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A Report’s Findings on the U. of Texas President Bill Powers, in 4 Excerpts

The messy, public fight over allegations of favoritism in the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions office is far from over. But there now appears to be some extra ammunition on the side of Wallace L. Hall Jr., the system regent who has been leading a crusade to expose what he calls shady practices used to decide who—or, more specifically, whose relative or acquaintance—is admitted.

A new report commissioned by the recently departed system chancellor, Francisco G. Cigarroa, and conducted by the firm Kroll Associates Inc. details the relationship between the office of the departing Austin president, William C. Powers Jr., and the admissions office.

At the heart of the report’s findings is the existence of “holds,” the designation attached to applicants whom another person—an alumnus, a politician, or a donor, for instance—has expressed an interest in. A hold keeps a candidate in the running even if the admissions office wants to reject him or her. The students’ names are brought up again at meetings between the president’s office and the admissions office. From the report:

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How should we define “tension”? Here’s one example, as told by a former admissions director who mentions Mr. Powers’s chief of staff, Nancy Brazzil:

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The report offers no evidence of quid pro quo arrangements involving Mr. Powers and people with an interest in specific applicants.

But there is evidence to suggest that Mr. Powers suspected admissions policies were not aboveboard. For starters:

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And there is evidence to indicate that while the “end of cycle” admissions meetings were going on, participants knew not to create a record:

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Since the report’s release, Mr. Powers has defended the admissions policies, and said he felt the report was fair. “It is my observation that some similar process exists at virtually every selective university in America,” he said in a statement, “and it does so because it serves the best interests of the institutions.”

The system’s new chancellor, Adm. William H. McRaven, said on Thursday that he would not take disciplinary action in response to the report. “There are people who are passionate on both sides of the argument,” he said. “I took the Kroll report for what it was. I didn’t read anything into it. If you come into it with prior knowledge … it will skew how the report’s findings sit with you.”

Read the full report here.

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