Editor's Note: The editorial blog will be going on hiatus for the winter break. While it may updated occassionally, it will return full-time at the beginning of next semester. Happy holidays!
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In response to budget crises, colleges across campus are slashing programs for graduate students and undergraduates alike, the latest of which was chronicled Monday when The Daily Texan ran a story covering the student response to proposed cuts to the physics department’s available teaching assistant positions. Reminiscent of the College of Liberal Arts’ TA task force meetings earlier this year considering similar cuts, this newest consideration just goes to show that the trend isn’t limited to non-STEM fields.
It is generally acknowledged today that a bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma: It is no longer a guarantee of a career and it is just an expected minimal step for many job options. Graduate school is increasingly necessary for university students to reach their goals. But so much time spent in school is not cheap. Teaching positions at the University have long been integral to not only funding a student’s tuition and living expenses, but also to immersing them in their new fields.
Reasonably so, the colleges explain their efforts are to increase the comprehensive stipends they can provide to each graduate student. Since their budgets aren’t predicted to go up anytime soon, the only way to increase individual stipends is to decrease the division of stipends, concentrating funding so that the lucky individuals who do receive one of the positions can continue in the traditional academic vein without financial worry.
But, as noted by UT’s Graduate Student Assembly in a piece of legislation approved last night, this is a poor solution to an ever-present problem. Funding deficits will not just go away, and cutting these positions would create a dangerous precedent for future graduate students who will constantly be subject to job insecurity. It is clear that the bottom line is valued more than the graduate student experience. UT Colleges need to do some serious introspection on their purpose as an educational institution to find a better solution.
Haight is an associate editor.
On Tuesday, I voted at the Flawn Academic Center for the mayoral runoff election. Early voting for this important race, as well as a few lower ballot contests, will run through Dec. 12. Unfortunately, the FAC will only be open for voting through Saturday, presumably because classes end Friday. Election Day will be on the last day of finals, Dec. 16, so students should take advantage of the opportunity to conveniently make their selections before that day.
During early voting ahead of November’s election, I had to wait in a short line at the FAC, but my experience Tuesday was totally different. I was in and out of the door in less than five minutes, and although the FAC was packed with students, no one else was at the voting booths. Granted, when compared to the November election, this ballot’s length was a tiny fraction of last month’s ballot, but this should practically be more of an incentive to vote; it took a mere 30 seconds to make my selections.
Aside from the FAC’s shortened early voting period and the unsurprising lack of student voters, perhaps what stuck out to me the most was the rather capricious way the enforcement of Texas’ contentious Voter ID Act was handled. Under the law, which the editorial board of this paper, as well as many — if not most — politically involved groups on campus vehemently oppose, all voters must present a valid, government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license, passport or concealed handgun license. A student ID, even from a public university such as this one, is insufficient.
A few weeks ago, I misplaced my driver's license, so the DPS office gave me a temporary paper certificate. On Tuesday, the election judge accepted it. Despite the fact that these paper certificates are relatively easy to fake, I was permitted to vote (I had brought my passport just in case). These paper certificates are fairly unreliable; most bars on Sixth Street refuse to accept them as valid IDs. Accordingly, it looks like the ostensible integrity of our voting system is more liberal than that of bars downtown.
All this is not to say that the election judge shouldn't have taken that piece of paper, and I don’t think someone would forge a fake temporary driver’s license in order to vote. Rather, it is to illustrate just how unnecessary and illogical the underlying law requiring all this fuss is.
When all was said and done, the 2014 election — both the Republican primary and the general election — was a godsend for conservatives in the state of Texas. Greg Abbott, the furiously anti-Obama attorney general, cruised to election as governor and Dan Patrick, a right-wing shock jock known for evocative and incendiary tirades, is slated to take the helm of the state senate as lieutenant governor. But, in one of the first official acts of 2015 in the political world, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, an independent-minded and pragmatic moderate, looks slated to win re-election by a landslide.
Straus was first elected in 2009, propped up by a bare boned coalition of the most moderate Republicans as well as the minority Democratic caucus. This original sin, so to speak, of the new speaker enraged Tea Party groups. But Straus did a novel thing as speaker: he left the administration of the chamber to the members and not his personal caprices and ideology. While previous speakers, Democrat and Republican, used the house as their personal soapboxes, Straus yielded to majoritarian desires. Oftentimes, in the deeply conservative chamber, this meant right-wing pipe dreams such as a Voter ID Act and draconian anti-abortion restrictions. But left to his own devices, Straus is much less interested in social issues. He prefers pragmatic and policy-minded solutions to the state's transportation, health and other budgetary woes.
State Representative Scott Turner, R-Frisco, a bombastic Tea Party freshman being almost exclusively underwritten by right-wing moneyed interest such as Michael Quinn Sullivan, is challenging Straus for the gavel. But his campaign, in which he promises a record vote, has been largely limited to solely the most obstreperous or extreme of legislators. Straus, on the other hand, has garnered more than 70 Republican votes and is the odds on favorite of the Democratic caucus of more than 50 representatives.
Thus, while the Senate may be taking a step to the right, the House is staying comfortably in the middle. Let's hope it lasts.
Horwitz is an associate editor.