School of Law

Civil rights lawyers, from left to right, Rebecca Robertson, Christine Henry Andresen, Ian Pittman and Elizabeth Brenner held a panel discussion at the School of Law on Friday.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Carpenter | Daily Texan Staff

During a panel discussion at the School of Law on Friday, civil rights lawyers warned of backlash if Texas’ constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is lifted.   

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Austin LGBT Bar Association and family law firms said a backlash from conservative political forces could adversely affect Texas’ lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, even if the Supreme Court rules that state same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional.

Lawyers discussed the ways that the state legislature could still use loopholes in anti-discrimination laws and new laws to hurt the LGBT community in areas such as housing, employment and adoption.

“If you were to poll people and ask if they thought LGBT Texans have protection against employment discrimination, you would find most people think they already exist because they are so fundamental to being a full participant in our society,” said Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director of the ACLU of Texas. “In reality, we do not have any protections for LGBT Texans in our state.”

Ian Pittman, a partner at the family-law and estate-planning law firm Jorgeson Pittman LLP, said state government could also use the “power of the purse” to control state employees to prevent them from following Supreme Court precedents.

Robertson said an example of this practice is Rep. Cecil Bell’s (R-Magnolia) bill, HB 623, which entered the Texas Legislature on Jan. 8. The bill says any employee of the state who acts against Texas’ ban will be deprived of salary and any other employment benefits.

Panelists and members of the audience said there were several opportunities for lawyers and law students to help expedite the LGBT movement in Texas.

“In our current session, there are three LGBT lobbying days scheduled, and I cannot overemphasize the importance to have attorneys and law students appear before the legislature and talk about these issues,” said Gary Schumann, founding partner of Savrick, Schumann, Johnson, McGarr, Kaminski & Shirley LLP.

Robertson said she thinks the backlash will create additional movement towards equality.

“When we hear about people who returned happy from their honeymoon, came to work the next morning, shared their story with their boss and got fired without recourse, it may create some momentum for an employment nondiscrimination act on the state level and federal level that would finally extend those protections,” Robertson said.

Rudy Corona, computer science junior and vice president of the Secular Student Alliance, said the next step for the LGBT community is transgender rights. He said members of the transgender community face a litany of problems that might be beyond the attention of the public.

“[Even] public bathrooms can be an uncomfortable place for transgender people because they might not be welcome to the bathroom of their choice based on their gender,” Corona said.

Two UT alumni recently donated $1 million to the School of Law’s Pro Bono Program.

Richard and Virginia “Ginni” Mithoff first contributed $1 million in 2009 when the program was established. The couple recently gave another gift of $1 million to expand the program’s membership and provide more pro bono work.

Eden Harrington, director of the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, said the school was fortunate to get the first donation from the Mithoffs.

“The law school wanted to create a pro bono program that was school-wide,” Harrington said. “The pro bono program was created in 2009, and they helped launch the program.”

According to Harrington, the program’s goals are to increase access for people who are underserved, help build professional skills for law students and encourage the members of the program to participate in pro bono work throughout their careers.

“[The Mithoffs] are our key supporters and most generous supporters,” Harrington said. “They’re not the only people who supported the program, but they helped create the program with their first gift. Their second gift supports meaningful endowments and activities.”

Richard Mithoff, also a board member of the University of Texas Law School Foundation, said the original goal was to create one of the finest pro bono programs in any law school, and he believes it has become just that.

“The program is designed to give professional, real-world work experience but also to provide legal work to those who cannot help themselves,” Mithoff said. “The program covers immigration issues [and] landlord-tenant issues. The students can work alongside lawyers and help people who need help.”

Mithoff said he tries to lead by example, in the same way that Judge William Wayne Justice inspired him.

“I encourage the lawyers in our firm to take on pro bono matters like addressing the rights of children and addressing other issues related to those who cannot help themselves,” Mithoff said. “When I went to work with [Judge William Wayne Justice], he was still handling segregation cases and civil rights issues. Judge Justice was an inspiration for me and putting together this endowment for this pro bono program.”

Law professor Henry Hu will receive the Massey Prize for his research in the field of law. Hu, who has been with the University since 1987, is a leading thinker in law and finance.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Law professor Henry Hu will be the second person to receive a Massey Prize for Research in Law, Innovation, and Capital Markets from the School of Law for his scholarly work in the capital market and corporate governance.. 

The Massey Prize, established in 2009, was created through a gift from alumni John and Elizabeth Massey. The prize is awarded to an individual who has completed innovative research in the field of law.

Hu said the prize has given him new inspiration to revolutionize the way the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approaches certain economic dilemmas. After joining the University faculty in 1987, Hu was hired by the SEC’s Division of Risk, Strategy, and Financial Innovation to head the division of economic and risk analysis, a job which he held from 2009-2011.

According to Hu, a pressing issue in the field of economics is the complexity of the circumstances required to be explained to investors by corporations before investments are made. He believes a solution to this problem is to simplify the process by giving the necessary information to investors, allowing them to analyze the information themselves.

“What I’m calling for involves a rethinking of the basic approach to information that’s been used by the SEC since the Great Depression,” Hu said. “New approaches to information are essential.”

 Hu said this proposed solution, along with a number of other ideas and terms that he has coined, comes from his combined knowledge of science, law and economics.

 “You need a very eclectic approach to deal with today’s very complex problems and transactions — knowing just the legal rules is not enough,” Hu said. “The exercise of genuine judgment and the bringing together of different fields in creative ways can be critical.”

Upon graduating from Yale Law School, Hu worked as a clerk for Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Higginbotham said the award is an honor not only for Hu, but for the rest of the law school faculty. He said Hu impressed him early in his career when he first started working with Hu.

“He was an extraordinary, bright young man, and some of his greatest characteristics include quickness in mind, coupled with powerful self-discipline,” Higginbotham said. “I’ve known him to be very hardworking, and when you put together a brilliant mind and hard work, what you get is a productive scholar.”

A symposium celebrating Hu’s award will be held Sept. 26. The keynote speaker at the symposium will be Robert Charles Clark, Harvard University distinguished professor and former dean of Harvard Law School. Ward Farnsworth, law professor and dean of the UT law school, said the event will be a fitting tribute to Hu’s work.

“It’s a ‘who’s-who’ of the leading thinkers in the country at the intersection of law and finance,” Farnsworth said. “It will be a day of great conversations and a day to celebrate one of UT’s wonderful faculty members.”

Hu said success has always been hard for him to define, regardless of his passion and interest in the field.

“I relished opportunities to work on complex and fascinating financial innovation related matters,” Hu said. “Whatever ‘success’ might mean, you can never anticipate it.”

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

In a talk at the School of Law on Monday, Laura Carlson, associate professor at Stockholm University School of Law, and Samuel Bagenstos, professor at University of Michigan School of Law, both said a main difference between the Swedish and United States’ approach to employment discrimination is the way the two countries view legislation.

The talk, which focused on approaches to employment discrimination between Sweden and the United States, was part of the Rapport Center’s 2014 Colloquium on Comparing European and North American Approaches to Human Rights.

Carlson said that, in Sweden, legislation is viewed as an extreme measure, and not a solution to solve problems the country may be experiencing.

“Legislation is seen, at least in the Swedish context, as a last ditch effort because society has failed.” Carlson, who has lived in Sweden for 20 years, said.

According to Carlson, Sweden is a society based on social rather than individual justice, and the difference between the two is that social justice lacks legal justice.

“Social justice, in some ways, excludes individual justice,” Carlson said. “What happens with social justice is that it says society as a whole has to have these levels, but the individuals don’t receive the same attention.”

Bagenstos highlighted what he said he believed to be issues in the way the United States approaches discrimination against the disabled. According to Bagenstos, it is hard to find attorneys to fight against employer discrimination.

“The basic problem with finding attorneys is that it is very difficult to prove a case that you have not been hired because of any particular characteristic,” Bagenstos said.

Bagenstos said that it is easier to prove employment discrimination in the United States than in Sweden because statistical evidence is excluded from plaintiffs’ cases in Sweden. In 2011, there were a total of 300 lawsuits filed based on the merit of employment discrimination. 

Tovah Pentelovitch, a graduate student in social work and law, said the political polarization the United States faces slows down the process of creating laws to aid employer discrimination.

“Governments have trouble coming to a common ground where they can create policies that can help the most people,” Pentelovitch said.

According to Pentelovitch, an effective method of preventing employment discrimination is to host more talks like the Rapport Center’s Colloquium, as they give students a global perspective and incite conversation.

In a high-profile criminal case defending activist-journalist Barrett Brown, professors and students of the Civil Rights Clinic within the School of Law influenced the U.S. government’s decision on Wednesday to dismiss eleven of the twelve counts with which Brown was charged.

According to the arrest warrant, Brown was arrested in September of 2012 and was formally indicted three months later for “Threatening Communications and Counseling, Commanding, and Inducing the Publication of Restricted Information” — or trafficking data — after he copy-pasted a hyperlink from a private Internet chat room to a public one.

The hyperlink transferal, underpinning the entire online free speech case, was contested in a 43-page motion for dismissal of indictments. The brief was written by professors and four students of the Civil Rights Clinic, a group within the School of Law representing low-income clients in a range of civil rights matters including free speech. Just two days after filing the motion, the U.S. government voluntarily dropped all but one of the charges against Brown.

Ahmed Ghappour, clinical instructor for the law school, spearheaded the work done by the clinic on the case. Ghappour remains under gag order and confidentiality laws but said his team will continue to work to defend Brown’s rights.

“Mr. Brown is presumed innocent of all charges, and the defense anticipates challenging the legal and factual assumptions that underlie those charges,” Ghappour said.

The law students who worked on Brown’s case were supervised by attorneys but did a tremendous amount of work for the case, according to Ranjana Natarajan, clinical professor and director of the Civil Rights Clinic. Natarajan said she believes the four law students involved with the clinic have gained valuable skills through this case.

“I think this has been a great experience because the students study the impact of the First Amendment but also get to see how it’s applied in a context with high stakes,” said Natarajan. “They represent real clients and real matters.”

The future is still uncertain for Brown as the case remains open with one charge. Ward Farnsworth, dean of the law school, said the work the clinic has put in so far is a big point of pride.

“The Brown case has received national attention,” Farnsworth said. “Our students and clinicians have worked very hard on it, and we’re proud of what they accomplished.”

As the attorney general investigates the University of Texas Law School Foundation, legislators and former Foundation trustees are continuing to hammer out the fine line between the University and the private institutions that support the 40 Acres.

In a 4-3 vote last month, the UT System Board of Regents decided to begin a new external review of the Foundation’s relationship to the University. In 2011, President William Powers Jr. asked Larry Sager, then dean of the School of Law, to resign after it was revealed Sager received a $500,000 forgivable loan as part of a program administered by the Foundation. Regent Wallace Hall claims Powers was aware of the loan, which Powers denies.

Powers, who was dean of the law school before becoming president, said in an interview with The Daily Texan that the Law School Foundation has historically maintained full transparency and has now corrected its failures to disclose information.

“It is important that the salaries and other benefits they are making decisions on are known to the University,” Powers said. “It was the case during my tenure at the law school, and they have since corrected themselves.”

A report on the foundation released after Sager resigned found the structure of the forgivable loan program to be “not appropriate.” The author of the report, System general counsel Barry Burgdorf, has since resigned, and a regent committee has recommended setting this report aside in the ongoing investigation.

Burgdorf declined a request for comment on the facts of his report or on the new investigation. Several legislators sent a letter to the regents that compared the start of a second investigation to a personal attack on Powers. After scrutiny from the Texas Legislature, the regents agreed to have the attorney general conduct the investigation instead of hiring an outside firm to conduct one.

The foundation was founded in 1952 and has provided faculty members loans for housing, deferred compensation and other forms of payment to attract and retain them at UT. Over the past 11 years, the foundation has provided $75 million to the law school and its faculty. The foundation is currently valued at $213 million with 596 endowments.

Shannon Ratliff, a former trustee of the foundation and a former UT System regent, said it is a “shame that the Foundation had been caught up in politics.”

“I wish I knew how the Law School Foundation had any bearing on the current debate over the direction of the University,” Ratliff said. “I can’t believe you could find so much fault with a foundation whose sole purpose is to give the law school additional resources to succeed.”

Ratliff said the foundation’s independence from legislative oversight will allow it to help the law school maintain a diverse student body if the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the University in the pending case Fisher v. Texas.

If the court decides against the University, a student’s race would likely no longer be allowed as a factor in admissions decisions. Ratliff said he believes the foundation would focus its student recruiting efforts on attracting students from underrepresented groups if that happens.

After a federal circuit court decision in 1996 banned the University from factoring race into admissions, Ratliff said the foundation focused its scholarship funding on underrepresented groups — something an internal fundraising unit would have been unable to do. The Supreme Court overturned the 1996 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003.

John Massey, president of the foundation, said it had “learned [its] lesson the hard way,” but would like to begin discussions with the attorney general’s office on providing similar forms of assistance for faculty that are appropriately disclosed to the University. Massey testified before a legislative committee focused on government transparency and has since declined requests for comment.

“We can use [forgivable loans] for someone just beginning his career, we can give some money that they can use right now, and that puts a kind of golden handcuffs on them because it’s forgiven over a period of time,” said Ward Farnsworth, current dean of the law school. “Those are advantages that a simple salary will not achieve.”

Farnsworth said assistance from the foundation has helped the school maintain higher faculty salaries and lower tuition for students than the state could afford on its own.

The University is already in discussions with the attorney general’s office to find a way to resolve 16 other outstanding loans made under the forgivable loan program without punishing law school faculty for receiving these loans, University spokesman Gary Susswein said. Susswein said the outstanding loans may be paid through the University payroll to the faculty members.

About $300,000 of Sager’s loan has been forgiven, although he still owes the foundation $200,000 plus interest. Of the $5.4 million paid out under the program, $3.27 million has been resolved. Other faculty loans were valued at less than Sager’s, but one was for $250,000, Massey said.

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William Powers, Jr., UT President

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

1) William Powers, Jr., UT President

While the top pick here is obvious, it is easy to forget the breadth of responsibility and influence of the man at the top. Since stepping into office in February 2006 after a stint as dean of the School of Law, Powers has helped the University’s budget grow from about $1.6 billion to about $2.2 billion last year, kicked off a $3 billion fundraising campaign and opened 20 new buildings. Additionally, with seven years under his belt, Powers has set the vision he wants of the University, as every high-level administrator — from deans to vice presidents — has either been hired or re-hired by Powers.

But as is the case of all public figures, one’s grasp of power is not simply measured by his or her ability to do a job, but rather an ability to keep a job — and in that regard, Powers’ reign may be the most impressive. A man who took the job hoping to guide UT to become the top public university in the country found himself having to defend the value of a university to society, all in the face of declining revenue, hostile regents and health problems, including a pulmonary embolism in 2011.

And so while it may not come as a surprise, it does come with certainty that Powers heads the powers that are at the University of Texas.

2) DeLoss Dodds, Men's Athletics Director

During Dodds’ 31-year tenure as Texas’ men’s athletics director, the Longhorns have won 14 national titles, 106 conference championships and have become the most profitable athletics program in the country. The Longhorns’ football program alone generated $103.8 million during the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to USA Today, the first time a college football program brought in $100 million of revenue. Since the launch of the Longhorn Network, which Dodds says is one of his five best accomplishments at UT, Texas has struggled. The football team is 22-16 over the last three years, while the men’s basketball and baseball squads failed to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the late ‘90s. Can Dodds push the right buttons and pull all the strings to rebuild the juggernaut he created?

3) Kevin Hegarty, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Some understand budgets, while others understand people. And then there are people like Hegarty, who understand both well enough that they can toe the line and serve as a translator for both worlds. The former Dell executive and current vice president and chief financial officer not only oversees the University’s $2.2 billion operating budget, but is UT’s go-to guy for dealing with messy situations. Hegarty sits on the influential University Budget Council and the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee and has headed reorganizations in information technology and development offices. Most recently, Powers named him the point person to implement the $490 million worth of cost savings recommended by the Committee on Business Productivity in its report — a process that will take a healthy understanding of budgets and of people.

4) Mack Brown, Football Coach

It’s easy to retain power when you’re the highest paid public employee in the state. If the athletics department wanted to part ways with Brown, they’d have to swallow a $2.75 million pill for the buyout. Brown remains the face of not only Texas Athletics but also the entire school. The perennial success of Brown’s program, along with his ascension to national recognition, is the chief reason Texas is one of eight not requiring university financial assistance and also the main bait for ESPN in the groundbreaking deal to form the Longhorn Network. Brown might not make the decisions, but if it weren’t for him, Dodds wouldn’t be making them, either. Now, if only he could beat Oklahoma. 

5) Gage Paine, Vice President of Student Affairs

Paine joined the University in August as the first woman appointed as Vice President of Student Affairs. At first glance, the role may not seem particularly powerful, but Paine oversees 14 of the University’s largest non-academic units, including the University Health Services, the Office of the Dean of Students and the residence halls. With extracurriculars making up so much of the overall college experience, from recreational sports leagues to dining hall pizza to student organizations, Paine has the ability to greatly enhance or hurt the UT vibe that is so appealing to incoming freshmen.

Dean Ward Farnsworth, new dean of the Texas Law School, meets and greets with law students during the 45th annual Law Week on Tuesday afternoon. Fransworth’s highest concern is improving student life through offering better student mentoring and  increasing job opportunities.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Dean Ward Farnsworth of the School of Law spent part of Tuesday at a meet and greet mingling with students as part of Law Week.

This is the 45th annual Law Week, an event meant for community building both within the law school and outside it, said Jackie Ammons, UT law student and president of the Student Bar Association.

Farnsworth spoke about his goals for the school and said he wants to make it the best place to be a law student.

“My most important goals are maintaining affordability, high quality classroom education and job opportunities afterward,” Farnsworth said.

Farnsworth plans to improve job rates by working with the school’s alumni to help create job opportunities. He wants to encourage the University to hire more alumni and also plans to improve mentoring of current students.

“We invite our alumni to stay involved in the school by getting to know our current students and offering them advice and guidance,” Farnsworth said.

In August 2012, the American Bar Association revised its standards to require more data disclosure from law schools, including employment outcomes and scholarship retention rates, according to the association.

“I support all efforts to improve transparency when it comes to job proqospects for students here and at other schools,” Farnsworth said.

The school has 308 newly enrolled students this year, down from 370 students in 2011, Farnsworth said. He said this was because of a bad job market and fewer applicants.

“I’m spending a lot of time trying to meet admitted students and encourage them to come here,” Farnsworth said.

Farnsworth is also channeling energy into improving student life. He named a few inconveniences, such as vending machines eating people’s money, broken latches in the restrooms and the quality of the coffee, that he hopes to improve. He said he would like the school to be free of little annoyances.

Second-year law student Katie Ostrander said the dean has sent out many emails to students about what they would like to see improved.

“He really cares about what students think,” Ostrander said. 

Farnsworth was a professor and an associate dean at Boston University’s law school before becoming dean of the UT School of Law last summer.

Published on February 20, 2013 as "Dean socializes with students". 

A report released by the UT System Tuesday determined the interaction between the School of Law and the University’s central administration is insufficient in regards to faculty compensation.

Last December, UT President William Powers Jr. asked Larry Sager, former dean of the School of Law, to step down from his position after it was found he obtained a $500,000 forgivable personal loan from the University of Texas Law School Foundation, which helps support law professors’ salaries, without notifying appropriate administrators.

The UT System report, written by Barry Burgdorf, UT System vice chancellor and general counsel, looked into the relationship between the foundation and the University following Sager’s resignation.

Burgdorf’s report found the forgivable personal loan program began in 2003 during Powers’ time as the law school dean prior to his appointment as University president. Powers did not obtain a forgivable loan but did receive a deferred compensation agreement from the foundation in 2001, which was approved on various administrative levels.

The expansion of the forgivable personal loan program occurred while Sager was dean in response to the departure of various law school faculty members.

The report recognized the foundation’s significant role in the School of Law’s development helping supplement faculty compensation and providing adequate funding to retain the top faculty, but Burgdorf’s report determined it inappropriate for a public institution to grant forgivable personal loans to faculty through an independent foundation.

In Sager’s case, essentially awarding himself the forgivable loan, the lack of administrative approval is fundamental to the conflict.

“The idea of Dean Sager’s $500,000 forgivable personal loan was his,” Burgdorf wrote. “Obviously, this lack of transparency and accountability is unacceptable and, at a minimum, it creates an impression of self-dealing that cannot be condoned.”

Sager approached former foundation president Robert Grable in 2009 and proposed the loan over dinner after Steve Leslie, executive provost and vice president, denied Sager a salary increase because of a tight budget. Leslie oversees compensation of University deans.

According to the report, Powers said he did not discuss the personal loan with Sager either.

While the loan program did not violate any laws, it is inappropriate for a public university in Texas, Burgdorf wrote.

Burgdorf’s recommendations include distancing the School of Law from the foundation as separate entities, not releasing compensation to a dean without consent from University administrators, permanently ending the program and awarding compensation to faculty through restricted gifts rather than direct payouts.

Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a two-part Q&A with UT President William Powers Jr., former dean of the School of Law, about the Abigail Fisher case, which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear on Oct. 10. The high court’s decision could influence the use of race by college admissions officials nationwide. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Daily Texan: How do you address the argument that UT doesn’t use quotas, but they compare the numbers and percentages of races within a class to the percentages of races and ethnicities in the state?
William Powers: That’s incorrect. It is true that African Americans and Latinos are underrepresented. When we say underrepresented, we mean there’s not sufficient diversity in the classrooms and on the campus.

DT: How do you contend with [U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge] Edith Jones’ argument [in her dissenting opinion, which was against UT] that you couldn’t mathematically achieve the classroom diversity you’re seeking, to make it so that people are not a token representative of their race?
WP:
I disagree with it. We’re not saying every single class has to have a certain number. It’s a sufficient number so that the educational benefits of diversity are for all of our students, not just our minority students. Learning to work in a world where you work across cultural, economic and ethnic lines is an important educational goal. That only works if a sufficient number of classes have sufficient diversity. It doesn’t mean that every single class has to match some model.

DT: How do you address the notion that Asian students are overrepresented in the sense that there’s a much greater percentage of Asian students at UT than in the population of Texas?
WP:
When we say overrepresented or underrepresented we don’t mean as against the population. We mean as against the goals of having a diverse class. The presence of Asians in our classes is a very important part of this educational process. People need to work both globally and within in the state and learning about Asian culture and learning to work across cultural lines. So it’s a very important part of diversity. Why is it that Asians are not underrepresented and African Americans and Hispanics are? Well, there are economic reasons, there are historical reasons for that. African Americans in my lifetime were legally barred from attending our campus, and they may come from families where the tradition of going to a place like UT or to UT isn’t there. There are economic reasons. There are a lot of reasons and barriers as to why Hispanics and African Americans would be underrepresented on the campus. But the fact is that they are, and that hurts the educational process for all of our students.

DT: The thing I struggle with is the argument that the Asian American Legal Foundation raised, which is the notion that somebody from India is somehow the same quotient of diversity as someone from China?
WP:
We don’t think that. Intra-ethnic group diversity is also important. We appreciate that South Asian culture is very different from East Asian culture, and that’s a form of diversity that would be important. Does it get reported that way? No, and the reason is the federal government has reporting criteria that we have to report to and they say “Asian.” And in that sense both are Asian, but when we’re looking at holistic review we understand that South Asian culture is different from East Asian culture. And for that matter, Thai culture is different from Chinese culture and Indian culture is different from Pakistani culture. We understand that.

DT: But it’s not considered that way in the counting of an ethnicity?
WP:
We look at the ethnicity of everybody. Somebody who grew up in South Asia, but prospered and thrived in Beijing, we’d say has characteristics to work across cultures, which we think is a trait that people ought to bring. Holistic review lets you look at the whole file and lets you look at the individual and analyze it. The fact that we report Asians as a group is totally a function of the federal government.

DT: If students plan to listen to the audio of the arguments before the Court, what do you recommend they listen to in terms of questions from the bench and answers from the lawyers?
WP:
I’ve given a lot of legal arguments. They all go differently. I just say listen attentively. I wouldn’t say listen to what so-and-so asks about that question. It’s hard to know exactly how the argument would go. I’d just listen attentively.

DT: As former dean of the [UT] law school, have you played a more integral role with decision making in arguing UT’s case than others in the administration?
WP:
I’m not arguing the case. I didn’t write the briefs. I suppose I played an integral role because I’m president of the University and this is a very important case for the University. I happen to have been dean of the law school, I work with lawyers a lot and that has some color on—you know, I probably know the law firms a little better. But I don’t think me being dean of the law school had much influence.

DT: Many in the legislature would like all UT’s admissions to be based on the Top Ten Percent law. What percent of such automatic admissions do you view as ideal?
WP:
Well, when the Top Ten Percent law came into play about 47 or 48 percent of our students came in under it. That worked pretty well. I know that worked very well. There are multiple pathways into the university. When it gets to everyone, that’s the only pathway into the university, that is not a very good way to admit the class. But think about it—automatic admission doesn’t match up with our program. And there are other characteristics that we’re looking for in minority students and in non-minority students. Not everyone is admitted on one criterion. The student who won the statewide math contest and has fabulous math work and is student body president, but stumbled in their sophomore year, and therefore is 12 percent in their class — Princeton and Harvard and Berkeley would love to have them. We’d love to have them. But they are precluded by law from coming here when you get everybody under it [the Top Ten Percent law]. And think about—you’re taking applications for The Daily Texan or General Motors is taking applications for a certain area and you’ve got five positions and a hundred people apply. No one, no other university, no other enterprise, would say to their HR department: “Okay, go list them by grade point average and take the top five and we don’t want to know anything else about them.” It is not a good way. Now, when half the class is coming in under that, then there’s certain geographic diversity. It’s an incentive to kids in the schools but there’s plenty of other ways to get into the university. But to say the only way in is this one criterion is not a good way to admit students.

DT: If race is taken out of these criteria but you still use geography—in the state of Texas race is somewhat intertwined with geography. So would that become an issue as well?
WP:
Well, the Top Ten Percent law, is based on geographic and even school-by-school segregation and living patterns. So the Top Ten Percent rule did make a contribution to diversity for the reasons that you’re describing. That’s why I say as long as it’s not everybody coming in [through top 10 Percent], there’s some benefits of having some of our students coming in through [Top 10 Percent]. But even that did not achieve the diversity that we need.

Nobody is challenging our Top Ten Percent rule on legal grounds. At that point from a legal point of view, geographic diversity is not being challenged. If we were to say something like 90 percent of our students are going to come from south Texas would somebody challenge that? Yes. If we said we’re going to equally disperse across the state it would have some contribution to diversity. But it depends on how we do it. Right now Top Ten Percent … nobody is suggesting a legal challenge to that on grounds of racial discrimination.