After a tumultuous special called meeting that lasted into the early morning hours on Wednesday, Regents for Texas Southern University voted 6-1 to terminate President Dr. Austin A. Lane.
Pausing often because of outbursts from angry alumni, Regent Marc Carter read a lengthy notice of termination after regents emerged from a five-hour, closed-door meeting. In the statement, he cited a failure to report allegations of fraud in the university admissions process and numerous other contract violations as the reasoning behind the board’s decision to dismiss Dr. Lane.
Carter said the basis of the termination stemmed from admissions improprieties in the law school. A former assistant dean resigned in lieu of termination for “facilitating a fraudulent transfer law school application” and providing LSAT information for a student. That dean was reportedly paid $14,000 for the fraudulent acts. When Lane discovered what happened, the assistant dean was dismissed. But board members say not only did Lane allow the student to be admitted into the university through an alternative admissions process, they were not informed of the situation.
“You did not promptly report the admissions fraud to the board or to any internal review process for follow up,” Carter read.
Among the other accusations from the Notice of Termination:
- During the course of the investigation. Lane was interviewed twice. During the second interview, he “made statements regarding knowledge of these events that are inconsistent with your prior statements during your first interview and to the board members.”
- To ensure the integrity of its investigations, the board directed Lane and his cabinet to preserve evidence to cooperate and not interfere with the investigation. However, the board alleges that Lane “violated the university’s discipline termination policy by directing or overseeing determination or demotion of employees without following established university policy and procedure.” All of these actions are “inconsistent with your duties to inform the board of litigation matters that could bring disrespect to the university.”
- Lane “directed excessive entertainment expenses to be paid through the TSU foundation rather than the university entertainment expenses reimbursement process,” which requires board approval. “The full cost of these expenses was never presented by you or your staff for approval to the full board.”
- Lane failed “to fully inform the entire board for the primary reason for Dean (James) Douglas’ resignation.”
- Lane and his subordinate, Wendell Williams “improperly instructed Dean Douglas to misrepresent the authorship of a report to be submitted to the ABA,” a violation of the university policy. And “an act that could be misleading to the ABA accreditation committee as you requested the Dean to improperly borrow the reputation of an external consultant as an academic institution.”
Regents gave Lane thirty days to “cure” the allegations. “If cure can be made,” Carter said, a hearing before the board of regents will be held and Lane will be “given the opportunity to demonstrate any error in fact contained in this notice” or “evidence of cure.”
Lane, who spent most of the meeting huddled with his attorney and mingling with supporters, says he plans to vigilantly fight the charges.
“We get millions of allegations that come into the university all the time,” Lane said after the meeting, “but they have to be uncovered. That’s when we bring it to closed session and they know that. I’ve done it my whole entire time here. I’m not going to do anything that embarrasses myself, my family, my supporters that are here today, my students, my faculty or my staff. You won’t find anything they said today that links anything to me.”
He said the regents had offered him a buyout, but he declined, saying his plan is to return to dispute every charge.
“We’ll be back in 30 days with an attorney to dispute every last one of the things that they’ve mentioned,” he said.
Alumni speak out
“This just feels personal. All the allegations are allegations of other people, which we don’t have control over what people do on their job. All we can do is reprimand them. What he did was reprimand the person. The board is firing him because he didn’t tell them something. How petty does that sound? What they did is not in the interest of students, the student body here, or the alumni. Everything that they said was about the Regents getting their feelings hurt. Nothing was about the better interest of Texas Southern university.”
“So we’re just going to toss away all the good this man did for the university because some Regents feel left out of the loop? What kind of sense does that make? This has set TSU back 20 years.”
“This is a modern day lynching. You could tell they really had nothing just based on what they were saying.”
-This was straight hogwash. What was done was done because Dr. Lane has made such tremendous improvements.”
“This board is not Texas Southern University. This board is an attaché of the state of Texas, and it is an unfortunate that they are not serving this university in the capacity in which they were sent to serve…..Of the nine regents, none of them have undergraduate degrees from TSU…..If any of the board members had 27 departments that they managed, scrubbed, I guarantee something’s going to come out. Some I’s not dotted, some T is not crossed. I am not saying that Dr. Lane is infallible. What I am saying is that does the action justify his the reaction. And I don’t believe so. I believe the good that Dr. Lane has done has far outweighed anything that they have brought forward.”