction projects within the next six years that will be partially paid for by the System.

Foster will present recommendations for developing a new screening process for open-record requests filed by regents at Thursday’s meeting. Foster announced his intentions to produce these recommendations at a board meeting in October, as a result of the investigation into the actions of Regent Wallace Hall.

The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations is concluding its investigation into the actions of Hall, who has been accused by state legislators of overstepping his duties as a regent by filing open-record requests with the University for over 800,000 pages of documents.

Some have referred to Hall’s actions as a witch-hunt against President William Powers Jr., whose employment was discussed at the last board meeting in December. The board did not take any action, but System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa recommended Powers remain president at UT.

“In light of [the recent focus on best practices for state governing boards], I believe today is the right time to begin a new discussion on the best ways this board should operate going forward,” Foster said in October. “I have spent [a] significant amount of time thinking about how we can fully discharge our responsibility in the most efficient and transparent way … I am sure each member of the board has done the same.”

Foster’s recommendations include a directive to develop a more productive system for managing, sharing and organizing documents and information. One recommendation calls for the establishment of an official System email address for each regent to use and the addition of language clarifying regents’ duties regarding records and information management.

The board will also discuss the implementation of recommendations from the Advisory Task Force on Best Practices Regarding University-Affiliated Foundation Relationships in August. In November 2012, then-Chairman Gene Powell charged the task force with making recommendations to ensure the UT System’s relationships with its affiliated entities demonstrate the best management, compliance and oversight practices in the nation. Foundations are outside organizations that raise funds for the University. The regents will discuss implementing the recommendations through revisions in the Regents’ Rules and Regulations and approving a model memorandum of understanding — a commitment to conduct interagency business — to be completed by each University and its affiliated foundations.