• UT regent chairman defends Wallace Hall in letter to Jim Pitts

    As the House Transparency Committee took a step closer to possibly impeaching UT System Regent Wallace Hall yesterday, board Chairman Gene Powell wrote a letter to Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, in defense of Hall’s actions.

    In a recent opinion piece in the Austin American-Statesman, Pitts criticized Hall’s large open records requests for information from UT-Austin. Pitts also filed a resolution in the House to impeach Hall last month. In the letter obtained by Texas Monthly, Powell defends Hall’s actions.

    “Clearly, Regent Hall’s activities are misunderstood and I fear may have been intentionally mischaracterized to you,” Powell said in the letter.

    Powell states that Hall, as with any member of the public, has the right to view the documents he requested under the Texas Public Information Act. Hall did not seek information protected by FERPA or HIPAA. According to Powell, Hall has used the information to improve the UT System and UT-Austin.

    “Regent Hall’s reviews of records have resulted in suggestions for process improvement and better governance at the U.T. System and at U.T. institutions,” Powell wrote. “He has provided observations about U.T. System and institutional inefficiencies and compliance concerns to Chancellor Cigarroa and to me.”

    Powell added that Hall had not shared confidential information to individuals outside of the UT System.

    The House Transparency Committee will continue to investigate Hall and plans on holding its next public hearing near the end of August. The committee has stated that it plans to use its subpoena power going forward in its investigation.

    Follow Jacob Kerr on Twitter @jacobrkerr.

  • Students now more invested in their writing because of social media

    Some professors may bemoan the impact of Twitter and texting on students’ writing when they arrive at UT, but a new study suggests young people may actually care more about what they are writing today than in the past.

    Most teachers of middle and high school students find that their students are now involved in the writing process because of the audiences they can reach and the ability to share their writing according to the report, which was released today by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

    Around 78 percent of 2,462 advanced placement and National Writing Project teachers surveyed by Pew said digital tools including cell phones and the Internet had encouraged more creativity among their students. Another 79 percent found that these mediums encouraged greater collaboration among students. 

    Still, teachers said their students' writing was more often “fair” or “good” than “excellent.” Also, students today are more likely to have trouble navigating issues of copyright, or “digesting long or complicated texts.”

  • Painter Hall evacuated because of wires in fire alarm panel

    T.S. Painter Hall was evacuated earlier this morning because of a report of a strange odor, but the building is now being reopened.

    Around 8 a.m. this morning, The University of Texas Police Department recieved a call about a strange odor in Painter Hall that was described as burning rubber, said UTPD Public Information Officer Cindy Posey. Emergency services, including UTPD and the Austin Fire Department, responded to the call.

    "After the invesitgation we discovered that is was wires in the fire alarm panel that had burned out, and the smell was coming from the insulation around the wires," Posey said.

    The building is being reopened, and any classes in the building are expected to resume.

    Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter @bobbycblanchard.

  • The Morning Texan: More rain, Ramadan and more

    According to the National Weather Service, Central Texas is in for more rain today. There is a 60 percent chance of rain today, and it is expected to rain for the rest of the week. The weather may finally clear up Friday.

    Here is some morning reading:

    Yesterday's most read story online: Ramadan started last week, and many students are visiting the Nueces Mosque, the oldest mosque in the city of Austin, which provides free food to Muslims and non-Muslims alike who come on the days of Ramadan.

    In case you missed it: The University of Texas has roughly 4,700 trees on campus that are tended to by a team of six people, who help the trees combat the drought, construction damages and squirrels. UT’s Facilities Services department is working on cataloging the trees on campus this summer to better understand how to care for them and learn more about their history.

    What you have to read: State legislators took a step closer to possibly impeaching UT System Regent Wallace Hall at a public hearing Monday, examining what precedents are at hand for the impeachment of appointed state officials.

  • The Morning Texan: Storms in the sky and at the Capitol

    There is a 90 percent chance it will rain in Austin on Monday, and there is an even better chance it is already raining right now. The National Weather Service has put a flash flood watch into place until tomorrow at 7 a.m.

    The Capitol is about to get a little stormy as well. Later today, the Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations will hold a public hearing for testimony on the ongoing UT System Board of Regents controversy and the accusations that regents are micromanaging UT President William Powers Jr. This committee could eventually recommend to impeach one of the regents.

    Unlike many committee hearings at the Capitol, this one will not be live-streamed. The Daily Texan is sending Jacob Kerr to cover the meeting. You can follow him on Twitter @jacobrkerr.

    Here is some morning reading:

    This weekend's most read story online: While abortion legislation passed the Texas Senate in a 19-11 vote that was almost along party lines Friday night, Texas Democrats remained determined at rallies, leading at the Capitol.

    In case you missed it: The Daily Texan podcast was recorded and went up Friday. Abortion legislation, the UT System Board of Regent meeting and even the death of UT's albino squirrel are covered. Check it out here. 

    What you have to read: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced his campaign for governor in San Antonio on Sunday.