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University Naval trainees celebrate the end of World War II in downtown Austin.

Photo Credit: Daily Texan file photo

As the Fourth of July approaches, The Daily Texan looks into the past to explore how major moments regarding civil liberties and freedom in American history have impacted UT. From Reconstruction, to celebrating the end of World War II, to the grief surrounding the incomprehensible act of terror on 9/11 — the struggles and triumphs of this country have changed UT, too, and in turn, UT has changed the course of this country throughout its history.  

The Legacy of the Civil War
The Confederacy’s influence on UT is apparent to anyone who looks up at the bronze statues of immortalized Confederates that line the Main Mall. UT first opened its doors in 1883, just 18 years after the Civil War and in the immediate aftermath of reconstruction. The first president of the University Leslie Waggener, Regent George Washington Littlefield and others on the original staff were Confederate veterans. Littlefield, a former Confederate officer, was one of the University’s early benefactors. George Washington Brackenridge, another regent and benefactor of the University, had been a Union sympathizer and war profiteer. Because of their differing wartime
sympathies, the two became well-known rivals. In 1910, Brackenridge donated 500 acres of land on the Colorado River, proposing the University be moved there. As a way of keeping the University on the original 40 Acres, Littlefield combated the proposal by donating $250,000 to build what became the Littlefield Fountain. The fountain became a memorial to World War I, and was originally to have statues of Confederate and Union figures, symbolizing the reunification of the North and South through World War I. The final design differed from this plan and the Confederate figures were displaced along the Main Mall alongside Woodrow Wilson representing the North.

World War II
When the United States entered World War II on December 8, 1941, UT followed, as numerous students, faculty and alumni left to participate in the war effort. In the fall of 1942, 80 faculty members left the University to join the military services as well as defense research and other government agencies. “Faculty members in psychology and philosophy began to teach physics and math,” a Daily Texan article stated on August 19, 1945. “Faculty members in physics and chemistry left the University to join research projects.” Among these defense researchers, 22 University scientists worked in various capacities developing the atomic bomb. On August 9, 1945, just days after the result of their work was put to use, the front page of The Daily Texan read in large text “PEACE!!”  According to that day’s paper, “a whooping, honking, hugging crowd of campusites poured out of afternoon labs and away from supper tables to storm the Drag on Tuesday afternoon as news of war’s end spread like a prairie fire across the Forty Acres.” The war was over. After the war, students and faculty returned to school. Frank Denius, UT alumnus and chairman of the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium Veterans Committee, attended the University fall 1945 after serving in the Marines during World War II and being a part of the D-Day Invasion. “There’s no question of being a much more serious student,” Denius said. “I took education much more seriously.”

The Civil Rights Era
On March 9, 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to UT and spoke in front of 1,200 people at the Texas Union Ballroom. “Old Man Segregation is on his deathbed,” King said to the crowd. “The only question is how expensive the South is going to make the funeral.” Though Old Man Segregation was on his deathbed, segregation at UT persisted in student housing, athletics and at several businesses near campus. “They didn’t integrate. They had these black students, but they were always on the periphery of the campus, literally and figuratively,” said Dr. Dwonna Goldstone, author of “Integrating the 40 Acres: The Fifty-Year Struggle for Racial Equality at the University of Texas.” Segregation limited the opportunities of black students in all aspects of life. “The black students couldn’t go watch the movies that their professors had assigned them,” Goldstone said. “They couldn’t get their hair cut, or they couldn’t cash a check.” Dorm sit-ins and other protests on campus took place throughout the civil rights era in an attempt to change the divided environment on campus. In 1969 the Longhorns were the last all-white team to win the National College Football Championship. The next year, Julius Whittier became the first black player on the Longhorn varsity football team — a major step in putting down Old Man Segregation.

The Vietnam War 
Though many students, faculty and alumni served in the Vietnam War, UT was more known for anti-war activism in the early ’70s. Daily Texan alumni John Pope recalls his six years on campus as being a time of uncertainty. “You never knew if something would get out of hand and tear gas would be used on crowds. We were told to carry damp rags,” Pope said. “People were so angry.” One of the largest protests took place on April 21, 1972 when approximately 1,000 anti-war protesters gathered on the Main Mall and, from there, many entered the Tower. In an article on April 22, 1972, Daily Texan staff writer Tom Kleinworth wrote, “About 10 minutes after the protesters had entered the building, police using back entrances, flooded onto the second floor using nightsticks and Mace.”  The protesters then fled the Tower but were pursued by police. Kleinworth wrote, “The police threw tear gas into the crowd then pursued the demonstrators as they tried to escape, throwing tear gas canisters on the East Mall steps as the people ran down.” Commenting on the campus’ climate of fear, an editorial by Daily Texan staff writer David Powell the following day stated, “The Daily Texan wants peace now — in Southeast Asia … and Austin.” 

Sept. 11, 2001
“We’re all a little scared” read the headline of the Texan on Sept. 12, 2001 the day after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The night of Sept. 11, a crowd of approximately 2,000 mourners packed onto the Main Mall in remembrance of the victims. At 8 p.m. they began lighting their candles. At the vigil, Student Government president Matt Hammond spoke to the crowd saying, “As a generation, tonight we must answer our call. Our call is not one of vengeance or one of hatred but rather we must answer the question, how can we help?” Following funeral services and mourning came debates on how the country should respond to the attack. On the brink of war, students rallied for or against going into the Middle East. Meanwhile, Muslim students, faculty and locals feared backlash. Professor Mohammad Mohammad of the Arabic department removed his headdress in order to avoid confrontation after being spat on the morning of the attack. “At that time I didn’t know why he spat on me,” Mohammad said. “A few minutes later, I found out. Some of my students were scared.” While classes continued, students on campus spent the weeks following the attack mourning and helping out any way they could by means such as donating blood.

As the Texas Student Media Board of Trustees meets this morning to discuss specific issues regarding the circumstances surrounding the recent resignation of director Gary Borders, the organization also faces ongoing repercussions of financial and staffing problems that have accumulated over the past few years.

A budget deficit, falling advertising revenue and recurrent vacancies in critical leadership roles are affecting TSM’s ability to operate. While budget deficits and falling advertising revenue are problems that plague college media nationwide, some problems may have arisen from TSM’s unique structure.

“No other collegiate media entity that I am aware of has a governing board and University reporting [requirement],” said Jennifer Hammat, assistant vice president of student affairs and a former interim director of TSM.

A board of operating trustees governs TSM, which is not independent of UT. Its entities include The Daily Texan, TSTV, KVRX 91.7 FM, The Cactus Yearbook and The Texas Travesty, a humor publication. The director of TSM reports to both the vice president of student affairs and the TSM board of trustees. The Declaration of Trust for the organization states an endowment of $5 million would allow TSM to become an independent entity, but unless such an endowment is made, TSM employees are considered employees of the University.

The involvement of the Office of Student Affairs in employment matters has become a source of conflict at TSM in recent days. Borders told the Texan that Juan Gonzalez, the outgoing vice president of student affairs, forced his Feb. 8 resignation after Borders raised the ideas of selling TSM’s television and radio licenses. Gonzalez said he followed policy involving university personnel performance with regard to Borders’ resignation.

Wanda Cash, associate director of the School of Journalism and former TSM board member, said personnel performance issues were previously handled much differently, including when she was on the board.

“If there were performance issues, the vice president of student affairs contacted me, and then in consultation with the president of the board we worked out what had arisen,” Cash said. “This time that did not happen and that’s what is very troubling. The vice president of student affairs acted alone in terminating the director.”

Board member Tim Lott, vice president of audience strategy for the Cox Media Group, said the board was unaware there was a problem with Borders’ performance.

“I literally had no idea there was any sort of problem that could potentially end in a termination,” Lott said.

Borders was the third director TSM had seen in as many years. Kathy McCarty departed TSM in 2009 after serving 15 years. Hammat served as the interim director for nearly two years and participated in one failed search for a replacement until Borders was hired in summer 2011 after a second search. The board will discuss the possibility of appointing a an interim TSM director this morning.

Meanwhile, the search has not yet begun for a replacement for Jennifer Rubin, former multimedia adviser who departed in October 2011 after six months on the job.

Board member Mark Morrison, a lecturer in the journalism school, said it’s imperative a replacement is found quickly.

“We need to establish leadership,” Morrison said.

While facing absent leadership, TSM has a March 19 budget deadline looming. The organization is already facing the effects of a budget deficit.

The 2011-2012 annual budget has a projected $175,252 deficit that draws from the organization’s reserve fund that fell to $723,665.55 in November. Advertising revenue for TSM has declined from $2,326,411 four years ago, to $1,509,839 last year.

Texas Student Television is the only TSM entity budgeted for a profit this year.

The Daily Texan, which accounts for 89 percent of TSM advertising revenue, has seen changes in the three years since it last posted profit.

Since 2009, The Daily Texan has sold its press, outsourced printing and distribution, which resulted in staff layoffs and is making plans to reduce summer print production to once weekly. A second round of layoffs among TSM professional staff followed a reorganization in 2011.

Borders’ claim that he was dismissed because of budget-cutting proposals has led Cash to question the vice president’s role.

“The issue here is: is it right for the Office of Student Affairs to continue oversight as the president’s designee of Texas Student Media?” asked Cash.

Cash said she believes revising the Declaration of Trust to make the dean of the College of Communication the University’s designee to oversee TSM, instead of the office of student affairs, would be a better arrangement than the current one.

“In the College of Communication we have an understanding of journalism,” Cash said. “We have the right sensibility of journalism — of first amendment rights, of freedom of the press and our common disdain for prior restraint and censorship. I’m not sure the office of student affairs shares that sensibility.”

Regardless of who is the university’s designee for oversight of TSM, board president and third-year law student Lindsey Powers said the University needs to remember common courtesy when communicating with the board of trustees.

“I think a lot of people have forgotten how important it is to consult a board,” Powers said.

Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer for the University, was recently appointed by President William Powers Jr. to investigate the circumstances of Borders’ termination.

Although Hegarty said the board should be granted the courtesy of consultation before terminating employees, he said because the University is the employer of TSM’s employees, Borders was subject to termination by the University. He said the University had more say in TSM’s operations than a yearly performance review.

“The role of the University is to counsel, to coach and to do what it can to support the board of trustees,” Hegarty said.

Hegarty said he hopes University and TSM relations improve after today’s meeting.

“The intent is to be very consultative and to come to solutions that are collaborative and cooperative,” Hegarty said. “Hopefully we can move forward.”

When making budget cuts, there is a habit of whittling departments down to only what we deem necessary — what we could not live without. To that end, we tend to look inward during tough times and take stock: What makes us Americans? What makes us Texans? What makes us us?

In his recent cuts to the College of Liberal Arts budget, Dean Randy Diehl ended 100 percent of University funding for three centers, including the Center for East Asian Studies. As a former Daily Texan reporter who covered the University budget crisis from its early rumblings in 2009 to the grim fallout faced today, I understand that these cuts were not an easy choice. I do not envy him.

But I have also walked the streets of Beijing among migrant workers who labor for pitiful wages in baby-blue construction helmets. I have spoken with young women in Shanghai who hope to capitalize on the city’s rising real-estate values and listened to young men worry about scrounging ever more money for a house — a must for any middle-class bachelor in China looking for a fiancée. I have peered through the morning fog of the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas on the 38th parallel, smiling back at the Southern soldiers standing guard nearby. I have spoken with a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as an assistant at the BBC’s Tokyo news bureau.

At each step I understood more about my own country’s inextricable connections to the rest of the world, and to East Asia in particular.

I could not have done any of these things — and would not be returning to Beijing in May for language study — without the patience and encouragement of the faculty and staff at the Center for East Asian Studies. To pull all funding from the center now, when China’s rise is featured more prominently (and often, hysterically) in the news than ever before, strikes me as a grave misstep.

After teaching English for a year in the central Chinese city of Xi’an, poet and curmudgeon Bill Holm wrote of how different America looked upon his return. Despite America’s short, 200-odd-year history, he recognized its myriad connections to the rest of humanity and the importance of acknowledging this fact: “We gain nothing by playing ostrich except, conceivably, our own extinction. Either we remember and make conscious connections to the moral and physical lives of others, or we die.”

That is reason enough, I think, to continue supporting the men and women at UT who serve as bridges between the East and West.
 

The students who helped coordinate the first Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights in 1986 boycotted their own event because of animosity toward the UT System Board of Regents, said two of the original planners.

The professors who created the symposium spoke on Thursday about the event’s history and the difficulties they faced in light of racial tension at the University at the time.

The symposium celebrates 25 years of commemorating the history and struggles of Heman Sweatt, the first black to be admitted to the UT School of Law. The U.S. Supreme Court case that allowed Sweatt admission was a predecessor to the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education.

“His living legacy can be seen across our campus today, as the African-American students that are here participate broadly in every aspect of our wonderful university life,” said executive vice president and provost Steven Leslie.

George Wright, a former UT history professor, and Edwin Sharpe Jr., a clinical professor in the College of Education, played a key role in starting the symposium in 1986. At the time, black students represented 2.8 percent of the University’s enrollment. In Fall 2010, black students represented 4.3 percent of University enrollment, according to the Office of Information Management and Analysis.

“A group of the black students in my class, having learned a few things about Heman Sweatt, wanted to find the right way to honor the memory of Heman Sweatt,” Wright said.

A year later, after getting approval and a small allocation of funds from then-dean of the McCombs School of Business William Cunningham, Wright and Sharpe formed a committee to set in motion the process of creating the symposium.

However, the racial climate between UT and the black community in East Austin was tense because the UT System Board of Regents decided to secretly buy land in the East Austin area, Sharpe said.

“[UT] showed disregard for the lives of people living in the neighborhood,” Sharpe said. “[It was the] ultimate repudiation of the good neighbor policy.”

Sharpe and Wright said, as a result, the students who had worked to create the symposium refused to attend.

Despite the difficulties and racial tensions during the symposium’s first year, as well as continuing tensions throughout the 1980s at UT, the symposium continues to educate students about the story of Sweatt.

Students who attended the talk were unaware of the history of the University’s racial climate in the 1980s.

“Personally, I don’t know much about black history [at UT],” said freshman Chance Vaughan. “I think the talk helped me diversify my knowledge on people and culture.”