March 28, 2019
Dear UT Community,
In recent weeks, you probably have read or heard about several stories involving The University of Texas. I write to you today to provide some facts and update you about the university’s response to these situations.
As you may know, our student Nicky Cumberland died in a car accident last year while returning to Austin after an off-campus retreat with the Texas Cowboys. His death was a tragedy felt throughout the university community. More than anything, it was an unimaginable loss for his parents, family and friends.
After allegations of hazing at the Cowboys retreat surfaced, the Office of the Dean of Students launched an investigation. This week, it released a report that found multiple violations of university rules and recommended a minimum six-year suspension for the Cowboys. The organization still has an opportunity to appeal, and the case will be judged on its facts.
Let me make clear — there is no place for hazing at The University of Texas. The mission of this university — to educate, learn, discover and serve — can only be accomplished in an environment where we respect one another. Where we look after our neighbors, peers and friends.
You probably also have heard about the federal investigation into admissions fraud at eight universities across the nation. This resulted in the charging of one UT employee — Men’s Tennis Coach Michael Center. He is accused of accepting money to help admit a student who was not qualified as a student-athlete in 2015. Mr. Center has been fired. The university continues to work with federal prosecutors and law enforcement in their investigation.
Vice President for Legal Affairs Jim Davis is leading a review of the alleged 2015 fraud. Our goal is to find out what went wrong, where the university came up short, if the problems extended beyond a single incident, and how we can enhance our rules and procedures to prevent anything like this from happening again. The integrity of every college, school and unit on the Forty Acres is absolutely vital to the continued success of the university.
As a result of the recent federal charges, the U.S. Department of Education is investigating the eight universities named in court documents (including UT), and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, our accrediting agency, has requested information. Further, Governor Greg Abbott is requiring all Texas higher education institutions to review their admissions policies and procedures. The university is working closely with all of these agencies. If you have further questions, please visit our FAQ page.
Our ability to serve the public hinges on the ethical actions of every single person associated with UT — students, faculty, staff, alumni and administrators. When our values are compromised, everyone feels it, and I want to assure you that we are taking strong action to address these recent episodes.
Gregory L. Fenves