The fired president of a historically Black university in Texas was speaking out in defense surrounding an alleged admissions scandal that prompted his termination this week. Dr. Austin Lane, the now-former president of Texas Southern University, was fired early Wednesday morning after a meeting with the school’s board of regents determined he was involved with “improper payments for admissions” to Texas Southern’s law school, among other university violations.
It was the most recent in a string of college admissions scandals that have erupted around the country.
Lane, who was placed on leave last month after leading the HBCU since 2016, offered his side of the story as shown in a series of videos that were posted to social media on Wednesday night. Having just emerged from meeting with the board, Lane said to a group of his supporters that he was innocent.
“You won’t find anything they said in there linked to me,” Lane, 48, said in the video that was posted by Serbino Sandifer-Walker, who is identified on Texas Southern’s website as a communications professor at the university.
Lane said he refused to come to terms with a “buyout” that the university was trying to negotiate with him and that he would return after the allotted period for him to challenge his firing.
“We’ll be back in 30 days with my attorney to dispute every last thing they said in there,” Lane vowed.
Applause could be heard with cheers of encouragement for Lane after he spoke.
A letter from Texas Southern to Lane documenting his termination accused him of multiple violations of his contract with the university, which is located in Houston. The letter said the university found evidence that Lane “allowed” an unqualified student to be admitted to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, which violated his duty to alert Texas Southern to any information that could damage its reputation.
The letter went on to say that an unnamed and since-fired “former Assistant Dean of Law School Admissions and Financial Aid” was involved in “a fraudulent transfer law school application” and separately got paid $14,000 in cash for a “second fraudulent admission and scholarship for a first-year law school student.”
The Houston Chronicle reported that Lane and his assistant were also accused of attempting “to direct another former law school official to misrepresent a report to a national law school accreditation review board.” Lane allegedly also used money from a university charity for “excessive entertainment expenses.”
Lane called the claims “a lie” during the meeting.
Below is video footage from Lane’s meeting with the TSU board of regents reading the letter outlining the firing. It was greeted by jeers and derision from people in attendance. At one point, a chant of “No justice, no peace” broke out.
Local news outlet KHOU reported that its sources have said that “some board members have a personal vendetta against [Lane] and wanted him out.” A group of Texas Southern alumni “started a petition to reinstate the president and will be reaching out to other agencies to see what can be done to reinstate him,” KHOU added.
Lane, who was previously executive vice chancellor of the seven-campus Lone Star community college system and served as president of Lone Star College’s Montgomery campus for six years, was the Texas Southern’s third president in the last two decades and 12th overall.
Texas Southern’s Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Huewitt was named president in the interim.
The college admissions scandals that were famously highlighted by several prominent actresses being arrested for their roles have mainly centered on privileged white folks paying exorbitant amounts of money to get their children into schools they were not otherwise qualified for under the guise of an athletic scholarship for a sport they would never play on the collegiate level. Texas Southern appears to be the first college admissions scandal involving an HBCU.
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