Reading Between the Lines on Texas Southern Firing President Austin Lane

Regents at Texas Southern University have fired president Austin Lane, weeks after placing him on leave pending the outcome of financial investigations, and months after the school revealed improprieties in its admissions processes. 

KHOU in Houston reports on the firing, which was described as ‘heated’ between the regents and supporters who backed Dr. Lane. But a paragraph of specific details released by the board tells us all we need to know about how serious Dr. Lane’s conduct may have been taken, and how urgent the matter needed to be addressed. 

These and other actions had the effect of concealing such fraud. The investigation also found attempts to conceal excessive entertainment expenses through a process inconsistent with Dr. Lane’s contract that would have prevented Board scrutiny of such expenses. It also found that Dr. Lane and his assistant attempted to direct another former law school official to misrepresent a report to a national law school accreditation review board. The Board took additional steps to confirm its findings utilizing three separate law firms to assist with the process. 

The detail of the investigation findings and the willingness of the board to share them with the general public while the school is under federal investigation gives the impression that there’s something serious going on with Dr. Lane to which the trustees do not want to be attached.

It is rare for even the pettiest HBCU boards to openly reveal the details of presidential misconduct or even malfeasance; if for no other reason than to show the next president they plan to hire that they won’t get publicly dragged should they ever fall out of favor with the board. 

The board has all of the leverage in this case because it is likely that this decision was made because of its failed attempts to convince Dr. Lane to resign. He may appeal, he may publicly object, and he may even raise angst among students and alumni against the board. 

But if the board has receipts, which from all indications in its termination letter appears to be the case, then Dr. Lane’s position doesn’t exist. And all signs point to TSU executives acting with transparency and urgency to help the school, rather than immersing the institution in the tired HBCU trope of administrators working to preserve bad leadership.