Friday Firing Lines for Nov. 22, 2013

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Every Friday, the Daily Texan editorial board publishes a selection of tweets and online comments culled from The Daily Texan’s website and the various Daily Texan Twitter accounts, along with direct submissions from readers. 

Submissions can be sent to editor@dailytexanonline.com.

Poor coverage of protest

“Coverage of yesterday’s incredible undocumented event shows lazy journalism at its finest. ”     

 — Twitter user Itzahh, @Itzelaalejandra, in response to The Daily Texan’s coverage of Wednesday's student protest against YCT

 

About Zeta Beta...

“Please stop quoting from this piece. You are using a misogynistic message and hateful images to generate interest.”

— Twitter user Tanya Clement, in response to a tweet from The Daily Texan, “Text from the ZBT mural: “Support the Troops, Blow a bubba,” which linked to the news article “ZBT fraternity covers up mural depicting sexually graphic images” 

 

I graduated from the University of Texas in 2012. I’m a 24-year-old woman. I took a job in Dallas that I love. 

In an engineering world and semiconductor industry, I’m surrounded by many men on a day-to-day basis. I work in marketing, but I love and cherish the opportunity to work with men (and women) on projects and assignments. I have always felt respected, valued and appreciated. 

I cannot say the same for my experience at UT-Austin.

Maybe that’s why I was so enraged when I read the article, “ZBT fraternity covers up mural depicting sexually graphic images.”

What was perhaps worse were the comments.  “Maybe I am confused, but I don’t see anything wrong with this mural,” wrote online commenter Roman. 

“Texan has gone downhill. This is a cover story? Time to analyze their funding and reallocate,” wrote Jeff. “Proud Alumni here – keep up the good work boys. ‘here’s the Irish, GET FUK’d!!’”

All my life, I have seen people shake their heads at the behavior of fraternities. But it’s simple as a sigh and a turn of the head. 

“Boys will be boys,” right?

When I sent the article to a couple of my girlfriends, neither was shocked or surprised. A friend here in Dallas said, “Goodness, what would provoke them to do something like that?” And then away with her day she went.

I can’t shake my reaction to this article so easily. I can’t turn my head at the behavior of young men that objectifies, demeans and undermines the humanity and respect for women, or anyone, in our society.

I don’t know what fuels the degradation and oversexualizing of women today. I’m not a scholar in the area; I can’t recite the history. I do know that I’m not OK with it and I’ll never stand by and watch as it happens.

My consolation is that I see women in positions of influence everywhere I look.  I take comfort in the fact that women are working past the discriminatory nature of the sexualization and objectification. 

Some men close to me have said that I don’t understand “guy humor.” They have said I’m a feminist for sending this [Firing Line] in. I simply see myself as a person. Women are so much more than those murals depict, and they prove it every day, in banks and law firms and corporations and nonprofits and governments.

I don’t want to be embarrassed of graduating from the University of Texas. I don’t want to be embarrassed of the student body. Respect a person as a person — despite their race, gender, religion or other inconsequential factor. Our social dictionary has done enough to define a woman by sexualized qualities. When does it end? Texas, stop embarrassing me. And boys, your mothers would be ashamed. 

— Rachel Platis, 2012 graduate of UT-Austin and former senior reporter for The Daily Texan, submitted via e-mail 

 

 “Stealth dorms” aren’t so stealthy 

There is nothing stealthy about so-called ‘stealth dorms’ and such misrepresentation of the situation is an unconscionable attack on the rights of Austin renters.

Students, as with any resident, have the right to rent and populate property provided by realtor companies. If a rental company agrees to a contract with 5 unrelated individuals, nothing surreptitious has occurred. Competition for shelter close to the university has driven prices upward and these budget squeezing trends have understandably encouraged young people and those living on smaller incomes to share domiciles.

Is legislative effort truly required to set right any conflicts that might arise? In a news spot aired by ABC months ago, homeowners with families were portrayed as worried about noise levels and crowded street parking. These two issues alone may be solved by, who would guess, talking to neighbors and voicing anxieties. The police are the authorities to seek out when a loud party is disruptive or when a car is illegally parked in front of a fire hydrant. Legislating the number of unrelated individuals in a home is an invasion of privacy, not to mention part of an ongoing effort to force poor residents out of Austin. If these house-sharing people actually owned their properties, would anyone think they have to right to diminish their household size?

In any case, development companies should be held responsible for their choices to build huge residences in small-home neighborhoods. I have never heard their role in this housing debate questioned.

Are families truly affected by a house of five students living together next door? Who is this legislative effort actually for?

— Erin Shook, research assistant at the Cockrell School of Engineering, submitted via e-mail 

 

Our coverage of Shared Services

On Nov. 15, Daily Texan columnist Chris Jordan’s article appeared criticizing mine and Dana Cloud’s guest column on the implementation of Shared Services at UT. There are a number of issues with this article; however, given that Jordan is a Daily Texan columnist, I will focus on those that bear directly on issues of objectivity and journalistic integrity.

The article claims that mine and Cloud’s piece is “ill-informed” and “dangerous.” One of our criticisms was that the implementation of Shared Services lacked transparency, which is what Jordan takes issue with.

We criticized the administration for not disclosing the research in the Final Report on Business Productivity on which the Shared Services recommendation is based. Accenture was paid $960,000 of UT’s money to help produce that research and thus we think it fair that the public should have access to it and so that it can be assessed by the entire campus community.

Jordan completely misses this point, but proceeds to counterpose our argument with what he calls “facts.” He claims that Shared Services “is a tested supply-chain optimization plan which has been successfully implemented, not only by Accenture, [sic!] in many other public and private institutions, including Yale, the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill." This statement is meaningless unless Jordan discusses the results of these tests. In particular the protests from faculty and staff at Yale and University of Michigan are not even brought up. Furthermore, “supply chain optimization” is a professed result of adopting Shared Services in certain industries (that, conspicuously, also appears in an Accenture brochure on Shared Services; High Performance in the Energy Industry, p. 8). The claim is not based on independent research, if any research. (Furthermore the term “supply-chain optimization” bears an obscure relationship to the context and is at best just a fancy way of saying “improved efficiency,” if it has any meaning at all beyond obfuscation).

His two other sources for attacking the lack of transparency argument are quotations from the chief financial officer of UT, Kevin Hegarty, and the vice president for finance at the University of Michigan, Rowan Miranda, a former Accenture executive. Hegarty apparently told the Texan, “I want to see the detail, I want to see what backs it up,” in response to the recommendations of the Committee on Business Productivity.

But this is in direct contradiction to what Mr. Hegarty has maintained about the data at the town hall meeting on Oct. 30; “I didn’t want the committee’s information, the committee didn’t offer it and we didn’t want it.” He was asked the same question at the Graduate Student Assembly and maintained that he was not interested in the data. 

Jordan also claims that UT has constructed focus groups to talk about Shared Services, but then fails to describe what these focus groups discuss or whether they have any meaningful input. He appears to have made no attempt to find a single UT staff member, student or faculty member that participated in one of these focus groups (I was one). The only people who are quoted are Mr. Hegarty and Mr. Miranda, a former Accenture executive. In actual fact these focus groups answered questions in the manner of the recent “town hall” meetings, but they had nothing to do with gathering data.

It is sad to see that Jordan has such an Orwellian stance on what constitutes a fact. Unfortunately, most of the article quibbles irrelevantly with definitions. (I am not convinced Jordan has any idea what is meant by “corporatization” when used by the “opposition” he derides.) Company statements, not supported by independent research, and contradictory quotations from administrators tasked with implementing Shared Services (who have a vested interest in its success) could be called a lot things, but not “facts,” if words have meaning.

Please join the Graduate Student Assembly on Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. in SAC 2.302, where associate history professor Alberto Martinez will be discussing the actual facts and issues associated with UT’s Shared Services plan (please visit reclaimut.net for a fuller version of this article with citations).

 — Adam J. Tallman, linguistics graduate student and representative in the Graduate Student Assembly