The UT System Board of Regents approved Chairman Paul Foster’s recommendations for transparency and approved the establishment of a Task Force on Intellectual Property at their meeting Thursday.
Foster’s recommendations will be implemented through revisions to the Regents’ Rules and Regulations. The changes call for expanding public access to the System website, which lists all open record requests that have been filed, by publishing the requested documents publicly alongside each request. The changes also seek to specify which individuals are allowed to speak on behalf of individual regents and the board as a whole.
Foster said he thinks regents should be able to ask questions and pursue information through the Freedom of Information Act.
“Members of the Board of Regents have the responsibility and the right to ask questions, seek information, and the public also has a right to know — that is the law,” Foster said. “But beyond that, such transparency is how we get better.”
Regent Wallace Hall said he appreciated the clarity Foster’s recommendations provide in terms of when requested information will become available.
“[I want to applaud], to the extent when a regent asks for information, that you reaffirm the individual right of the regent to request information of their own capacity as opposed to acting only as a board, which I think is important,” Hall said. “It should not only be the right, but the duty of regents.”
Hall is currently under investigation by the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations. Some state legislators accused Hall of overstepping his duties as a regent by filing open records requests with the University for more than 800,000 pages of documents. State legislators have also accused Hall of conducting a “witch-hunt” against President William Powers Jr.
Regent Alex Cranberg said he thinks Foster’s recommendations will help increase transparency in the System.
“I’d also like to applaud the rules change,” Cranberg said. “I think it will help us be able to get much more clarity as to what the extent and requirements would be to satisfy various information requests, and provide clarity also with the general public as to what is actually being asked for.”
The board also approved the establishment of a Task Force on Intellectual Property. Hall and UT-Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari will co-chair the committee.
“Task Force members will be specifically asked to … consider best practices in public University Systems or peer organizations for the disposition and management of intellectual property,” Foster said.