Today was the long-awaited meeting of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance. This was strictly an organizational meeting, and no members of the UT Board of Regents were present. But it was another front in the increasingly tense battle between the UT System Board of Regents and UT president Bill Powers, which I wrote about in an October 2012 cover story.
Chairman Kel Seliger made a point of mentioning that the committee was empowered to issue subpoenas, a move that should get the regents’ attention. In addition, the committee has also made an open records request for regents’ e-mails, coming on the heels of the UT regents barring Powers and other campus officials from deleting their emails. Seliger did speak about governance, and it was clear that he felt that improprieties had occurred, particularly in cases where regents exceeded their authority by going over Powers’ head to seek information from people lower down in the chain of command. Rep. Jim Pitts was also very strong in his support of Powers. He came right out and said that the regents are engaged in a “witch hunt” to drive out the president.
In due course, the regents are going to have to answer for their actions. They have said previously that they are eager to present their side of the story. They are going to have their chance, though the next move will happen on their turf: tomorrow morning the regents have called a special meeting to look into the relationship between the UT School of Law and the the Law School Foundation.