The Lyrical Elitist

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Money and Politics Influence Admissions at UT-Austin

Money and Politics Influence Admissions at UT-Austin

ORG XMIT: S11B430C3_WIRE A recent aerial view of the University of Texas campus with the main tower. After 25 years, the observation deck of the tower, scene of a shooting rampage in 1966 that left 14 dead, reopened.

University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers has pushed admissions officers to admit students they otherwise would have turned away, an independent investigator reported Thursday.

The report sheds light on how money and politics have for years played a role in the admissions process at the state’s premier public research university, noting that every year “a select handful” of applicants are admitted over the objections of the admissions office.

“It is readily apparent that certain applicants are admitted at the instigation of the President over the assessment of the Admissions Office,” reads the report, which says state lawmakers, UT regents and alumni have pushed for applicants to be considered by the president.

The report, commissioned by the UT board of regents also says that Powers and his chief of staff, Nancy Brazzil, misled officials during a previous internal audit by the UT System.

“It appears that by their material omissions they misled the inquiry,” the report says. “At minimum, each failed to speak with the candor and forthrightness expected of people in their respective positions of trust and leadership.”

The report appears to validate accusations  by regent Wallace Hall Jr., who was censured by a state House committee and faces a criminal investigation prompted by his inquiries into UT admissions, which involved voluminous public records requests. Hall has alleged that favoritism plays a role in admissions at the UT flagship.

The number of arguably less-qualified applicants who have benefited from the president’s oversight appears to be relatively small, the report said. From 2009 to 2014, Kroll, the company that conducted the audit, identified 73 enrolled applicants who were admitted with both a combined SAT score of less than 1100 and a high school GPA of less than 2.9.

Kroll’s review found that political connections may have influenced the admission decision in a small number of cases, while other cases suggested the possibility of alumni influence, despite the fact that Texas law prohibits legacy admissions.

The university showed commitment to ethnic and racial diversity and other appropriate criteria in several other cases, the report says.

According to the report, the Board of Regents sends 50 to 70 names of applicants to the president’s office each year. Many names also are placed on a hold list as a result of requests from the chancellor’s office, the UT-System Office of Government Relations, major donors and alumni, the report says.

In most years, some legislators’ and regents’ names are noted more than others. It would appear that these other bodies send inquiries concerning student applicants to Powers’ office with the expectation that such applicants be closely monitored by that office, according to the report.



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