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The Brief: Aug. 21, 2015

The leaders of the University Texas System installed Thursday a new policy on student admissions, presumably in hopes of closing the door on a controversy over allegations of powerful people pulling strings to get students into school.

The nine University of Texas System presidents led by UT-Austin President Bill Powers appear at the committee meeting on May 14, 2014.

The Big Conversation

The leaders of the University of Texas System installed Thursday a new policy on student admissions, presumably in hopes of closing the door on a controversy over allegations of powerful people pulling strings to get students into school.

The Tribune's Matthew Watkins writes:

System leaders have ordered multiple investigations into the process of deciding who gets into school, and critics have accused former university president Bill Powers of running a "back-door" system to help those with powerful connections.

One such inquiry, conducted by the investigative firm Kroll Associates, found Powers and other officials placed hundreds of "holds" on particular students' applications, allowing him to track their progress and possibly help them get into school. The firm's report identified 73 students with powerful connections who got into UT-Austin over a five-year span, despite GPAs below 2.9 and combined SAT scores of less than 1100.

Under the new system, university presidents would have much less latitude in admitting a student, only allowing them to do so if accepting that student meets criteria of the "highest institutional importance."

Regent Wallace Hall, an opponent of Powers and the now retired admissions policies, was not placated by the changes in the new policy. He said that he doubted that the new policy would work as promised — that a student admitted under extraordinary circumstances wouldn't take the slot allotted to another student. He also said that more investigation is needed of the old admissions policy.

“I think it’s a travesty that we don’t discuss these things,” Hall said. “They deserve discussion and understanding, and the public deserves to know what took place.”

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

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Quote to Note

“I think the first thing we have to say is that, for us, this is not politics. This is personal. That’s the big difference between Hispanic media and the rest. When Donald Trump is talking about undocumented immigrants and talking about denying citizenship to the children born here, he’s not talking about someone we don’t know. He’s talking about our parents, friends, coworkers and children that we know.”

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Trib Events for the Calendar

•      The Texas Tribune's Trivia Night on Aug. 30 in Austin 

•      A Conversation with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor on Sept. 4 in Austin

•      A Conversation on The Road from Hurricane Rita on Sept. 22 in Beaumont

•      The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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