Texas Legislators and Their Sons: Favoritism at UT

It appears that Texas legislators used their power and influence to help get friends and family into both the University of Texas, and the University of Texas Law School, reports Watchdog.org

UT Chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa, and his office unearthed 86 letters of recommendation sent directly to UT President, Bill Power, instead of through the normal admissions process. Of these 86 letters, almost all of them came from legislators, reports Watchdog

Speaker of the House, Joe Straus, along with his top two lieutenants, Reps. Dan Branch and Jim Pitts, sent more letters of recommendation to the President of UT than anyone else found in the investigation.

According to Watchdog, earlier in the year Pitts and Branch lead a successful campaign to block the Board of Regents from investigation an under the table pay scandal at UT’s law school. 

Straus, Branch, and Pitts all wrote seven letters directly to Powers on behalf of UT applicants. It appears that these letters were very effective in getting applicants through the admissions process. According to Watchdog, an undergraduate student whose application was backed by a United States lawmaker was accepted at a rate of 58.7% whereas the acceptance rate for a normal applicant was 15.8%. 

Breitbart Texas obtained one of the letters sent by Rep. Dan Branch. This uncovered letter to UT President Powers seemed to contradict his claims that he has never used his influence on the Higher Ed Committee to write a letter for someone and influence admissions. 

“An intelligent and well-rounded candidate, I believe (unreadable) would be an outstanding addition to UT Austin. I would encourage your admissions team to please give him serious consideration in their selection process. If I can be of any assistance, please contact me,” said Branch’s letter on behalf of a UT undergrad. 

It is unknown if there are more letters sent by legislators. UT Regent Wallace Hall found the letters in an investigation about about legislators giving special treatment to their friends and family at the University. Two weeks before Hall would begin his investigation about nepotism, Texas lawmakers launched impeachment hearings against him. Speaker of the House Straus would authorize the proceedings. 

Many of Hall’s attackers, including Rep. Trey Fischer, had written letters to Powers on student’s behalf. Fischer, who is arguably Hall’s most voracious pursuer on the impeachment committee, would include a personal, "I look forward to our visit” at the end of his letter to the UT President, says Watchdog

Appropriations Committee Chairman Pitts, announced retirement after admitting to using his influence to help get his son into UT’s law school. Rep. Dan Branch is currently running for Attorney General. 

Follow Patrick Kane on Twitter @PatVKane


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