• $2,300 worth of UT property stolen this semester, according to UTPD

    Portable electronics remain the most commonly stolen form of UT property this semester, according to University of Texas Police Department officer William Pieper.

    Since the beginning of the semester, a total of $2,300 worth of UT-owned laptop computers, printers and cameras have been stolen from campus, according to UTPD’s Campus Watch.

    Pieper said most thieves who operate on campus are not affiliated with the University.

    “[The thieves] simply come to campus, they walk around and they see items unattended and unsecured and they pick it up and walk away with it,” Pieper said.

    Thieves anticipate getting caught by UT staff members by preparing “canned excuses” for their presence in the building, Pieper said.

    “If somebody does confront them or ask them if they can help them, they will typically have one or two excuses for being there,” Pieper said. “One would be that they are looking for a restroom or, two: they are looking for a specific individual’s office, so what we like to encourage people to do is when they encounter that, to offer good customer service and actually walk them to the restroom or that person’s office. If it’s a thief they will make an excuse and say ‘Oh, I can hold it until I get home’ or ‘I can come back and meet with them tomorrow,’ and they will leave the area.”

    In July, the Campus Watch reported that three bronze letters that spelled the Blanton Museum of Art’s name on the south side of the building had been stolen. The remaining letters spelled “ANN”, which UTPD suggested could be the thief’s name. Repairing the name display cost the museum a total of $500.

    “The Blanton works closely with UTPD on all matters related to security at the museum and its grounds, and continues to monitor the situation,” said Kim Theel, director of operations at the museum.

  • Texas Attorney General has until Sept. 10 to find legal representation

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has until Thursday to find a lawyer to represent him for felony charges of violating state securities laws.

    At a hearing held Aug. 27 in Fort Worth, Paxton’s lead defense lawyer, Joe Kendall, unexpectedly resigned, according to the Dallas Morning News, after Paxton pled not guilty.

    Paxton has been charged with two counts of securities fraud and one count of failure to register with the State Securities Board, all of which the defense said took place before Paxton took office in January 2015.

    “I am innocent of these charges. It is a travesty that some would attempt to hijack our system of justice to achieve political ends they could not accomplish at the ballot box,” Paxton said in a statement. “Regardless, I will continue to serve the people of Texas as Attorney General and continue to fight for the freedoms guaranteed under our Constitution.”

    Criminal defense attorney Pete Schulte raised questions about Paxton’s representation when he announced on Twitter that he would represent Paxton in Kendall’s absence.

    “Clarification will be forthcoming today,” Schulte tweeted. “It’s unfortunate Joe Kendall created this confusion in court today as he was leaving the team.”

    Schulte was incorrect, as the Fish & Richardson law firm issued a statement that said they will be helping Paxton search for representation.

    “Fish & Richardson have been assisting Attorney General Ken Paxton in the retention of legal counsel for his criminal case,” the statement said. “No final decision has been made as to who the members of that team will be.”

    State District Judge George Gallagher initially gave Paxton one week after the hearing to find new counsel but has since granted an extension until Sept. 10.

    On Aug. 3, 2015, Paxton was arrested after a state grand jury indicted him on three felony securities fraud charges but was released on $35,000 bail.

  • 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.”