AG Ken Paxton sides with UT regent Wallace Hall on access to records

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
Austin American-Statesman
Originally published May 12, 2015

Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion Tuesday siding with a University of Texas System regent seeking access to records from an investigation into admissions at the Austin campus.

The UT System cannot bar a regent’s access to records unless a state or federal law requires otherwise, Paxton said. Even the federal student privacy law does not allow a university to withhold student records deemed necessary for evaluating a state-supported education program, he said.

Regent Wallace L. Hall Jr. sought the opinion after the system’s chancellor, Bill McRaven, refused to grant Hall’s request for access to the records at issue even though three regents, including Hall, voted April 8 to authorize access, including to confidential documents. That was one more vote than Hall needed under a Board of Regents rule.

McRaven contended that Hall’s interest strays into “inquiry and investigation,” thereby triggering another rule that requires a majority vote of the board.

Paxton’s opinion, which is advisory, said essentially that a court would likely side with Hall. The ruling is consistent with opinions issued by three previous attorneys general, Paxton said.