We’ve known, from the drips and dabs that slipped out, that the UT admissions scandal was worse than the Kroll report actually let on. But we didn’t know it was ten times worse:
At least 764 applicants initially denied admission to the University of Texas were admitted thanks to a backdoor program for the wealthy and politically connected administered by former president Bill Powers.
More than 200 of those applicants were admitted despite having their applications cancelled by the Admissions Office.
The total is more than 10 times the 73 applicants widely reported from an investigation paid for by the university and conducted by Kroll Associates. Kroll withheld the full findings from its 107-page final report.
The Kroll investigation confirmed what had been common knowledge in the wealthy Dallas-area community of Highland Park, which includes UT Regent Wallace Hall and House Education Committee chair Dan Branch: students were getting into UT at extraordinary rates, despite bad grades.
UT admitted seven Highland Park students with grade point averages below 2.0 and SAT scores below 800.
The very worst of the students UT admitted, the investigation showed, were clustered in the districts of Branch, House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), and Sen. Kirk Watson, (D-Austin).
Straus has gone to even greater lengths than UT to cover up the abuses. He authorized a special committee operating behind the scenes in an effort to impeach Hall for asking too many questions about the admissions process.
A very cynical part of me wonders if this is the root of Straus’ stranglehold on the Speaker’s office: his power as the go-to fixer for getting unqualified students into UT.
If you hadn’t heard, Wallace Hall, who uncovered the scandal, is suing UT chancellor William McRaven for access to the documents Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has already said he’s entitled to.
Indeed, UT’s dishonest coverup may be a big factor in the Supreme Court in agreeing to hear an appeal on Fisher vs. University of Texas, “a 2008 lawsuit brought by a white student claiming the university’s diversity-seeking admissions system had unfairly deprived her of admission.”
The Dallas Observer‘s Jim Schutze (who, unlike myself, favors affirmative action) explains:
The court did receive a blistering friend-of-the-court brief (see copy below) from the Cato Institute, a conservative think-tank, in support of Fisher’s request to be heard again. The Cato brief called the court’s attention to an investigation of admissions at UT that grew out of the Hall disclosures. Cato told SCOTUS the investigation proved that UT’s “claimed diversity rationale is a sham.”
That would be new evidence, maybe. But if it goes to the university’s core integrity – if the university has been lying to the courts about why it handles admissions the way it does – then maybe it’s not so new. Maybe it goes right to the heart of the existing case.
We have talked here often before about revelations brought forward by Hall showing that the former president of the university and some of the regents were handing out undergraduate admissions to sons and daughters of influential state legislators the way favors of love are distributed in a bawdy house. But does that kind of corruption go to the affirmative action question?
Nobody knows if the Cato amicus brief played any role at all in the high court’s eventual decision to rehear Fisher. But if it did, this would be why: When the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 to send Fisher back down to the 5th Circuit, the court said the lower court needed to take a tougher look at the university’s admissions policies. The Supreme Court told the lower court not to just take the university at its word but to examine the university’s admissions closely under a doctrine called “strict scrutiny.”
The 5th Circuit basically said yeah, yeah, OK, we strict scrutinied them, and we still trust them. So the 5th Circuit upheld the university. Fisher appealed back to the Supreme Court saying the 5th Circuit hadn’t really done the strict scrutiny strictly enough.
Then along comes the Wallace Hall evidence of an under-the-table secret admissions program the university forgot to tell the courts about. In fact, Hall’s investigation found evidence of lying, destruction of documents, coercion – enough story lines for an entire season of The Sopranos, all having to do with UT admissions.
A Supreme Court case is likely to bring national attention to a scandal the local mainstream media has tried to downplay or bury. And if it turns out UT actually lied to the courts, well, that sort of thing tends to make federal judges a mite testy…
(Hat tip: Push junction.)