The University of Texas

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

From an early age, Latin American studies freshman Rachel Fleming knew she would be attending the The University of Texas. The daughter of two Texas graduates, she applied to only one school her senior year, having already decided upon a burnt orange future.

Fleming planned to study in UT’s top-notch Latin American studies program. However, there was one part of her college experience she never anticipated — becoming a Division I athlete.

Rowing, unlike most collegiate sports, often fields walk-ons at the Division I level. Every fall, members of the rowing team scour campus looking for potential rowers to recruit to the team.

While walk-ons often play integral roles in the top boats of many schools, making the varsity teams is difficult. Out of an initial pool of 60 walk-ons, Fleming is the only freshman walk-on currently rowing in one of the top-two boats.

“Rowing is very hard, and there’s a lot of expectations that go with it, but we’re also given a lot,” Fleming said. “And those to whom much is given, much is required. I knew that D-I athletes worked hard, and I knew that it was hard to do it, but getting to be a part of it has been so cool, and I feel blessed.”

After walking onto the rowing team in the fall, Fleming quickly rose through the ranks to earn a spot on the second varsity eight boat. But, initially, she had no interest in joining the team.

“I was walking through the West Mall, and one of the current teammates handed me a flyer and was like, ‘Come to our informational meeting about rowing,’ and I didn’t know anything about rowing so I told her, ‘No thanks, I don’t row,’ and I handed her back the flyer,” Fleming said. “But she insisted that I come, so I did.”

“Plain and simply, rowing is a physical sport with a skill element,” head coach Dave O’Neill said. “But rowing is a sport where, if you just want to work hard, and you can endure pain, and you can keep just grinding it out, we can teach you the skill. If they can just have the right physical makeup and learn the skill, they can take off.”

After learning the basics of rowing and focusing on fitness in the fall, Fleming spent the winter break training intensively in the hopes of making one of the top boats.

“When we left for winter break, coach Mara [Allen] and coach Danielle [Bartz] told us that there would be one walk-on that came back and was really, really strong and fit and would kill it, and I hoped to be that person,” Fleming said.

Fleming’s performance after the break earned her the opportunity to row in the second varsity eight boat at the San Diego Crew Classic. Her boat won first place at the regatta and was named the Big 12 Conference Boat of the Week.

“It was really cool for me, being new, but it was even cooler for me to watch how excited my teammates were because I knew they’ve been working for this for a long time,” Fleming said. “Watching just how happy they were when we crossed the finish line was unlike anything else.”

Fleming said the experience, while challenging, has been worth the sacrifices.

“The first time I got a Texas rowing t-shirt, I can’t even describe the feeling,” Fleming said. “It was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m actually doing this rowing thing because it’s something that I never would’ve thought I’d be doing.’”

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Much has been said in the past couple of days about UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa instructing President Bill Powers to resign at risk of termination. I have never before written a letter to the editor, but I cannot imagine a more apt time for my first.

I recently left the 40 Acres after three years as a Longhorn student-athlete to begin my professional baseball career. I officially graduate with B.A. degrees in English and History this August, but recent circumstances request my voice be heard as a Texas Ex and proud alumnus before the ink is dry on my diplomas.

I unequivocally support Powers, and you should as well if you care about the best interests of The University of Texas at Austin.

Since Powers took office in 2006, he has been a dedicated leader of our proud University, which simultaneously reaps the benefits and bears the responsibilities of being the flagship institution of higher learning in the state of Texas, the proudest state in the Union. The facts prove Powers’ merit; the University's improved academic standards, enriched general endowment and new medical school all testify to the president's tremendous resourcefulness and diligence.

However, Powers' job is being threatened not because of his past performance or even his ability to maintain his (excellent) standards of operation going into the future. He is being attacked politically, at a time when the University of Texas desperately needs a president who is brave enough to weather personal political affronts in honor of what is best for the University. Thankfully, Powers has withstood the challenge.

For years now, the Texas Legislature has decreased public funding to the University of Texas in opposition to the University's ambition to become the best public research university in the country. Non-Longhorns (like our longtime governor) wonder why it is so important to the state for The University of Texas to aspire to such great heights. They scratch their heads and envision the University of Texas at Austin lowering its admissions standards and issuing cookie-cutter degrees in contravention of its core mission. Surely, these non-Longhorns are unfamiliar with the motto on our university's seal, "Disciplina Praesidium Civatis." (Translation: A cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.)

I find that phrase intriguingly applicable to the situation in which Powers finds himself today. At a time when Powers is committed to bettering the University and providing a superior environment for the cultivation of minds, UT System Regent Wallace Hall is leading an undemocratic witch-hunt to oust him. The Board of Regents apparently does not believe that it needs to abide by the instructions of state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, which has specifically said not to fire Powers during a current investigation.

Interestingly enough, Hall, who so desperately wants to oust Powers, is currently at risk of being impeached himself for wrongdoing in the investigation of Powers. Perhaps foreseeing the end of his own career has motivated Hall to hasten his groundless attacks against Powers in the middle of summer while students are away from their studies.

When students do return to campus, though, they will inevitably pass the Tower countless times. Whenever they do, even if they do not take notice, they will pass on the southwest corner of the building an engraved inscription describing the University, "Core Purpose: To transform lives for the benefit of society." If you have not yet watched Admiral McRaven's 2014 Commencement Address, I suggest you go do so on YouTube as soon as possible. If you have, perhaps you will remember that Admiral McRaven posited that the Class of 2014 alone can change the lives of 800 million people if each individual graduate changes the lives of but 10 separate people. (For my part, I am first working on making my bed more often.)

I am confident that the University of Texas will continue to transform lives for the benefit of society whether or not Powers survives the upcoming Board of Regents meeting. That said, I am equally convinced that more lives will be transformed for the better if Powers retains his current position. Personally, I experienced both the ups and downs of being a student-athlete at The University of Texas, and I know that the rest of my life will be profoundly affected for the better by my past three years in Austin. I understand that Powers is not solely responsible for the overwhelming pride I possess for my alma mater, but I also appreciate what a fine job he has done and will continue to do as the president of the school.

Longhorn pride runs deep in my family, with both my parents and several other relatives having graduated from the University. Next month, my younger sister will enroll in the Business Honors Program as a part of the Class of 2018, and I hope that she, too, will be able to spend the majority of her time on the 40 Acres with Powers at the helm. If retained, he will continue to lead the University of Texas at Austin to a bright future in accordance with its motto, core purpose and mission, which is "to achieve excellence in the interrelated areas of undergraduate education, graduate education, research and public service."

Powers has refused to resign, and I support him. I implore anyone else with an ounce of burnt orange in his or her blood to join me in resisting the Board of Regents' unreasonable call for Powers’ resignation/termination. Sign the online petition that already has 7,500+ signatures at the time of this writing. Publicly support the man who has publicly supported the University of Texas so well over the past eight years that he was elected by other university presidents to be the chairman of the Association of American Universities.

This May, I received my final email as an undergraduate student at the University from Powers. He concluded it by saying, "From teaching to nursing, accounting to the arts, engineering to journalism, and in so much else, what starts here changes the world." Powers has repeatedly done everything he can do to improve the University of Texas at Austin — and in turn, change the world. Therefore, we do not need to change presidents. If you disagree, revise what Davy Crockett once famously said to end with, "... and I will stand by Bill Powers."

 

Hook 'em,

 

John Curtiss

 

B.A. English 2014

B.A. History 2014

Plan I Honors

Longhorns Baseball, 2012-2014

"It's been a wonderful ride."

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

After 16 seasons as the Longhorns’ head coach, Mack Brown’s tenure is officially over.

Brown announced his decision to step down Saturday, one week after Texas’ 30-10 loss to Baylor in the regular season finale with a Big 12 championship on the line. He will coach his last game in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30 against Oregon.

“Sally and I were brought to Texas 16 years ago to pull together a football program that was divided," Brown said in a statement. "With a lot of passion, hard work and determination from the kids, coaches and staff, we did that. We built a strong football family, reached great heights and accomplished a lot, and for that, I thank everyone. It's been a wonderful ride."

President William Powers Jr. said the announcement of Brown’s resignation — who he saw as a friend — is not easy. 

“This is a very difficult day for everyone in The University of Texas family,” Powers said. “Mack Brown is one of the best football coaches in the country, a tremendous representative of our University, and, most importantly, a great friend. He has produced championship teams with tremendous student-athletes and has always done so with the utmost class and integrity. Mack is just the best and he will be missed."

Brown’s decision to step down comes after Texas finished the 2013 regular season with an 8-4 record, the fourth straight season in which the Longhorns suffered at least four losses. Speculation about Brown's future ran rampant earlier this year after Texas dropped a pair of non-conference games to start the season 1-2.

Rumors began to swirl about possible replacements for Brown, with Alabama head coach Nick Saban being the most talked about. In January, one current and one former UT System regent placed a call to Saban's agent Jimmy Sexton to gauge Saban's interest in coming to Texas.

Questions about Brown’s job security quieted once Texas began conference play, as the Longhorns reeled off six straight wins against conference opponents. This proved to be short-lived though, as losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor in two of the next three games put Brown back on the hot seat.

Despite this, Brown maintained his intention to finish his current contract, which ends in 2020, throughout the year.

“I want to finish at Texas,” Brown said before the season. “If I’m healthy and we win, I’m going to try to make 2020. I think it would be fun to do that, get back on another roll.”

After the Longhorns’ second game of the season against BYU, he relieved defensive coordinator Manny Diaz of his duties and replaced him with Greg Robinson, the first time he’s ever replaced a coach mid-season. Robinson became Texas’ third defensive play-caller in the last four seasons.

These struggles aren’t new to Brown and his team.  He has failed to produce a football team up to Texas' standards, which in part he built, the past four years. Since 2010, he has led teams to a 5-7, 8-5 and a 9-4 record. His 2012 team manufactured, statistically, the worst defense in school history.

Despite these recent problems, there is no question of Brown’s importance to the Texas program. Brown led the Longhorns to the 2005 national championship, the school’s first title since 1970. He also helped Texas to the 2009 national title game, which the Longhorns lost to Alabama. Under the 62-year-old head coach, Texas won a pair of Big 12 championships.

"We appreciate everything Mack has done for The University of Texas," said Steve Patterson, the newly hired men's head athletic director. "He's been a tremendous coach, mentor, leader and ambassador for our University and our student-athletes. He is truly a college football legend … I know this decision weighed heavily on him, and today he told us he's ready to move forward."

Patterson was hired in early November, one month after DeLoss Dodds, who was UT's men's head athletic director for the past 32 years and who hired Brown, announced his plans to retire.

Powers, who received a vote of confidence from the board of regents earlier in the week himself, said he looks forward to working with Brown in a new, unspecified capacity.  

"I'm excited for the future and the opportunity to work with him in a new capacity for the years to come and am thrilled that he and Sally will remain part of our family," Powers said. "He is an unbelievable resource for us and will always be a valuable member of the Longhorn community."

Since Brown started his tenure in Austin, the Longhorns have finished in the top 15 in 10 of the last 13 years. He is one of only two coaches nationally to lead his team to 20 bowls in the last 21 seasons and 22 winning seasons in the last 23 years.

Brown finishes his 16-year tenure at Texas with a career record of 158-47, the second-most wins in school history behind Darrell K Royal. The Tennessee native has 40 years of coaching experience, 29 of which were as a head coach.

"[Texas] is the best coaching job and the premier football program in America," Brown said. "I sincerely want it to get back to the top and that's why I am stepping down after the bowl game. I hope with some new energy, we can get this thing rolling again.”

Correction: The call to Alabama head coach Nick Saban's agent was placed in January and reported in September.

Note: Lloyd Doggett is a Democratic Congressman in US House of Representatives. Doggett spoke to Daily Texan columnist Amil Malik about important issues in the upcoming presidential election. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Amil Malik: Why should UT students be interested in this particular presidential election? 
Lloyd Doggett: Well, so much of our future rests in the outcome of this election. In terms of the immediate future, we have worked with the administration to do all we can to remove financial obstacles from students getting all the education they are willing to work for. So trying to remove financial barriers to getting an education both with the direct lending program to cut out the bank middle person in the equation and increasing the size of pell grants and what I call the 'more education tax grant' that I authored which permits each student or family to take $2500 off their federal tax bill each year to cover or to apply towards the cost of tuition and textbooks. That really covers largely the cost of education in a community college, but it helps some even at a more expensive institution like The University of Texas. And the vast majority of students would be able to qualify for that tax credit. 

Then as individuals who will be living in this country fifty years for now, I believe that especially students have stake in the critical decisions we are making about the environment. We will have a world that is more and more polluted. This is the immense harm of climate if we don’t take more effective measures to assure environmental law enforcement. The republican congress again and again and again has attacked environmental law enforcement even to the point of suggesting that the environmental protection administrator should have a permanent parking place over at the House so that I think may have been intended more as a rhetorical force, but that she would be there so much defending any and everything that she tried to do assure the quality of our air and our water. Those are few of the many reasons why I believe it is important to reelect the president and get us a democratic congress.

AM: You mentioned the environment. That was a big issue in the 2008 presidential election, but it seems to have dissolved from the President’s political agenda as his time in office progressed.
LD: Well I do think that more, especially on the question of global warming, is needed from this administration. There have been some actions it took with which I did not agree. But overall its policy has been one of trying to protect air and water and see that we enforce the law in these matters as with other law enforcement and the administration has met sustained attack from the republican house on almost a weekly basis. I believe that our environmental legislation should be based on sound science rather than questionable politics or right-wing ideology. And I would like to see more focus on environment and not less.

AM: What is the most important national issue that UT students should focus on during the upcoming debates?
LD: I think it is very difficult to reduce it to one issue. Certainly education is very important… I don’t see how we can be an effective economic power unless we invest more in education from pre-k to post grad. The interference and reduction in state support for our public schools [is] a real step backwards. The federal government can’t compensate for all of that, but education not only at the university level, but at all levels, is a really critical issue in this election.

But there always- also are always the questions I think that are critical about the future of our country and its role in the world. We, I believe, have generally the correct policy in removing our troops from Iraq and beginning a too slow process of removing them from Afghanistan. And I think the question of trying to have a world in which military force is not the sole way of projecting United States power is really important. And having a president who can go in and take the action that was necessary concerning Osama bin Laden, but who realizes that there are economic limits and real world politic limits on the use of military force to solve all of our problems is in contrast with Mitt Romney who wants to spend more money on the military than the Pentagon has asked for itself.

AM: What’s your opinion of Fisher v. UT? 
LD: I’m one of several members of congress who have joined an amicus brief in support of the university admission policy. I grew up in the shadow-almost literally-of The University of Texas tower here in Austin- a university in which courageous action by a number of leaders brought to campus the first African Americans to be admitted to The University of Texas… The campus is stronger, our university is stronger, with diversity. I think there is more work that is needed to diversify the campus. But I think it would be a big step backwards should the Supreme Court interfere with the current admissions policy in The University of Texas.

AM: One of the most frequent criticisms of the Affordable Care Act is that it just pays for people that aren’t buying insurance and doesn’t help the average American who already pays for it. The majority of people in the middle class that can afford insurance will have a higher economic and social burden now that Obamacare has passed. Could you speak on that?
LD: I believe that it is very important that folks realize that even if you have insurance coverage now, you benefit greatly from the affordable health care act. I believe over time premiums will be lower because of the affordable health care act. But immediately eliminating these fine print provisions when you need it the most is important. The limitation on how much of your money the insurance company can keep without declining to pay for your physician, hospital, and other health care bills is very important. The provision with regard to preexisting conditions so that if a young person switches from one job to another they don’t suddenly find themselves without insurance coverage because of some mishap they may have had in job number one being used as an excuse to deny them coverage in job number two… Also one of the big issues we have going forward is the fact that healthcare cost continues to increase at a higher rate than the cost of living generally. And there are some provisions included within the affordable health care act-we might not have enough; this is one of those areas that I would say I wish were better- to focus on how we contain healthcare costs by developing new models for healthcare delivery services.

AM: What are you working on to combat the problem of obesity?
LD: Individuals’ lifestyle choices and specifically choices that help reduce obesity are a significant factor in healthcare costs, both for the individual and society as a whole. Doing a better job of addressing obesity is really critical. We have a provision in the health care act that is opposed, and continues to be opposed, that requires information to consumers at chain food facilities, chain restaurants and the like about the caloric content of the meals being served. I think that I think the idea of getting more information to consumers, being able to make important choices about what they are doing is important... We continue to subsidize with federal dollars sugar and then there is more to be done in the whole area… The discussion is very important to look at whether there are other actions that need to be taken to obesity in terms of choices that are available to consumers.