The Corner

The Ongoing Texas Travesty

During questioning at the Texas Capitol, Representative Jim Pitts confirmed what already was obvious: that he has long been intervening with the president of the University of Texas and the dean of the UT law school in order to secure preferential treatment for favored constituents, including his son. This is not the usual practice of writing a letter of recommendation to the admissions committee, but going directly to the president and the law-school dean, circumventing the usual admissions process. Mr. Pitts, a Republican, is chairman of the almighty appropriations committee in the state house.

Mr. Pitts is also one of the leaders of a movement to impeach and remove from office UT regent Wallace Hall, who, among other things, has been making a stink about his belief that Texas legislators having been improperly leaning on the UT law school to give admissions preference to their friends and family. As I argued before, the fact that Mr. Pitts is directly and intimately involved in this case argues very strongly against his leading the inquisition into Mr. Hall. Mr. Hall is being impeached over his investigation into wrongdoing at the university and in the legislature, and the effort is being led by one of the wrongdoers — a political clown-show that is beneath even the lamentable standards of the Texas legislature.

Mr. Pitts here is taking a particularly lame position, maintaining that looking into the question of whether his son was admitted to UT law by substituting political connections for the necessary qualifications is a violation of his son’s privacy rights. Perhaps young Ryan Pitts, if not his father, should have thought about the long-term consequences of having daddy lean on the law school to let him in. I imagine this episode is embarrassing for Ryan Pitts — it should be.

The only intelligent thing to do here is to open up all of the records of communication between members of the Texas legislature and university executives regarding admissions matters. The harmless letters of recommendation on behalf of Eagle Scouts and volunteers will be easily distinguished from the string-pulling on behalf of the politically connected. Texas legislators are for the most part resistant to letting in sunlight to disinfect that mess — because they are the infection. They should hear from their constituents. 

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