• Molly White perverts meaning of American way of life

    Muslim students and community leaders walk away from the Capitol after a rally hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Thursday morning. Thursday marked the eighth annual Muslim Capitol Day.
    Muslim students and community leaders walk away from the Capitol after a rally hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Thursday morning. Thursday marked the eighth annual Muslim Capitol Day.

    On Thursday, state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, was not in Austin to celebrate Texas Muslim Capitol Day.  

    Instead, she left her staff directions on how to handle visitors to the Capitol.  

    "I did leave...with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws," White said via Facebook.  "If they come here and convert to the American way of life I may be more willing to trust. When they come here to advance their way of life, Islam, then no trust there." 

    This begs the question of what exactly an "American way of life" looks life. It's been a few years since I've taken United States history, but wasn't our country founded upon the idea of freedom — both religious and ideological? It's attitudes like White' s that threaten to impede real progress at the Capitol, not to mention perpetuate the stereotype that Texas government and those who comprise it are stuck in the dark ages. She may represent one extreme opinion in the legislature, but it's an opinion that nonetheless taints the integrity of the representative system as a whole. I am ashamed and embarrassed that this type of behavior still exists.  

    The sentiment expressed by the executive director of the Houston chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Mustafaa Carroll, was one of alarm.  

    "I'm more concerned with state leaders and what they say than I am about anybody else because they are the lawmakers," Carroll said.  

    At no point during the day was any of the "Muslim extremism" that White alluded to displayed — in fact, participating Muslims sang "The Star Spangled Banner" (talk about a threat to national security) before they were interrupted by protesters yelling, “Islam is a lie!” and “No Sharia here!” Sadly, folks, this isn't an Onion article. This is real life and it's happening in our backyard.  

    Berkeley is an associate editor.

  • GSA housing committee can find meaningful solutions

    Improving graduate student housing options has been discussed for years at the University. The average wait time for graduate students to rent a University apartment is one-and-a-half years — about as long as it takes most master’s students to finish their degree. To tackle this problem, the Graduate Student Assembly last semester formed a special housing committee consisting of six members. Its progress was discussed at Tuesday’s GSA meeting, the first of the semester.

    “We have been hearing from our constituents for many years that they want to have a place that’s close to campus, and affordable,” GSA President Brian Wilkey told the Texan. 

    GSA Vice President Vance Roper told the Texan that the housing committee has been designing surveys, planning to do focus groups to determine the ideal housing for graduate students.

    However, their work won’t be easy. The cost of living in Austin has been rising for years now, and the options closest to campus tend to be centered on undergraduates.

    The good news, according to Wilkey and Roper, is that administrators are listening to graduate students’ concerns and and often turn to GSA for information about graduate student housing needs.

    To answer their questions, the committee will continue to gather information from the graduate student body in the coming months to best tailor its solutions.

    As a graduate student, I applaud the committee’s dedication to better accommodating UT’s large community of graduate students.

    Liu is an associate editor.

  • The young and the old

    The newest cartoon from our editorial blog.

  • Abbott, Seliger give hope for UT

    Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, discusses his intentions in authoring a bill that, if passed, would increase the influence of individual institutions over that of the university board of regents. 
    Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, discusses his intentions in authoring a bill that, if passed, would increase the influence of individual institutions over that of the university board of regents. 

    The start of the 84th Legislature, with the introduction of both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, has prompted countless lamentations about the treacherous road ahead for this state. I even penned one such gloomy prognostication last week. But in at least one area, higher education, things are actually looking up for Texas; indeed, for this university in particular.

    First, as the Texan reported last week, Abbott has made his first picks for the UT system Board of Regents. He re-nominated Vice Chairman Steve Hicks, a pragmatic and dependable voice of reason on the board, as well as nominated David Beck and Sara Martinez Tucker. All three were commended by individuals from UT System Chancellor William McRaven to Senate Democrats. In making these picks, Abbott not only repudiated the anti-education zealots ubiquitous among Tea Party groups such as Michael Quinn Sullivan's Empower Texans, he sent a message that UT Austin in particular would be protected.

    Perhaps more telling, Patrick announced on Friday that state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would retain his post as chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. This, despite the fact that Seliger has historically looked upon UT-Austin President Bill Powers favorably and Regent Wallace Hall unfavorably, while Patrick approaches the historical kerfuffle from an opposite perspective. Even an ostensible successor to former Governor Rick Perry's ideological battle against UT-Austin, such as Patrick, did little to put his money where his mouth was, so to speak, on that issue. This, coming from a man who has done so on effectively everything else in his short time in office.

    The next few months will be enormously important for the future of this University. The search for Bill Powers' successor will have ripple effects for decades to come. Luckily, from what has been observed thus far, the newly appointed regents in Austin will be in a position to constructively assist the university in its transitions, instead of the sabotage inflicted from the governor's mansion for the past few years.

    Horwitz is the Senior Associate Editor

  • Legislature should pass textbook sales tax exemption bill

    University Co-op employee Cameron Ingram sorts through and labels used textbooks in the store’s basement Saturday morning. Some natural sciences professors are requiring online teaching materials instead of the traditional textbook.
    University Co-op employee Cameron Ingram sorts through and labels used textbooks in the store’s basement Saturday morning. Some natural sciences professors are requiring online teaching materials instead of the traditional textbook.

    A textbook. An online workbook to go with it. Another online subscription. Two more books and an iClicker. The cost of course materials adds up exponentially, it seems, and there really aren't alternative options if you want legal, physical books. E-books are often cheaper but not by much. Price tags only provide the base item price, not the sales tax, resulting in surprises at the cash register.  

    As the Texan reports in Monday's paper, several bills are on the floor of the Texas Senate and House of Representatives that, if passed, would result in a sales tax exemption for students purchasing textbooks. Each separate bill defines its own window of when the exemption would be in effect. Some say the month before school starts and another suggests that there be no window, meaning textbooks would always be exempt for students. 

    It is interesting to note that textbook stores like the Co-op are supportive of a tax exemption. Michael Kiely, course material director for the Co-op, said the store wants what is best for the consumers. 

    With sales tax in Austin currently at 8.25 percent, a $400 textbook purchase comes to $433. That extra $33 would of course not be charged if any of the bills pass. That might not seem like that big a difference when comparing quantity; after all, you're still paying $400 for books. But that $33 saved can go toward groceries, tuition, etc. The cost of living in Austin is pretty high, so any break we as students can get is welcome. 

    Similar bills have failed to pass in past legislative sessions, but with a bipartisan network of supporters, I wouldn't be surprised if one passed this time around. Legislators looking out for our wallets and financial well-being is a nice contrast to the politician stereotype we typically cast. With the textbook stores behind them as well, I certainly hope at least one of the bills passes. 

    Bounds is an associate editor. 

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