• UT to remove statues of Jefferson, Wilson on Sunday

    The Jefferson Davis statue was not removed from the Main Mall due to a temporary restraining order filed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The order will be heard by a district judge today.
    The Jefferson Davis statue was not removed from the Main Mall due to a temporary restraining order filed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The order will be heard by a district judge today.

    The University will remove the Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson statues from the Main Mall on Aug. 30.

    According to a press release, moving preparations and wrapping of the statues will begin at 9 a.m., and the lifting and removal of the statues will occur around 10 a.m.

    The Jefferson Davis statue will be relocated to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. University spokeswoman Rhonda Wheldon said a new location for the Woodrow Wilson statue has not yet been determined.

    Wheldon said she has not heard of any new legal actions or filings on the part of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  

    The removal of both statues were originally scheduled for Aug. 15, until the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a temporary restraining order attempting to prevent the University from doing so.

    On Aug. 27, in a temporary injunction hearing, a judge did not grant the injunction to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and allowed UT to remove the statues.   

    Kirk Lyons, attorney for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said relocating the Davis statue to the Briscoe Center goes against the will of former regent and university donor George W. Littlefield.

    Gregory Vincent, vice president of diversity and community affairs, said the center will provide a place for the University community, as well as visitors, to see the statue.

    "The fact that it would be placed in one of the world's history centers is a prominent location," Vincent said Friday at the hearing. "As a professor for over 20 years, learning happens beyond the classroom. The Briscoe Center is a well-received place for students not only at UT but K-12 and community members."

  • Regents vote Powers has no conflict of interest working for law firm, university

    On Thursday afternoon, the UT System Board of Regents voted to allow former president William Powers Jr. to work for both the University and a law firm.

    Jackson Walker L.L.P., a Dallas-based law firm, agreed on Aug. 3 to let Powers join their Austin office as counsel. Powers is currently a distinguished teaching professor at the UT School of Law. Regent Wallace Hall raised concerns about Powers’ conflict of interest working for UT while working for a law firm that is a vendor for the University.

    Dan Sharphorn, System vice chancellor and general counsel, said Powers working for the law firm would not be an issue.

    “[Powers] is counsel to the firm,” Sharphorn said. “He will not be sharing the firm’s name, [and] he will not be involved in directing UT System or UT Austin legal work to the firm. The firm will not engage him as a provider to the UT System or UT Austin.”

    Despite approval from the rest of the board, Hall still voted against the agenda.

    The board also approved Thursday a $16.9 billion dollar budget for the 2016 fiscal year to fund UT’s 14 institutions. Additionally, $30 million will be funded for the Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STAR) program to attract and retain the highest quality professors.

    Dale Klein, associate vice chancellor for research, said this program helps meet goals for all of the System’s universities.

    “This has really been an excellent program,” Klein said. “It really helps all of our universities recruit the talent and objective of teaching these bright young minds.”

    The Board also agreed to provide $15 million to Lynda Chin, associate vice chancellor and chief innovation officer for health transformation, who is working on addressing the problem of diabetes and obesity in the Rio Grande Valley.

  • Court schedules Davis hearing for August 27

    After the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a temporary restraining order Friday, aiming to prevent UT from removing the Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson statues from their locations on the Main Mall, the group’s attorney said an injunction hearing is now scheduled for Aug. 27 at 2:00 p.m.

    Kirk Lyons, the attorney representing the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said a temporary restraining order hearing was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday, but the two sides reached an agreement Tuesday, effectively eliminating the need for a restraining order hearing.

    "Since we already had the temporary restraining order, why did we need the hearing when we already had this?” Lyons said. “So the [University] lawyers agreed to a temporary injunction hearing."

    University spokesman J.B. Bird said the agreement to have one hearing instead of two separate ones does not change UT's plans. The University will wait for a court's decision before removing statues, according to Bird.

    "We are confident we will be able to move forward with the plans," Bird said. "Universities have the discretion under state law to relocate statues on their campuses."

    Lyons said each side will present six witnesses, and he expects more affidavits to be filed. One of his six witnesses will be David Steven Littlefield, a retired administrator from UT's School of Pharmacy and a third cousin to George Littlefield, Lyons said. George Littlefield, a Confederate veteran, former regent and donor to the University, had the original vision to place the Davis statue on campus.

    Last week, the task force commissioned by University President Gregory Fenves submitted options regarding the statues in the Main and South malls, mainly calling for the relocation of the statues on campus. President Fenves decided Thursday the Davis statue would be relocated to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and the statue of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson would be relocated elsewhere on campus.

    The University announced Friday that the statues would be removed from the Main Mall Saturday at 10:30 a.m. However, Friday afternoon, the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a temporary restraining order in district court, and the University agreed to not move the statues until a court reviewed the matter.

    In the complaint, Lyons said President Fenves does not have the authority to move these statues.   

    “UT cannot move the statues without approval from the Texas Legislature, Texas Historical Commission or the Texas Preservation Board,” Lyons said. “Fenves thinks he can act unilaterally and we beg to differ. We are going to court to let them make the decision instead of a non-elected bureaucrat.”

  • University delays removing Davis statue, waits for court to review request for temporary restraining order

    The University will not relocate the Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson statues from the Main Mall on Saturday as planned, after the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans requested a temporary restraining order in state district court Friday afternoon. The University has agreed to wait to move the statues until the court has a chance to look at the case next week.

    “President Fenves' decision to move the Jefferson Davis statue to UT's Dolph Briscoe Center for American History is both the right course forward and consistent with the law,” the press release said. “We are confident we will move ahead with these plans.”

    Marshall Davis, Sons of Confederate Veterans spokesman, said the organization filed the temporary restraining order because of how quickly the statue relocation unfolded since a task force recommended it be relocated Monday.

    “Of course we want the Jefferson Davis statue to stay, but we filed this because of the hastiness of the decision,” Davis said. “In this order we wanted all the parties to look at the ramifications and the original intent."

    According to court documents, the Sons of Confederate Veterans said George Littlefield, a Confederate veteran and UT Regent, established a $250,000 trust fund that as part of it established the Littlefield fountain and the 6 statues in the Main Mall.

    The Sons of Confederate Veterans also said in court documents that the University cannot remove the statue without the approval of the Texas Legislature, the Texas Historical Commission, or the State Preservation Board.

    Following the Task Force on Historical Representation of Statuary’s recommendations, University President Gregory Fenves announced Thursday that the University will relocate the Jefferson Davis statue to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and the Woodrow Wilson statue elsewhere on campus to maintain symmetry in the space.

    The statues were originally set to be removed Saturday at 10:30 a.m., according to an earlier University press release Friday.

    Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the Sons of Confederate Veterans requested a restraining order. The group requested a temporary restraining order.

  • UT System sues Attorney General Ken Paxton

    The University of Texas System has sued Attorney General Ken Paxton in an attempt to restrict access to records requested by the Austin American-Statesman.

    While the attorney general’s office determined some of the information could be released, the UT System said the information was protected under privacy laws, according to the UT System’s original petition, which the Dallas Morning News obtained.

    Paxton’s office ordered the release of information the UT System believes is protected by the constitutional right to privacy.

    The information in question is related to the Kroll report, an independent investigation of UT’s admissions policies released last year, which showed former President William Powers Jr. had admitted under-qualified students to the University.

    The lawsuit comes more than a month after UT System regent Wallace Hall filed a lawsuit against UT System Chancellor William McRaven in an effort to obtain information regarding the Kroll report.

    In a letter released in June, Paxton granted Hall the right to hire a lawyer and advised the Board of Regents to comply with Hall’s requests for records.

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