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UT Regent Hall Appeals to Texas Supreme Court in Fight With Chancellor

University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall has filed an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court to get access to confidential student records that UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven has denied him.

Regent Wallace Hall, Jr. at a regular meeting of the University of Texas Board of Regents in Ashbell Smith Hall in Austin.

University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall's public fight with the chancellor of the system he oversees isn't over yet. 

With the clock ticking on his time on the board of regents, Hall has filed an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court to get access to confidential student records that Chancellor Bill McRaven has denied him. 

Hall is seeking the records to gain more information about an admissions scandal involving students with powerful connections who were admitted to the University of Texas at Austin even though they had low scores. Hall wants to see the records used to compile an investigative report that criticized the university for its admissions practices. 

McRaven has offered redacted versions, but says he needs to protect student information. The full board of regents agreed, and voted to deny the records. Hall argues that the denial is illegal. 

Hall sued McRaven in his official capacity as chancellor last year. A district judge threw out the case, and an appeals court denied Hall's appeal last month. 

In his filing to the Supreme Court, Hall argues that the courts are setting a dangerous precedent by denying a regent access to documents he requests. University regents have important oversight duties that would be weakened if they can't review documents they deem important, Hall has argued. 

"Employees of the governed entity have no discretion to deny requests for such information," the appeal says. "Otherwise, employees could hide mistakes or malfeasance simply by withholding information from those charged with oversight."

In a statement, McRaven said he regretted Hall's decision to continue the case given that his appeal had been rejected unanimously by the lower court. 

"I am confident that the actions of the UT System have been in accordance with state and federal laws protecting confidential student information, and we will continue to defend our position," he said. 

Hall is also asking for the court to expedite his case. His term as regent expires in February. After that, his claim to the documents will likely be moot. 

Hall has spent years looking into issues at UT-Austin, especially those of former President Bill Powers. Over the years, he has requested hundreds of thousands of pages' worth of documents from system officials. That has lead some opponents to claim he is on a witch hunt against Powers because the former president failed to institute reforms that Hall supported. Hall says he is fulfilling his oversight role at the system. 

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Disclosure: The University of Texas System and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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