Overview: Celebrate Cesar Chavez; Good riddance to Rick O'Donnell

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<strong>Celebrate Cesar Chavez<strong/>

Thursday may be the last time Texans celebrate Cesar Chavez Day if state Republicans have their way.

Cesar Chavez Day, celebrated in Texas on March 31, commemorates the famous Mexican-American worker rights and civil rights activist. It is celebrated in 10 states, according to the Cesar E. Chavez Holiday organization, and is an optional holiday in Texas.

Rep. Tryon Lewis, R-Odessa, filed a bill this session that would eliminate Cesar Chavez Day and replace it with Texas Hispanic Heritage Day, which would observe “the battle for independence from Spain in Mexico, including the area now known as Texas.” The proposed holiday would be celebrated on Sept. 16.

Eliminating Cesar Chavez Day, a day that celebrates one of the most prominent and influential Mexican-Americans, and instead creating a holiday ultimately celebrating the great state of Texas, is hardly a replacement.

Just what is Lewis’ justification? “[Cesar Chavez’] connection to Texas was ephemeral at best, and if you think of all the Texans of all ethnicities who have made significant impacts, who are not recognized, it’s just always odd to me that Cesar Chavez was,” he told The El Paso Times.

Texas is hardly lacking in holidays that celebrate the state of Texas, and based on Lewis’ thoughts on the topic, he’s much less interested in celebrating Hispanic culture than simply making a political power play by tying up the Legislature with a pointless bill. We hope legislators focus on the more pertinent issues facing the Legislature this session and that Thursday will not be the state’s last celebration of Cesar Chavez.

<strong>Good riddance to Rick O’Donnell<strong/>

After complaints from UT System alumni, administrators and lawmakers, the UT System Board of Regents has reassigned controversial appointee Rick O’Donnell.

Why UT System chairman Gene Powell created the $200,000-per-year advisory position is unclear, especially when the job description closely matches that of Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. But what’s more troubling is O’Donnell’s work with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a nonprofit conservative think tank.

In 2008, the foundation proposed seven radical reforms to higher education, including one that would emphasize “teaching and research as separate efforts in higher education.” While working with the foundation, O’Donnell published a paper that questioned the benefits and value of higher education research.

Though it is unfortunate that the System hired O’Donnell in the first place, the reassignment was a necessary move. O’Donnell is now a non-contract System employee who works under Scott Kelly, executive vice chancellor for business affairs. O’Donnell’s employment is expected to end Aug. 31, 2011, System spokesman Matt Flores told The Daily Texan.

In the meantime, he will still receive an exorbitant salary of $200,000 — money that could have instead been used to hire more associate professors, offer financial aid to students or cover 8 percent of Mack Brown’s salary.