The Brief: Lawmakers' Influence on Admissions Draws Scrutiny

Flagship university chancellor Dr. Francisco Cigarroa interviewed by editor Evan Smith at TribLive on March 28, 2013.
Flagship university chancellor Dr. Francisco Cigarroa interviewed by editor Evan Smith at TribLive on March 28, 2013.

The Big Conversation

The Tribune's Reeve Hamilton has dropped the first in a three-part series tackling the timely topic of lawmakers writing recommendations on behalf of applicants to the University of Texas at Austin. Hamilton writes that the UT System reviewed nearly 80 such letters from 2009-13 that were sent outside the normal applications process.

"They found that the letters paid off for many of the applicants," Hamilton writes. "Of 16 who were seeking admittance to UT-Austin’s law school, eight were accepted. For 63 UT-Austin undergraduate applicants examined during the review, 37 won admission for an acceptance rate that exceeded 58 percent, compared with a 23 percent rate among the larger group of comparable applicants."

Allegations of "secret favoritism," of course, lay at the heart of UT Regent Wallace Hall's inquiries about the UT-Austin administration, an effort persistent enough to spur an ongoing impeachment investigation of Hall.

Hamilton writes that the sample size — only 63 undergraduate applications were looked at over five years — complicates the ability to draw meaningful conclusions. Still, Hamilton notes that "UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa announced the system would dive deeper and commission a full external investigation. In an interview, he also said that several policy changes would be recommended at the board’s July meeting to ensure that best practices in admissions are followed."

The Day Ahead

•    Dueling events are scheduled for the anniversary of the Wendy Davis filibuster that temporarily scuttled legislation sought by Republicans to add further regulations on abortion facilities. Davis, now the Democrats' nominee for governor, will be joined by Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte and Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood for a rally at 6 p.m. at the Palmer Events Center in Austin. Texas Alliance for Life holds a press conference earlier in the day at 1 p.m. at the Texas Capitol with HB 2 author Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, to commemorate the eventual passage of the legislation. We will livestream the Davis rally.

•    The House Natural Resources Committee meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol Extension to address interim charges on water management and conservation. (agenda)

•    The Sunset Advisory Commission meets at 9 a.m. in the Capitol Extension for public testimony on the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, the Department of Family and Protective Services, the Department of State Health Services and the Department of Aging and Disability Services. (agenda)

•    The Texas Ethics Commission meets at 8:30 a.m. in the John H. Reagan Building to conduct a formal hearing in its investigation of a complaint against Michael Quinn Sullivan that he did not register as a lobbyist in 2010 and 2011. (agenda)

Trib Must-Reads

Texas Hospitals Face Penalties Over Infections, by Alexa Ura and Jessica Hamel

Analysis: Multiple Takeaways From Davis' Filibuster, by Ross Ramsey

Elsewhere

Wendy Davis tries to widen appeal without hurting base, The Dallas Morning News

Herman: The anniversary of democracy’s bad night, Austin American-Statesman

State regulators set for Sullivan lobbying trial, San Antonio Express-News

Top Obama official spells out plan on illegal child border crossers, Houston Chronicle

Texas Rangers to investigate migrant graves, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Cruz's vacation with a media mogul, The Hill

Senators push major FOIA change, Politico

Narrow Shift by Washington on Oil Exports, The New York Times

Quote to Note

"It is a sad thing when people don't understand that the people cannot vote away the rights of minorities."

— Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, criticizing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's description of the Supreme Court's decision knocking down California's ban on gay marriage as "judicial activism." Olson helped lead the challenge to the ban.

Today in TribTalk

A day that changed nothing, by Donna Campbell

A day that changed everything, by Kirk Watson

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    The Texas Tribune Festival runs from Sept. 19-21 at the University of Texas at Austin. Tickets are on sale now.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.