Higher Ed Coalition Hits Back at UT Regent's Criticism

Dallas businessman Wallace Hall, Jr. takes notes at the University of Texas Board of Regents meeting on Feb. 14, 2013 in Austin.
Dallas businessman Wallace Hall, Jr. takes notes at the University of Texas Board of Regents meeting on Feb. 14, 2013 in Austin.

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group formed in 2011 in opposition to controversial reform efforts, fired off an angry letter Tuesday to University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall, responding to his criticism of the coalition.

Hall, who has emerged as a lightning rod for controversy on the board, recently sat for an interview with Texas Monthly, which was released Monday. In it, he accused members of the coalition of funding a campaign to "delegitimize the efforts of this board as it relates to the University of Texas at Austin."

Through a spokeswoman, Jenifer Sarver, the group sent a letter to Hall alleging that his comments "demonstrated a complete unawareness or a deliberate mischaracterization of the scope and mission of our group."

In the interview, Hall said, "When I came on the board in 2011, there was an immediate activity by a small group of people — maybe ten or so — who formed a group called the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education," Hall said. "The idea is to support higher education, and who doesn’t want to support higher education? But the reality of it is, this group has damaged the university and this board’s effort."

Asserting that the group exists to "strengthen and improve" UT-Austin and the UT System Board of Regents, the letter then lays the blame for ongoing controversy on the latter.

"That has indeed been damaging, to UT-Austin in particular, is the lack of support for institutional leadership, and the environment of mistrust and micromanagement propagated by some regents," the letter claims.

Nine individuals who make up the coalition's operating committee, including Kenneth Jastrow II, the chairman of of UT-Austin's capital campaign, former U.S. Ambassador Pamela Willeford and former UT System Board Chairman H. Scott Caven Jr., signed the letter to Hall. In total, the group claims more than 400 members, up from more than 200 when they launched.

In his interview with Texas Monthly, Hall said, "If you go and look at the people who are on that coalition, there are dozens of people I know who are terrific and who care deeply about higher education and love the University of Texas. But I don’t think they understand what this small cadre is doing."

Here is the coalition's full response to Hall's interview:

 

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