Tribune story may have doomed UT’s Powers

Part 24 of 24 in the series Trouble in Texas

By Jon Cassidy |

A story in the Texas Tribune last month may have helped seal the fate of Bill Powers, president of the University of Texas.

Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa issued a statement Monday night citing “a breakdown of communication,” among other reasons, in explaining his decision to refer Powers’ termination to the Board of Regents on Thursday.

POWERS-LESS: University of Texas President Bill Powers faces dismissal Thursday.

That euphemistic phrase may refer to any number of offenses, but there’s one in particular that’s bothering Cigarroa, as well as board chairman Paul Foster, according to a source familiar with their thinking who is not authorized to speak on the record.

It’s a June 5 story headlined, “Further Tensions at UT System Revealed in Emails.” The story is based on barely redacted emails obtained from the University of Texas through an open records request, but Cigarroa believes that the reporter was guided by Powers’ office about what to request, and then given emails that would usually be covered by attorney-client privilege.

The emails show Hall pressing for a meeting with UT’s then-admissions director, Kedra Ishop, who resigned last week for another job just as Cigarroa was announcing a full investigation of the school’s admissions practices.

Hall wanted to meet with Ishop one-on-one, while Powers’ office sought to turn it into a nine-person conference less conducive to candid discussions.

Whoever put the story out might have thought it made Hall look overbearing, but Powers still comes off as an obstructionist, seeking to hide the truth about admissions practices.

There would be some irony in the Tribune contributing to Powers’ downfall, given all the favorable coverage it’s given him, and the $525,000 that UT has given the Tribune.

Contact Jon Cassidy at or @jpcassidy000.