Following the lawsuit Regent Wallace Hall filed against System Chancellor William McRaven, the UT System Board of Regents met Wednesday to discuss legal issues regarding access to documents.
The regents met in a closed-door executive session for nearly two hours. Hall was not allowed in the private session and was not permitted to vote because he is the plaintiff and has informed knowledge regarding the case against McRaven.
Hall filed a lawsuit against McRaven on June 28, claiming McRaven withheld information regarding admissions into the University by denying him access to documents because, McRaven said, it would violate Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and put students' privacy at risk.
Vice Chairman Steven Hicks wrote a motion supporting McRaven’s actions, stating the Board supports McRaven’s stance on why they do not want to grant the records to Hall.
Five regents voted in favor of the motion, Regent Alex Cranberg voted against the motion, and Regent Brenda Pejovich abstained from the vote.
“There are two concerns we have about providing the records,” Hicks said. “We are concerned about protecting confidential information and wanting to follow the federal law. It is our duty to protect the students records here at the University.”
In the open discussion, Hick’s motion states that Hall would have access to confidential and nonpublic documents with the exception to those FERPA protects, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or other privacy laws determined by the vice chancellor.
Chairman Paul Foster said it is important to make sure the regents are following federal law while also addressing state and common proxy laws.
“We need to be careful here that we don’t draw it too narrowly because the whole objective is to protect the students’ privacy,” Foster said.
Cranberg said if the Board of Regents starts broadening restrictions then they are on a “different playing field,” both legally and ethically. Cranberg said including common law would make the situation more difficult and would hinder McRaven.
“I am concerned [including common law] creates an opportunity for excessive redaction,” Cranberg said. “Based on my actual experience, there are some documents that are excessively redacted that it is difficult to make any sense of it. I appreciate the chancellor’s effort to move forward with information exchange. I don’t see why we should obstruct [his] efforts.”
Pejovich said she wanted to modify the language of the motion regarding who can delegate access to information because it limited members of the Board of Regents say over a decision. Pejovich said this issue should be voted on separately.
Hicks said he would be willing to clarify the language regarding redactive private information to include FERPA, HIPAA and other privacy laws but did not want to vote on the issue separately.