Board of Regents approve changes to information request rules

Jacob Kerr

After lengthy discussion, the UT System Board of Regents approved changes to the Regents’ Rules and Regulations regarding regent requests for information at a meeting on Tuesday.

With the changes, a regent requesting information will need the support of a second regent at a board meeting if unresolved issues about the request are brought up by the chancellor and the chairman. Additionally, the regent must explain the need for the information in a written request. Board Chairman Paul Foster said the rules are not intended to prevent regents from seeking information.

“In that very rare circumstance, we need to have concurrence by more than one regent before we head down a path that might be questionable,” Foster said. “It’s not a matter of seeking certain data or whatever unless there’s some reason to raise the question.”

Along with other regents, Regent Wallace Hall brought up several issues with the proposed changes. Hall said disputes over information requests were not as exclusive as Foster suggested.

“I don’t believe it’s rare at all,” Hall said. “I see this as, unfortunately, an effort to elude a regent’s ability to get information and to delay.”

Regent Gene Powell, who also serves as one of the board’s vice chairmen, said he was cautious to allow recent events to change the longstanding rules.

“It bothers me that these rules have been set up and operated for many, many years and that, possibly because of some recent circumstance that maybe some of us are less than fond of, we would change something,” Powell said.

After the regents agreed on several amendments to the proposed change — including reducing the number of additional regents needed to support a disputed information request from two to one — the board approved them unanimously. Additional rule changes included prohibiting note taking of discussions during executive sessions.

Hall has been accused by state legislators of overstepping his authority as a regent by filing large records requests to the University and working with other regents to remove President William Powers Jr. from his position. On May 12, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations determined grounds for Hall’s impeachment exist. The committee is scheduled to begin meeting on Wednesday to develop specific articles of impeachment.

In a letter sent to the transparency committee in February, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said Hall followed System procedures in requesting information.

On May 15, Foster publicly asked Hall to resign. In a letter sent to Foster on Monday, Hall said he would not resign and criticized Foster's decision to ask him to do so. After Tuesday’s meeting, Foster said he would not pursue the issue any further.