4 Jul 2014
AUSTIN, Texas–Two highly placed sources say University of Texas president Bill Powers has been given a choice: resign by the end of the day July 4, or be fired next week. The order comes as a whistleblower has allegedly stepped forward with information tying Powers directly to a growing admissions scandal. The sources tell Breitbart Texas that the decision to axe Powers came early Thursday, with the ultimatum handed down by UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and Board of Regents chairman Paul Foster.
A spokesman for the University of Texas told Breitbart via email that “Powers does not publicly discuss private conversations that may have occurred.”
Earlier this week, as an investigation was being launched into allegations that under-qualified students were being admitted into Texas’ flagship institution based on their political ties and relationships, the director of admissions announced she was leaving her job. This new investigation by Cigarroa comes on the heels of a cursory review by the UT System which found examples of inappropriate swaying the admissions process at the Austin campus.
Those allegations have been at the center of an unprecedented impeachment effort — with lawmakers trying to silence the regent who first brought the problems to light. UT Regent Wallace Hall, an appointee of Gov. Rick Perry, has been under fire from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Speaker Straus and other lawmakers friendly with Powers. They are upset that he has been conducting an investigation into legislative clout being used to sway the admissions process and other issues with UT’s governance.
According to two sources familiar with the events, a whistleblower from within the university has stepped forward early this week with information that appears to have tipped the scales against Powers.
If Powers decides to resign, according to a source personally familiar with the unfolding situation, he would be allowed to remain on the job for several more months. Otherwise, according to Breitbart Texas’ sources, Powers would be terminated next week.
The UT Board of Regents is scheduled to meet next week.
This would not be the first time Cigarroa has asked for Powers’ resignation. It was widely reported this spring that last summer the chancellor asked Powers to resign, only to have Powers stay put after marshaling support from a select group of moderate and liberal legislators and high-profile donors.
The UT president has had a rocky relationship with the Board of Regents, but has developed an extensive group of high-profile supporters through a public relations program known as the “Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education,” which has been spearheaded by Powers loyalists. Among those behind the group is Karen Hughes, a media strategist closely aligned with House Speaker Joe Straus.
Straus’ hand-picked committee, co-chaired by his allies Dan Flynn (R-Van) and Carol Alverado (D-Houston), spent the last six months investigating Hall rather than the financial and operational abuses he uncovered. Flynn, Alverado and their committee voted last month to proceed with developing impeachment charges, saying only that Hall should not have been investigating the issues as doggedly as he had been.
Perry has stood by Hall, saying the regent “should be commended,” not impeached, for “asking tough questions, gathering facts and searching for the truth.”
Even though the House committee has been dismissive of allegations that lawmakers were bullying the admissions process, a report by the UT System found undue influence may have been at work. A second, more comprehensive, investigation was announced by Chancellor Cigarroa earlier this week.
Up until now most of the public allegations of clout abuse have centered around admissions at the UT Law School (of which Powers was once the dean), yet Cigarroa’s call for a more expansive investigation would indicate a more wide-spread problem.
Reporter Jon Cassidy of the non-profit news site watchdog.org has also done a great deal of original investigative reporting on the law school admissions. Cassidy has found that several children and staff of legislators were admitted to the law school but took three or more times to pass the state bar exam — a highly unusual circumstance.
Calls this morning to the offices of Cigarroa and Powers were not answered.
Michael Quinn Sullivan is a contributor and founding member of the Breitbart Texas team, and is the president of Empower Texans.
This article was updated to include comments from a UT spokesman.