Longhorn Network revenues used to fund academic positions


While the Longhorn Network remains elusive on some Austin television screens, students will soon see the network’s direct effects in the classroom.

UT announced two newly created endowed academic chair positions funded in large part by $2.5 million of revenue from the Longhorn Network last week. Effective Sept. 1, the Simons Chair in Mathematics and Electrical and Computer Engineering and Philosophy Chair positions are held by engineer and mathematician Francois Baccelli and philosopher and literary critic Galen Strawson, respectively. Revenues from the Longhorn Network have created seven new chair positions total, including those announced in September.

Out of the seven, three positions have still not been filled.

Strawson’s new academic chair position received $1 million from the Longhorn Network. Strawson is a scholar in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics and moral psychology and has previously taught at American universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University and New York University.

David Sosa, philosophy department chair, commended the addition of Strawson to the department through the new position.

“The appointment of Galen Strawson is a major coup for the Department of Philosophy. Strawson is a leading international scholar with a sterling reputation, a distinguished record of publication, and an impressive range of expertise,” Sosa said.

The use of earnings from the Longhorn Network toward academic purposes raises often debated questions surrounding the financial relationship between athletics and academics at UT.

Joshua Sklar, philosophy junior and co-president of the Undergraduate Philosophy Association, welcomed the news of Strawson’s appointment and said effective utilization of athletic revenues toward academic purposes only made sense given the current financial constraints on the University.

“Many programs have taken hits recently,” Sklar said. “It seems to me that the most responsible use of money from our athletics programs would be to improve the University academically.”

Ahmed Tewfik, electrical and computer engineering chair, said that the appointment of Baccelli will allow the math, electrical and computer engineering departments to cooperatively explore new projects and conduct cutting-edge research across different fields of study.

Baccelli’s position was funded by $1.5 million from LHN and $1.5 from the Simons Foundation, which aims to advance research in math and basic sciences.

“This was a very strong addition to UT because of his ability to talk with engineers and his willingness to work on engineering problems,” Tewfik said. “What we envision is that this is going to lead to a number of innovations in networking sciences.”

In the long term, the departments also plan to create a Center in Information and Network Science with the guidance of Baccelli.