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UT Regent Investigation Focuses Less on Wallace Hall, More on Powers’ Resignation

University of Texas Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa during Joint Committee on Oversight of Higher Education Governance, Excellence & Tansparency on September 21st, 2011
Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune
UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa told state lawmakers asking UT-Austin President Bill Powers to resign was in the "best interest of the university."

In what's become the never-ending story of state higher education news, the Texas House Transparency Committeecontinued to hash out details of the fractured relationship between the UT System Board of Regentsand UT-Austin leadership Wednesday, as it investigates the actions of UT Regent Wallace Hall.

The committee is deciding if it should file impeachment proceedings against Hall, who some believe abused his powers as regent, but Wednesday's meeting also focused on last week's agreement for UT Austin President Bill Powers to resignat the end of the 2014-2015 school year.

For hours, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa testified in front of the committee, along with UT System Chairman Paul Foster and Executive Vice Chancellor Pedro Reyes, about his attempts to work with Powers.  Earlier this month, Cigarroa asked Powers to resign, but during today's meeting he said, in the end, he had to make a decision.

"If I'm the surgeon in control of an operation, at the end of the day, I've got to make a big decision in the best interest of the patient," Cigarroa said, referencing his career as a surgeon. "As a president, I get a lot of input from staff, faculty and students. At the end of the day I've got to make a decision what's in the best interest of the university. And my decision making process is no different as Chancellor at the University of Texas."

Earlier this year, Cigarroa announced he will step down and return to his work as a surgeon. He will remain Chancellor until a replacement is appointed.

Representatives compared Cigarroa and Powers' relationship to a failed marriage. Overall, the chancellor testified the relationship between himself and President Powers had been strained for years. In recent months, he says, communication and trust continued to breakdown, referring to private conversations between Cigarroa and Powers that became public.

"Trust is such an important word in regards to any business you're in," Cigarroa testified. "If a chancellor can't communicate sensitive matters to a president without [him] just going out to the public. And you know you only communicated that with that individual and the president says, 'Well I'm going to have to take one on the chin for that,' at some point you've got to cough." 

The legislature questioned the three UT system officials about a variety of issues, including Regent Wallace Hall, but did not take a formal vote on the issue. The committee will reconvene August 11.

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