Wallace Hall should step aside

Photo by Callie Richmond

History provides us with innumerable accounts of real-life martyrs, crusaders, activists and protesters. At times, civil disobedience has been warranted; in other cases, martyrdom has proven misguided, reckless and detrimental. 

The cause taken up by University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall is the latter. History will remember this saga as a misguided crusade driven by megalomania. Folks who have encouraged his martyrdom as a whistleblower are either uniformed, naïve or both.

After spending 11 months listening to hours of testimony and reviewing hundreds of documents, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations determined that Hall has displayed an inability or an unwillingness to act in the best interest of the UT System by unapologetically engaging in a multiyear effort to oust UT-Austin President Bill Powers.

The facts are indisputable. Hall advocated against the development interests of UT-Austin, used intimidation and made threats against university staff, made unreasonable and burdensome requests for records and information, and obtained and shared confidential student information. The report produced by the committee's counsel found likely violations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Texas Penal Code, the Texas Education Code, the Texas Public Information Act, UT System policy and board of regents rules and regulations. Hall's activity has proven so egregious that the Texas public integrity unit is in the midst of an investigation.

In addition to his utter disregard for the law, Hall's actions have resulted in wide-ranging damage. The image of the UT System has been tarnished, not just in Texas but throughout the nation. Recruitment and fundraising efforts have been drastically hindered. Most notably, the system lost one of the most talented chancellors in the country, Francisco Cigarroa — which I attribute to Hall's antics.

The harm Hall has done to the UT System's flagship university is immeasurable and will take years to recover from. The implications of Hall's continued presence on the board of regents will only further complicate the efforts of the UT System to move forward, particularly as it seeks to fill the role of chancellor and other high-level positions. There is a limited pool of experienced individuals who could be tapped to be the next chancellor, and this toxic environment will only compromise the ability to recruit the best candidates available.

The transparency committee should not have been forced to go down the path of impeachment. The committee urged the board of regents to take action to address this distraction, without success. Throughout this lengthy process, I personally made several efforts to put an end to this process once and for all. My office sent multiple letters to the governor requesting Hall's resignation, all of which remain unanswered. In anticipation of the committee's vote, I sent a letter to Hall personally imploring him to step down and let the UT System begin to recover from this costly and embarrassing process.

At this time, there are three options available to return sanity to the UT System outside of impeachment: Hall may resign on his own volition, the governor can assume responsibility for his appointee and demand his resignation, or the board of regents can pressure Hall to resign with a vote of no confidence.

As the UT regents meet this week, it is my hope that they will urge Hall to step aside.

In the absence of action from Hall, the governor or the board of regents, the committee will have no choice but to move forward with the impeachment process for the good of the UT System and the state of Texas.

This insidious style of martyrdom has no place in the UT System. It's time for Hall to go. 

Lyle Larson

State representative, R-San Antonio