The Texas Attorney General issued an Attorney General Opinion on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 favorable to University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall. The opinion states that a university cannot prohibit individual regents from having access to copies of university records unless a state or federal law provides otherwise.
The Regent had requested records from the investigation by Kroll Associates into University admission practices. The investigation was commissioned by the former Chancellor of the University and the findings were released in February.
The Regent has been in a battle with University leaders and Texas legislators over his inquiries into University admission practices.
The ruling by the Attorney General notes that access to records is necessary to a regent’s fulfillment of their duties.
Citing to a 2004 A.G. opinion when Greg Abbott was Attorney General, the May 12, 2015 opinion states:
Texas attorneys general have consistently concluded that ‘a member of a governing body has an inherent right of access to the records of that body when requested in the member’s official capacity and for the member’s performance of official duties.’
The attorney general opinion is consistent with the opinions of three recent Texas attorney generals.
The opinion also finds that a court would likely conclude that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does not allow a university to withhold student records from state or local education officials when they are necessary to an audit and evaluation of a state supported education program.
The UT System had denied Wallace documents because they included student records that the Chancellor had determined were protected under the Act.
Breitbart Texas reported on April 21st that UT Regent Hall requested an opinion, and asked the A.G. to issue the opinion before the meeting of the Board of Regents on May 13th.
Hall’s letter to the Attorney General stated that at the last board meeting on April 9th, some of the regents expressed an interest in changing the rules to require a majority vote by the Board in order for a regent to have access to university records.
Hall asked for an A.G. opinion on the issue of the authority of the regents to prohibit a regent from accessing University records.
Merrill Hope of Breitbart Texas covered the Kroll Report when it was released writing that the report “detailed an elaborate ‘coding’ scheme through which University President William Powers misled an earlier internal inquiry into the UT-Austin admissions process.”
The Kroll investigation also revealed that former University of Texas President William Powers used his position to get individuals who were not otherwise qualified admitted into the undergraduate school.
Hall, through his attorney, had requested the A.G. opinion saying “the Board lacks authority, as does the Chancellor, to interfere in a regent’s access to university records that the regent deems necessary to fulfill his official duties.”
In the opinion today, the Attorney General first answered the question in the affirmative that state law gives an individual regent the authority to request an A.G. opinion in his capacity as regent.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2