The Corner

The Curious and Curiouser Case of Wallace Hall

In the course of my reporting on the absurd attempt to impeach University of Texas regent Wallace Hall, it was suggested to me that one of the legislators leading the impeachment push was one of the same legislators who had sought preferential treatment for their children in admissions to the University of Texas law school. Today I put the question to Representative Jim Pitts, chairman of the powerful house appropriations committee in the Texas legislature. Representative Pitts’s son is a recent graduate of the UT law school. Representative Pitts responded angrily to the suggestion that he might have a personal interest in not seeing Mr. Hall’s investigatory work made public, but he did not deny having intervened with the law school on behalf of his son. His full response reads:

As a parent, I find it truly disgraceful that some are trying to drag my children—or the children of other legislators—into a debate over governance at the University of Texas System and the possible impeachment of Wallace Hall. This is nothing more than a pathetic, cowardly attempt by Mr. Hall’s allies—and possibly Mr. Hall himself—to distract from important questions about whether our flagship university system is being run appropriately. Any parent whose child has ever sought admission at the University of Texas should be deeply concerned that Mr. Hall’s allies would share children’s confidential admissions information with the news media in order to fulfill their insatiable appetite for harassing UT students and employees.

But of course a personal interest of that sort in the case is far from being a distraction. If Representative Pitts did indeed seek preferential treatment for his son at the UT law school, then he should recuse himself from the matter in the legislature, because it touches him personally. If he did not do so, then he should do himself a favor and say as much. Surely some of his constituents have children who applied to the prestigious UT law school and failed to gain admission, and no doubt they will have some opinions about the matter.

There remains the matter of a Texas state senator who also sought preferential treatment for an applicant, and who Mr. Hall suggests did so in a manner that suggested a crude legislative quid pro quo. I expect to have more on that soon. 

If Representative Pitts does not have the good sense to clarify this matter, then his colleagues in the legislature owe it to themselves and to their constituents to do so for him.

For the record, I have not spoken with Mr. Hall about this matter. His attorney, with whom I did speak, did not suggest that Representative Pitts was the preference-seeking legislator in question. 

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