Board of Regents chairman refutes O’Donnell’s claims

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UT System Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell refuted Rick O’Donnell’s statement about Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa encouraging donors and alumni to oppose the Regents’ efforts, according to a press release.

Last Friday, the System and O’Donnell reached a settlement of $70,000, in which the former special adviser agreed not to sue the Regents over his dismissal. O’Donnell was hired in March but dismissed in April after controversy erupted over his views on higher education and were disputed by the UT administration and groups like UT alumni network the Texas Exes.

After reaching the settlement, O’Donnell criticized University administrators, Cigarroa and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, for their handling of the situation. He told the Austin American-Statesman on Monday that Cigarroa discouraged efforts to obtain the faculty productivity data and that officials were attempting to quell his right to free speech.

Powell said in the statement that Regents have a good relationship with Cigarroa and that the board fully supports his vision of advancing excellence in academics and research.

“The comments made by Rick O’Donnell in today’s Austin American-Statesman with regard to his recollection of interactions with the leadership at the University of Texas System are unfortunate,” Powell said in the press release. “At no time did Chancellor Cigarroa encourage donors and alumni to actively oppose efforts by the Board of Regents and Mr. O’Donnell to obtain various data. Furthermore, Chancellor Cigarroa did not encourage ‘a brutal campaign’ against specific members of the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents has an excellent relationship with Chancellor Cigarroa and fully supports his vision and commitment to advance excellence in education, research, patient care and service across the great University of Texas System.”