Former UT System Regent Wallace Hall said there is innate corruption in higher education at a discussion held Wednesday in light of the college admissions scandals.
During the event, hosted by The American Council of Trustees and Alumni and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Hall gave his take on the college admissions scandal that affected many universities — including UT — earlier this year.
Michael Center, former UT men’s tennis head coach, was accused in March 2019 by the U.S. Department of Justice of accepting a bribe worth approximately $100,000 in exchange for admitting a student onto the UT men’s tennis team, and thereby into the University, in 2015. In April, Center pleaded guilty in federal court for his role in the admissions scandal, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In 2011, years before the college admissions scandal, Hall was investigating potential legislative influence over UT’s admissions practices. In response to his inquiries, a state legislative committee attempted to impeach him, and he was given a censure for misconduct or unfitting behavior. Hall said the situation has not improved since he was a regent.
“We simply asked questions, and then we were battered,” Hall said. “When you raise your hand, they will isolate you as they did with me.”
Despite roadblocks, the investigation eventually led to the resignation of Larry Sager, then-dean of the School of Law, and changes to the University’s admissions practices. A lack of responsibility in state politicians and a lack of power in the Board of Regents led to both the UT Law School scandal and the admissions scandal, Hall said.
“The people that have the power, they’re the ones that need to be held accountable,” Hall said. “The politicians that control funding … and appoint board members.”
In March, the U.S. Department of Education announced its investigation of admissions practices at the eight universities involved in the scandal.
“The allegations made and evidence cited by the Department of Justice raise questions about whether your institution is fully meeting its obligations,” Department of Education officials wrote in a letter.
University spokesperson J.B. Bird previously told The Daily Texan the University will continue to cooperate with law enforcement regarding the case. In a campus-wide email sent in March, UT President Gregory Fenves said the University would review their policies to prevent further violations.
“Our goal is to find out what went wrong, if the problems extended beyond a single incident, where the University came up short and how we can enhance our rules and procedures to prevent anything like this from happening again,” Fenves said in the email.
However, Hall is less optimistic about these reviews. Hall said funding operations from universities have made it harder to hold them accountable.
“I don’t think that it’s acceptable for President Fenves to say we’re going to review our policies on admission,” Hall said. “They’re still cheating at a very high level, and I would push to know who is being let in outside of the holistic process.”
Hall said while it seems like these issues can only be solved within the level of the University administration, students can still make a difference by attending the UT System’s board meetings.
“(At UT System) board meetings, anybody can come and go before the board and speak for two minutes,” Hall said. “If the students want to do something, they should organize, they should demand time to come down there … demand that they do something about transparency in admissions and tell them why it’s important to (students).”