Controversy Swirls Around Student Records Request at the University of Texas

The university system cited student data privacy as a reason why it wouldn't release confidential admissions records to a regent.

by Tanya Roscorla / June 24, 2015
Student admissions records at the University of Texas at Austin are in the center of a dispute between the system's chancellor and one of the regents. By Utexas [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Internal struggles at the University of Texas System have led to a lawsuit over a student records request for admissions data.

Regent Wallace Hall sued Chancellor William McRaven for denying him access to records referred to in a report that described how former administrators at the University of Texas at Austin overrode admission staff's concerns when admitting particular students, reports The Texas Tribune. The report by Kroll Associates found that these administrators admitted some students who had powerful connections, even though their academic records may not have been up to snuff.

The chancellor argues that federal student privacy law does not allow him to release all the records Hall requested, and that the regent has no business looking at academic records unless he has an educational purpose to do so. On the other hand, the regent argues that he needs the records to carry out his oversight duties, though he hasn't said why he wants the records.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sided with the regent in an ongoing dispute that ultimately led to the lawsuit, writing in a letter that universities aren't allowed to keep records from regents when they need them to do their job. He also said the university system would not break federal privacy law by sharing records with regents as long as those records are part of an audit or evaluation.

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