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Throughout the first three days of early voting, more than 485,000 Texans had already voted early, either by mail or in person, for this year's general election. Governor, lieutenant governor, senator, most of the state legislature and a plethora of county officials, judges and local propositions, including Austin's urban rail question, are on the ballot. And while that number that is close to half a million may seem impressive, it only represents a little more than 5 percent of registered voters.
To put that in comparison, the number is insignificantly different than totals at this time from the 2010 election, when a pitiful 38 percent of registered voters cast ballots to determine their leaders. (When accounting for the entire voting-age population, only 29% of Texans could be bothered to participate in the process.)
Turnout is a little bit higher in Travis County, standing thus far at about 7 percent. But turnout in large Democratic strongholds, namely Dallas and El Paso, have plummeted since the last midterm election. While some Republican areas, such as Galveston, have similarly seen turnout drops, some other conservative suburbs, particularly Denton, have seen even bigger spikes in the number of people showing up to the polls.
For Democrats such as Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, the nominees of that party for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, increased turnout had always been the key to ever-elusive success. It was the only pathway to any modicum of success, come to think of it. Democrats had ignored polls that painted bleak pictures because, so the rhetoric went, those pollsters were not taking into account the huge number of so-called "dropoff" voters who would show up this year. I sure don't see them, do you?
With early turnout comparable to 2010, and a public sentiment somewhat reminiscent of that election cycle (a deeply unpopular and ineffective president), there is little reason to think this year’s result will be anything meaningfully different from that year’s.
Horwitz is an associate editor.
On Monday, the Law School Admission Council released the scores for the September LSAT. I checked my email that evening to find my score and my percentile, and then began considering whether to retake the test and which law schools would realistically admit me. LSAT scores are worth a significant portion of a student's application, and this is ridiculous because the score a student earns on this test is so dependent on various factors that have no effect on whether this student will succeed in law school. On test day, students may be tired, have had an emotional week, have testing anxiety, or any number of things unrelated to their abilities, but these things could negatively affect their performance and cause their score to end up lower than their practice test scores.
The exam tests students on how quickly they can read a passage — because obviously, if you're a quick reader, you'll undoubtedly be a phenomenal lawyer — and answer questions about it. It tests students' abilities to weaken and strengthen arguments, which I think actually can partially indicate how effective of a lawyer a student will become, and the third section type is the logic games section — basically a more intense version of those elementary school math class games with instructional clues like "Bob works three days a week, and Jane works four. Bob can't work Tuesdays, Bill has to work the day after Jane and Joe must work Thursdays."
The test also includes an unscored writing section, which serves absolutely no purpose because most law schools don't even look at it, and an experimental section, because of course, 100 scored questions on each test four times per year aren't enough for LSAC to analyze, and requiring students to answer 25 extra questions that have no bearing on their score but huge effects on their levels of mental fatigue is just such a great idea.
The LSAT is one of many examples of the ineffectiveness of standardized tests. Education institutions tout their focuses on their student bodies' diversity and merit, but selecting students based largely on their performance on a test that's standardized to allow no creativity or diversity is hypocritical. Law school admissions officers should focus their considerations more on other parts of a candidate's application — GPA, personal statement, essays — and less on how well a student performs on a singular test.
Voeller is an associate editor.
At UT, there are a number of different backgrounds represented on campus. Some students are more academically or socioeconomically advantaged than others before coming to college, but the beauty of higher education is that the opportunity to obtain a degree is supposed to be the great equalizer. When students come to college they are told they are just a number, and although a bit disconcerting, within this fact there is the comfort that all students will be treated equally. But whereas students should expect fair treatment from their instructors, the same cannot be said about other students. There are those who engage in egregious acts of academic dishonesty, but there are other ways students can gain an academic advantage that might not be so obvious.
This week is IntegrityUT Week on campus, promoting academic honesty and especially the UT Honor Code. Being an honest person can be boring; honesty is a virtue that is praised in society but has no material utility. Academic integrity, however, creates an equal playing field for all students and prepares us to thrive in both professional and civic capacities. But students should be aware that with an infinite amount of resources — thanks to the Internet — at our disposal, the definition of cheating is not so black and white.
While University conduct guidelines ultimately serve to the benefit of both students and faculty, broad phrasing allows for any student interaction, as far as courses are concerned, that is not officially authorized by the professor to be labeled cheating. And when a professor suspects cheating, the faculty member is not required to inform the student. Seemingly harmless acts, such as creating a Facebook group for the class or having a friend look over a paper, could be classified as academic dishonesty. Therefore, students should always consult the course syllabus or professor before engaging in potentially sanctionable actions.
All this week, members of the UT Senate of College Councils as well as the Student Conduct Advisory Committee will be tabling on the West Mall to discuss academic integrity with students. Students should stop by if they have any questions about what could possibly be considered academic dishonesty!
Davis is an associate editor.