UT tries to deny 128 LSAT score

HIM OR ME: Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa tried for months to get Bill Powers, pictured, to step down as president of the University of Texas.

By Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org

A spokesman for the University of Texas at Austin named Gary Susswein has more or less denied that the university had admitted anyone with a score of 128 on the Law School Admissions Test.

That 128 is the lowest of many abysmal LSAT scores that Watchdog reported last month.

I say more or less because Susswein’s quote in the Texas Tribune contained a weaselly hedge:

“‘We can find no record of UT Law admitting a student based on an LSAT score of 128,’ Susswein said in an email. ‘There was one student admitted more than a decade ago who had taken the LSAT three times and received a high score of 145 and a low of 128. Our policy has long been to look at the best score in the admissions process.’”

Reporter Reeve Hamilton, to his credit, points out that 145 is still “low for UT-Austin’s law school, where the median score is a 166.”

Susswein’s weasel phrase is ‘based on.’ You could admit a student with a 128 LSAT based on his outstanding grades, recommendations and other factors and his statement would be true.

In my experience, when you’re dealing with lawyers and flacks, non-denials are usually meaningful, especially when they’re written.

The second half of his quote is true, but it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the first part. I’ve previously posted the LSAT scores for that student, who got a 128, 136, and 145, according to records from Texas Tech.

However, records from Texas Southern University listed an applicant who got a high score of 128 on the LSAT, and I have very high confidence in those records. Here’s why:

The LSAT scores I’ve reported came from a set of 122 UT Law grads I inquired about, including 90 who failed the state bar exam at least twice. Since their LSAT scores are confidential at UT, I requested them from the state’s other public universities, which aren’t bound by the same federal restrictions. (Explanation here.)

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office felt — and I do mean felt; there was no legal precedent — the names on those records should be redacted before they were released.

So I can’t confirm the identities of every last person whose name has been redacted — it’s possible there has been another law student or two somewhere Texas over the past decade with the same name as one of the people I asked about. There’s always the possibility of clerical error, mine or TSU’s, which could be ruled out if the names weren’t redacted. However, I provided TSU — and anyone else who asked — not just with complete names but with either birth dates or partial birth dates and partial Social Security Numbers for everyone on my list.

So I’m not buying any explanation of mistaken identity.

Could there be another honest explanation?

The only one that comes to mind is that the TSU applicant is the same person as the Texas Tech applicant who got the 128, 136, and 145. But that would mean he somehow specifically instructed the Law School Admissions Council to stop notifying TSU of any future scores after logging a 128, which would be pointless in any scenario and would also suggest he was confident of getting in elsewhere with that 128, which is even more absurd.

In short, I don’t believe Susswein. His boss, UT President Bill Powers, is now fighting for his professional life. And if Susswein is telling the truth about finding no record of someone getting in with a 128, then that suggests somebody has altered the record.

This should make three things clear. One, if investigators aren’t given complete access to private records, they aren’t going to get to the bottom of anything. They have a legitimate educational purpose and should not be impeded in any way, certainly not for specious claims of privacy.

Two, the 128 is just the most mind-bogglingly low score on a list of atrocious scores. Is Susswein going to try to deny all these scores, that they are not far below UT’s standards?

Three, it’s interesting that he says the student with the 128 and the 145 was admitted “more than a decade ago.” Isn’t that when Powers was dean of the law school?

Contact Jon Cassidy at jon@watchdog.org or @jpcassidy000. If you would like to send him documents or messages anonymously, download the Tor browser and go to our SecureDrop submission page: http://5bygo7e2rpnrh5vo.onion

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.