Paul Foster

UT System Regent Wallace Hall prepares to leave after a UT System Board of Regents meeting on April 29.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

A grand jury investigating UT System Regent Wallace Hall declined to indict him for possible violations of student privacy laws but issued a report calling for his removal from office.

A Special Investigation unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office asked the grand jury in October to consider whether there was probable cause to indict Hall for violating student privacy, failing to disclose material information on his original regent application or exceeding his role as regent with massive open records requests to the University.

Although the grand jury declined to indict Hall, they did take the unusual step of issuing a public report condemning Hall’s actions.

“We have chosen to issue this report because, as citizens, we are appalled at the behavior of the regent subject to the investigation,” the report, issued Tuesday morning, said. “Based on the information we reviewed, we are appalled at the Regent’s unaccountable and abusive behavior.”

Over the course of the last several years, Hall filed requests for more than 800,000 pages of documents as part of personal investigations he launched into UT administrative practices. University administrators said the documents cost more than $1 million to prepare. The report condemned Hall’s conduct when making these requests.

“Hall never divulged what purpose or goal he had padlocked in his mind before launching this immense barrage of records requests, rapid firing them in a fashion seemingly intended to deteriorate the systems in place,” the report said. “Based on the size of the University’s open records request staff, his deadlines were unreasonable.”

The grand jury also accused Hall of hypocrisy in his campaign for transparency.

“Regent Hall demonstrated neither accountability nor transparency in his actions,” the report said. “His refusal to speak with the Legislative Committee or the Grand Jury implies a disregard for the transparency and accountability for his actions.”

UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo declined to comment on the grand jury’s report. 

In a rare public interview at The Texas Tribune Festival in 2013, Hall defended his actions to state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin).

“[UT is] the flagship, and it should be the leader for all of our institutions,” Hall said. “I find that there’s a lack of accountability in a lot of what we see.”

A year later, he again denied any wrongdoing.

“It would be nicer if they closed the file and moved on, but I’ll go through the process,” Hall said at the Tribune Festival in 2014. “I am very comfortable with all the actions that I took with those documents.”

In May, board chairman Paul Foster publicly asked Hall to resign. Although Foster said he did not believe Hall was guilty of violating board rules or policies, he said it would be best for the System if Hall stepped down.

“I do not believe you have violated any current board rules or policy and I do not think a vote on your service is appropriate,” Foster said. “I urge you to take a selfless step to benefit the UT System and resign from the board. … I believe this step would be the most beneficial action you could take at this time.”

In July, after over a year of investigation, a House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations formally censured Hall. The committee had previously determined there were sufficient grounds for Hall’s impeachment but declined to draft specific articles of impeachment in favor of the censure.

At the time, state Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), committee co-chair, said pursuing Hall’s impeachment was not off the table.

“A vote of censure is not a vote against impeachment,” Alvarado said. “However, we believe our investigation would benefit by taking some formal action at this time.”

Hall’s term is set to expire February 2017.

The UT System Board of Regents declined to announce the candidates for the UT presidency after a closed-door session Wednesday.
Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

After seven hours in a closed-door session Wednesday, the UT System Board of Regents declined to name a president or announce the names of the finalists for the UT presidency. 

According to a UT System press release, the Board “must vote to name one or more finalists and then must wait 21 days before making an official appointment.” 

The three finalists have met with a small search committee but have not met with the Faculty Council or the System Faculty Council. 

Following the meeting Wednesday, UT System Chairman Paul Foster spoke about the leaked information regarding the candidates for the presidency. An unknown source close to the University leaked the identities of the three candidates in late February, although Foster could not confirm the leaked identities. 

The source named Greg Fenves, executive vice president and provost of UT, David Daniel, president of UT-Dallas, and Andrew Hamilton, vice chancellor of the University of Oxford in England, as candidates.

“I’m as frustrated as anybody whenever there are leaks,” Foster said. “The search committee was a broad cross section of a lot of different people, and I don’t know where the leaks came from. I certainly don’t want to point fingers at anybody; I wouldn’t even know who to point my finger at.”

Foster said despite the hushed nature, the presidential search included input from large stakeholder groups. He said even though having a large group means leaks are harder to prevent, the additional input is worth the risk.

“I think the process is a good one. I think the students, faculty, staff, they all have to be included,” Foster said. “Alumni [and] all constituencies need to be included in the process. One of the risks [is], the bigger a group gets, the more likely you are to have a leak, and that’s just something we have to deal with.”

Foster said candidates were warned that their identities could be leaked because of the high number of people involved in the search process.

Biomedical engineering senior Anuj Kudva, a member of the presidential search committee, said he felt the search was effective but that students could always benefit from more input.

“I think they handled it really well, but there could always be more student input, but I also understand where they’re coming from in terms of why they didn’t do a town hall,” Kudva said.

In the press release, UT System Chancellor William McRaven said he is happy with the outcome of the search committee’s recommendations.

“This is one of the most important decisions the Board will ever make, and it will have a tremendous impact not only on UT-Austin, but on the UT System and entire state of Texas. Therefore, I think it is in the best interest of the University for the Board and me to take a little time for consideration,” McRaven said. “And, after what we learned today from each of the candidates, I can say with great confidence that UT-Austin will be firmly poised to accelerate its strong trajectory toward preeminence.”

The UT System Board of Regents interviewed three finalists for the UT Presidency in a closed-door meeting Wednesday, but decided not to name the finalists.

The Board of Regents deferred action to name a finalist or finalists until later this month. The interviews, held in an executive session, included coversations with each candidate's spouse. Chairman Paul Foster said he expects finalists will be named within the month of March.

UT System Chancellor William McRaven recommended the Board of Regents delay their decision in order to perform more research on the candidates, according to a report from the UT System.

In late February, “Horns Digest”, an online sports journal, named four alleged finalists for the UT presidency. The journal named Greg Fenves, executive vice president and provost of UT, David Daniel, president of UT Dallas, and Andrew Hamilton, vice chancellor of the University of Oxford in England.

Foster said the premature realease of potential finalists' names is "frustrating and disappointing."

"I’m as frustrated as anybody whenever there are leaks," Foster said. "The search committee was a broad cross section of alot of different people and I don’t know where the leaks came from, I certainly dont want to point fingers at anybody, I wouldn't even know who to point my finger at."

Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, announced a new UT System website on Monday to accept nominations from the public for the next UT-Austin president. 

With President William Powers Jr. set to step down from his position in June 2015, the website provides a tentative timeline for the presidential search process and allows people to provide input about
Powers’ successor.

“UT Austin is one of the most influential institutions in the world, and we want to do everything in our power to find an energetic and innovative leader who will continue to enhance and advance UT Austin’s education, research and health care missions,” Foster said in a news release.

The Presidential Search Advisory Committee and Spencer Stuart, an executive search consulting firm, are also aiding in the presidential search process. According to the System, Spencer Stuart has already assembled a list of potential candidates whom they have sought out or who have expressed interest in the position. 

The committee — led by Pedro Reyes, System executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Larry Faulkner, UT-Austin president emeritus — will meet for the second time Tuesday.

In accordance with System rules, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee will make the final recommendations for potential candidates to the Board of Regents, which will make the final decision on who will replace Powers.

Outgoing Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa will leave his position in January. The UT System Board of Regents honored Cigarroa at a meeting Thursday.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

EL PASO — The UT System Board of Regents honored outgoing Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and approved the establishment of a doctoral nursing program at UT during a meeting Thursday.

Held in El Paso to celebrate the 100th anniversary of UT-El Paso, Thursday’s meeting served as Cigarroa’s last meeting as chancellor, barring any specially called meetings. Cigarroa will step down from his position in December to return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center-San Antonio.

“He’s returning full-time to his first love — transplant surgery,” Chairman Paul Foster said at the meeting. “He never really left it. He’s been the hardest working chancellor in America for the last six years — leading the UT System and performing surgery a few times a month.”

Cigarroa previously served as president of UT Health Science Center-San Antonio before being hired as chancellor in 2009.

“I set out on this remarkable journey with the trust and the support of the Board of Regents, and, for that, I am exceedingly grateful,” Cigarroa said in a speech to the board. “We have truly made higher education in Texas more accessible, and we have made it more affordable to the hundreds of thousands of students who seek a better future.”

Retired Naval Adm. William McRaven will succeed Cigarroa as chancellor in January. McRaven graduated from the University with a degree in journalism in 1977 and is known for overseeing the operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

“He is an experienced and effective leader with impeccable integrity and a long and distinguished career of service to our nation,” Cigarroa said. “Bill McRaven has my full support, and the System will be in excellent hands.”

After honoring Cigarroa, the regents approved to establish a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program at the University.

“This is a professional program, and it is a professional program motivated and designed for workforce needs,” President William Powers Jr. said during a presentation to the board Wednesday.

There are currently 11 doctoral nursing programs in Texas — but none in Central Texas. The program will provide additional doctoral preparation to nurses who will be able to serve as clinical faculty in other nursing programs across Texas. Nationally, only 14 percent of nurses have a master’s degree
or higher.

Powers said the program would start with 12 students but grow to 20. Tuition is expected to start at $30,000 for five semesters. He said the program would be self-supporting, since its revenues are expected to cover all costs associated with the program — including faculty and staff compensation, materials and required University and student fees, according to the agenda book.

At the regents’ meeting Wednesday, Bruce Zimmerman, CEO and chief internal officer of the UT Investment Management Company, announced that System endowment funds invested in stocks, bonds and equity interest had a 15.1 percent return for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31. 

“I am pleased to report such strong investment returns for the previous fiscal year, which generated approximately $4 billion in additional financial resources for the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems,” Zimmerman said. “Over the past decade, investment returns have surpassed
$15.5 billion.”

With President William Powers Jr. set to leave his position in June 2015, Paul Foster, UT System Board of Regents chairman, is in the process of forming a search committee to find candidates to replace him.

In July, Powers agreed with Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to set his resignation for June 2015. Cigarroa initially asked Powers to resign in October, but Powers requested to stay on until after the 2015 legislative session.

At the regents meeting Thursday, Foster announced Pedro Reyes, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Larry Faulkner, who served as University president from 1998-2006, would both chair the committee. Foster also said an outside firm would be hired to help the committee identify candidates.

“I am asking the committee to bring to the board the broadest possible slate of highly-qualified, experienced and skilled leaders with exceptional dedication and talent necessary to lead the University of Texas at Austin,” Foster said.

In accordance with the Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Foster said he will also select board members and System institution presidents to the committee as well as alumni and external members. Naval Adm. William McRaven, who will become System chancellor in January, has agreed to serve as one of the external members on the committee. In addition, a University dean will also serve on the committee, as elected by his fellow deans.

The Faculty Council is in the process of selecting three faculty members to serve in the search committee. Elections between nine finalists are being held until Thursday. Once the voting period is over, the regents will review the winning candidates for approval.

Erika Frahm, senior program coordinator for University Human Resources and former Staff Council chair, was nominated for the staff position on the committee on Aug. 21.

The sole student spot on the committee will be filled by Geetika Jerath, Senate of College Councils president. Jerath was selected in a vote between her, Student Government President Kori Rady and David Villarreal, Graduate Student Assembly president.

“I’ll definitely include [Student Government and GSA] as much as I can in the process,” Jerath said. “For the all of the other students as well, I’m currently working on an outreach plan to see how I can reach out to as many of them, whether it’s attending their meetings or reaching out to them online and receiving as much feedback as possible going into the process.”

On Aug. 12, the three student leaders requested the System add a second spot to the search committee, which would be filled by Rady.

“At this point I don’t have much information since they are working on setting up the committee,” Jerath said.  “I’m sure that once they set it up we will be given more information as a whole.”

Rady said he will stay as involved as possible in the presidential search process even if the request is not filled.

“I’ll stay in contact with [Jerath] who is our student representative, and I will make sure I inform people on what she’s experiencing and what she thinks the students would like to see in a president.” Rady said. “I’ll be her council on that.”

Jerath said the second student spot is being requested in order to include as many students as possible in the presidential search. 

While the students have not received a formal response, UT System employee Karen Adler said the search committee’s structure would follow the regents’ rules, which specifies only one student will be selected for the search committee. According to Adler, the only time two students have been on a presidential search committee in recent history was for UT-Rio Grande Valley, a institution formed by the merger of UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American.

“It would be rather extraordinary to give them a second spot,” Foster said to reporters after Thursday’s regents meeting.

Photo Credit: Aaron Berecka | Daily Texan Staff

In accepting the UT System’s operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the Board of Regents approved Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s proposal Thursday to utilize more of the System’s endowment to offset the lack of in-state tuition increases.

Prompted by Gov. Rick Perry, the Board of Regents decided in May against increasing in-state tuition costs at the University and the other eight System academic campuses.

Following the decision in May, Cigarroa and Scott Kelley, executive vice chancellor for business affairs, devised a plan to offset the cost of not raising tuition. Their now approved proposal will allocate $28.2 million in recurring revenue from the Available University Fund, or AUF, toward the University.

"A lot of work went into that offset plan and a lot of different scenarios were looked at," Chairman Paul Foster told reporters after the meeting Thursday. "One of the challenges was coming up with a plan that was recurring."  

The AUF stems from the public endowment known as the Permanent University Fund, or PUF, which is funded by the proceeds from the sale of oil, gas, sulfur and water royalties in West Texas and then invested in the form of stocks, bonds and equity interest. The return on these investments becomes the AUF, which is used to support both UT and Texas A&M University institutions.

Because UT-Austin is the only System institution that can directly receive AUF money, the System will cover costs and activities traditionally undertaken by the eight other UT academic campuses. The System intends to pay for costs related to property insurance and information technology and assume management of internal audit functions and digital library services, opening up $31 million for those institutions to use.

"It’s a very strategic initiative, so we don’t have to increase tuition for our students," Cigarroa said.

The regents also approved a one-time 1.5 percent increase in PUF distribution to AUF for the 2014 fiscal year. The decision brings the fiscal year’s distribution rate up to 7 percent. With the additional money available, the nine System academic institutions will each present proposals to Cigarroa over the next six months to show how they will use the money to increase both online and campus enrollment.

"Our revenues and the values of the our assets in West Texas have grown substantially in recent years to allow for a larger endowment," Foster said. "Our campuses have needs. We’re trying to increase access, which really means increasing enrollment. We’re trying to make an education available to a lot more kids, and we’ve got to find ways to fund that."

UT spokesman Gary Susswein said the University will review how it could spend the additional funding.

"We hope that this additional funding gives us what we need to maintain our levels of excellence at UT-Austin," Susswein said.

Overall, the System’s 2015 fiscal year budget will increase by $888 million in revenue to a total of $15.9 billion and increase by $1 billion in expenses to a total of $15.6 billion. The University will have a 6.8 percent increase in its share of the budget, totaling to more than $2.5 billion.

In discussing the budget with the regents, Cigarroa said the increase for the University accounts for the accommodation of the Dell Medical School and a more accurate research budget, which he said was under-budgeted for the 2014 fiscal year.

At Thursday's meeting, the regents approved the creation of a neuroscience institute, an engineering institute in Houston and allocated more than $2.5 million to expanding System-wide suicide prevention programs for students.

Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, speaks with the press after a regular board meeting on April 30. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Paul Foster, UT System Board of Regents chairman, and Regent Jeffery Hildebrand said they "strongly disagreed" with Moody's Investor Services determining recent tensions in the System were “credit negative” in a recent analysis.

"It is important to point out that the UT System not only holds an Aaa rating – the highest possible rating from Moody’s – but also AAA ratings from Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor’s Corporation," Foster and Hildebrand said in a joint statement.

Released on Monday, Moody's analysis determined recent conflicts within the System, such a house committee's recent censure of Regent Wallace Hall in August, warranted the “credit negative” since they could affect the System’s financial position and the ability of the University to attract top-level candidates to replace President William Powers Jr. 

The System announced in July that Powers had reached an agreement with Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to step down from his position in June 2015. The deal was made after Cigarroa originally asked Powers to resign in October.

In their statement, Foster and Hildebrand said a search committee will soon be announced to find “distinguished and capable” candidates for University president and cited the regents' selection of Naval Adm. William McRaven as sole finalist to replace Cigarroa. In December, Cigarroa will step down to return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The board is expected to officialy name McRaven as the System's next chancellor at its meeting on Thursday.

House transparency committee co-chairs and state Reps. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and Dan Flynn, R-Canton, address the media after a meeting on May 12. The committee determined by a 7-1 vote that there are sufficient grounds for UT System Regent Wallace Hall's impeachment. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations questioned three UT System officials about President William Powers Jr.’s resignation and recent controversies surrounding Regent Wallace Hall for more than three hours at a meeting on Wednesday.

The committee invited UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, and Pedro Reyes, executive vice chancellor of academic affairs, to testify. Texas Exes President Kay Bailey Hutchison was also invited but said she could not appear because of a scheduling conflict.

Earlier this month, Cigarroa asked Powers to resign by the end of October. Powers requested that he be allowed to stay on through the legislative session. After initially deciding to discuss the matter with the regents, Cigarroa agreed to Powers’ request on July 9 with his resignation date set for June 2, 2015.

Citing a recent conversation he had with Powers in the weeks before the resignation request that “went public” as an example, Cigarroa told the committee he asked for Powers’ resignation because of their difficult working relationship.

“Fundamentally, it came back to a breakdown in communications and a breakdown in trust,” Cigarroa said.

While he and Powers had been discussing an exit plan for more than a year, Cigarroa said recent issues that continued to strain their relationship pushed him to pursue his resignation.

“This not been easy for me. It just has not,” Cigarroa said. “At the end of the day, I have to make a decision that’s in the best interests of the University.”

The committee asked about the System’s response to a letter to Foster sent by the committee co-chairs on July 7, requesting no employment action be taking with witnesses with Powers or any other witness to the committee’s investigation into Hall.

At the regents meeting on July 10, Foster asked legislators not to try influencing personnel matters at UT institutions.

One of the committee co-chairs, state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, defended the letter and said the committee was doing its job.

"With all due respect, you're public servants, and you're accountable to the people of Texas,” Alvarado said. “Legislative directives and investigations would be necessary, quite frankly, if you had your house in order.”

Foster, who said the System followed the the co-chairs' instructions, called the letter “offensive” and said the legislature did not have the authority to make such a request.

“In my view, it is not appropriate for the legislature to intervene and try to influence personnel decisions at the University of Texas,” Foster said.

The committee members also asked the officials about Hall’s recent conduct, including a recent records request for Powers’ travel records.

The committee has been investigating Hall since June 2013 after state legislators accused him of overstepping his authority as a regent and working to remove Powers from his position. In May, the committee determined grounds for Hall’s impeachment exist in a 7-1 vote.

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, asked the officials about emails obtained by The Texas Tribune in June showing Hall sought a private meeting with Kedra Ishop, the University’s admissions director at the time, in March and May.

Before the committee, Cigarroa said the meeting did not occur because the Travis County District Attorney’s office stepped in and cited Ishop as a potential witness in its criminal investigation into Hall having potentially violated student privacy laws.

Cigarroa said his authority to prevent Hall from inquiring into such matters is limited. Foster, who made comparisons between Powers and Hall, said he would be cautious to enact any rule changes to that ability.

While the committee took no further action in drafting the articles at Wednesday’s meeting, the members did discuss multiple options it can pursue going forward. Martinez Fischer said the committee should consider writing “best practices” for state university governing boards instead of drafting articles of impeachment against Hall.

State Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, said he would like for the committee to wait for the criminal investigation into Hall to develop before pursuing impeachment further. Price said the committee could “pursue multiple avenues” including a public censure or reprimand against Hall that offers guidelines to regents.

State Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, said he was cautious of setting a precedent of legislative micromanagement over the System. In May, Perry gave the only vote against grounds existing for Hall's impeachment.

The committee’s next scheduled meeting is on Aug. 11.

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

After days of speculation, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and President William Powers Jr. agreed to set Powers’ resignation date for June 2, 2015, giving him almost 11 months to complete his remaining goals for the University.

On July 2, Cigarroa requested Powers resign by October — a timetable that Cigarroa said would allow Powers to finish both his $3 billion fundraising campaign and his chairmanship of the Association of American Universities. In a letter to Cigarroa on July 4, Powers said he would prefer to leave at the end of the 2015 legislative session.

News of Cigarroa’s request to Powers broke on July 4 after it was leaked out to multiple media outlets by unnamed sources. Students, faculty and alumni voiced their support for Powers in reaction. Student leaders started a petition and planned a march. Faculty Council called an emergency meeting to rally support for Powers. Newly minted Texas Exes President Kay Bailey Hutchison released a statement with the alumni association’s chairman calling Powers’ potential firing “a travesty.”

Some state legislators also expressed support for Powers and the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations co-chairs asked the regents on Monday not to remove him, citing the committee’s investigation into Regent Wallace Hall.

Before the unexpected decision on July 9, Cigarroa had said he would discuss Powers’ employment with the Board of Regents at the board’s July 10 meeting. While Cigarroa has called Powers time at the University “superb,” he has said repeatedly that his decision is not related to one particular instance, but rather his overall difficult relationship with Powers.

“From my perspective, it’s an issue of ‘Can we trust each other with communications without it going viral?’” Cigarroa said after the July 10 board meeting. “Because it’s really hard to have a productive relationship when a chancellor and a president can’t have discussion on sensitive matters.”

After the news was announced at the emergency Faculty Council meeting July 9, Powers said he was pleased with the agreement.

“We have a great faculty and a great group of students. I’m humbled and gratified by all the work we’ve done together and your support,” Powers said. “This is a career path that makes sense for our family.”

After the meeting, Student Government President Kori Rady said he believes Cigarroa’s decision to keep Powers on until June 2015 was influenced by the support shown by students, faculty and alumni.

“He received massive support from every entity,” Rady said. “I really think that made the difference, and, of course, I think it’s very difficult to fire someone based on communication differences if that person has that amount of support.”

 

Unfortunate chapter

With Powers’ end date fixed, Chairman Paul Foster expressed disappointment with “insulting and disparaging comments” sent to Cigarroa over the past week and called on the board, System and University to move forward at the July 10 meeting.

“I sincerely hope we never revisit this unfortunate chapter in the history of this great state,” Foster said. “There’s much good work to be done and the state and the nation are watching, and the future is bright.”

After the meeting, both Foster and Cigarroa refused to identify who sent the comments but said they were not threatening and were from parties and individuals outside the board.

Foster, who said he was pleased Cigarroa and Powers agreed July 9 to set Powers’ resignation for June 2015, also asked the Texas Legislature not to try influencing board decisions.

“The point is the board has a role. It’s not political. We’re not politicians,” Foster said after the meeting. “I believe we should be left alone to do our business.”

Clarifying, Foster said he was not criticizing the transparency committee’s investigation into Hall or its right to do so.

The regents also approved recommendations from Cigarroa for improving admissions processes at System institutions. While presenting the recommendations, Cigarroa said his decision to ask Powers to resign was not related to the System’s investigation into the University’s admissions, which will be conducted by an outside firm.

Cigarroa recommended increasing transparency in admissions processes; namely, he proposed prohibiting the consideration of recommendation letters submitted outside the prescribed process in admissions decisions.

“What concerns me is how external input outside the formal admissions process is handled administratively and within the University of Texas,” Cigarroa said.

In May, a limited System inquiry into the University’s admissions determined there was no structured system of wrongdoing, but found instances in which letters of recommendations from legislator sent directly to Powers or a dean likely influenced admissions decisions. Noting its limited data pool, the inquiry also found letters from legislators were more likely to influence admissions decisions than others.

 

Search for the next president 

Foster said he will form a search committee for Powers’ replacement in August. According to Cigarroa, the committee “will include representation of faculty, deans, students and community representatives of the University, as well as at least two current presidents from UT institutions and at least one member of the Board of Regents.”

Cigarroa announced his own resignation in February to return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. His replacement is expected to be announced before the start of the fall 2014 semester. With change ahead, Foster said he hopes the System and the University will start working better together at the July 10 meeting.

“Within a year, we will have a new chancellor and a new president at UT-Austin,” Foster said. “I sincerely hope that much sooner than that we also have a new collaborative and beneficial relationship with the various organizations who share our love for this great flagship university.”

 

Powers’ final months 

With almost 11 months left as president, Powers will work to finish his $3 billion capital fundraising campaign and help bring the Dell Medical School closer to being ready for its launch in fall 2016, according to UT spokesman Gary Susswein. 

Susswein said Powers will also work to improve the University’s four-year graduation rates. In 2012, Powers set a goal of pushing the University’s four-year graduation to 70 percent by 2016. Graduation rates from the classes of 2007 to 2013 have fluctuated between 50 and 52 percent.

In his July 4 letter, Powers also cited "implementing new and more efficient business models" as one of his goals. The University has slowly moved closer to implementing Shared Services centralization plan despite disapproval from some faculty members. In the letter, Powers also said the 2015 legislative session will have a significant impact on the University, particularly in setting its budget. 

Powers will also work with Cigarroa and his successor to ensure a smooth transition for Powers’ replacement but will likely not be part of the search process, Susswein said. Powers himself said he will return to teaching at the School of Law after his term as president ends next year. 

Additional reporting by YoungJee Jung and Christina Noriega.