state government

LGBT UT students face homelessness from familial rejection and employment discrimination because of the lack of antidiscrimination protections the state government offers, according to Ana Ixchel Rosal, director of Student Diversity Initiatives. 

Familial rejection forces LGBT students to drop out of school in some instances, and discrimination in hiring practices inhibits enrolled students from securing competitive jobs, said Chris Dao, a petroleum engineering senior and president of LGBT student organization oSTEM.

Most often, LGBT students and youths find themselves without a home after their parents become aware of their sexual orientation, Rosal said. 

“We have dealt with students who are homeless and/or on the brink of homelessness because, after the student came out to their family — intentionally or unintentionally — the response from the family did not go well,” Rosal said. “It could mean everything from parental disappointment to disapproval, but it can also look like total and complete rejection, including financial support. Then, the students are just out there on their own.”

For college students, the length and consequences of homelessness can vary, said Natalia Ornelas, program director at Austin nongovernmental organization Out Youth, which two UT alumni founded to provide social and health services to LGBT youths in the area. 

“We get many phone calls from students looking for shelters,” Ornelas said. “Maybe a student was living with their parents during college and the situation turned unsafe — they were kicked out and cut off. Maybe a student is living safely in dorms, but the school year is ending and their parents are not accepting of them, so they need to find somewhere for the summer until they can get back into their dorms.”

Being an outstanding employee will not protect an LGBT employee in Texas from discriminatory termination because the state does not extend those protections to them, said Keisha Martinez, clinical services director of Out Youth. 

“For a lot of minorities, there is this thought that ‘I have to work ten times harder in order to be recognized or seen as an equal,’” Martinez said. “But this is not part of the thought process for many LGBT youth because getting an education will not protect them from being discriminated against. If an employer wants to get rid of them, their education would not even matter.”

The conservative nature of the oil and gas industries poses problems during recruitment season for LGBT students studying to be petroleum engineers, Dao said. 

“Petroleum engineering is steeped in tradition,” Dao said. “As a result, there are a lot of cultural practices that are passed down that make oil companies very conservative. Baker Hughes, Halliburton and Schlumberger have   Corporate  Equality   Index ratings at about
15 percent.” 

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation uses the Corporate Equality Index to rate American workplaces on LGBT equality, according to the foundation’s website.

The extensive focus on marriage equality led to the neglect of other pressing LGBT issues, public health junior Tyler Grant said.

“Marriage equality is definitely something that is important, but the queer community as a whole has ignored other urgent issues like LGBT homelessness,” Grant said. “It’s frustrating because we have not given the same amount of effort to those causes, and it shows in our politics, law and society.”

In response to the Texas Sunset Commission’s recommendation that the Texas Railroad Commission change its name to more accurately reflect what it does, we have provided suggestions that better represent the spirit and purpose of the state government entity.

1. Not-in-Charge-of-Trains Commission
2. Black Gold Government since 1891
3. H.L. Hunt’s Fan Club
4. The Texas Drill Daddies
5. Fast Fracking Permit Providers
6. The Exxon & Chevron-Pays Boys Club
7. The What-Environmental-Consequences? Commission
8. The Only-Large-Donations-Accepted Agency
9. The Texas Secession Funding Commission
10. Rick and Anita Perry’s Christmas party A-Listers

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) is interviewed at the LBJ School of Public Affairs on Friday. The Senator held a lecture with law students on how the growing public debt can affect future generations before speaking with the Daily Texan about how it will affect students both in UT and in colleges elsewhere.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

On Friday, Sen. John Cornyn R-Texas spoke with UT law students at the LBJ School of Public Affairs about the problems the growing public debt poses for the U.S. The Daily Texan sat down with Senator Cornyn to discuss how these problems could affect higher education at UT and elsewhere.

The Daily Texan: Why did you feel it was important to warn UT law students about the debt crisis?
Sen. John Cornyn:
Because students are going to have to pay the bill. [The debt is] roughly $48,000 per every man, woman and child in America right now, and all we need to do to see where this is going is to look across the Atlantic at Europe and see the sovereign debt crises over there. The bills are stacking up and creditors are doubting whether these governments can actually pay their debt. Obviously, this is creating a lot of turmoil there, a recession right now, and it could very well spill into the United States.

DT: So how would the debt crisis affect the quality and availability of higher education in the U.S. if left unsolved?
Sen. Cornyn:
It’s going to reduce the amount of money that we can spend on anything, including education. [The debt is a result] of a lot of things the federal government does, for example the expansion of Medicaid availability from 100 percent of poverty to 133 percent of poverty. That’s a sheared state/federal bill and what it does is put $27 billion of unfunded liabilities on the state government, crowding out other priorities such as education.

DT: Does decreasing federal spending to resolve the debt mean that the federal government will have to find new ways to support public education?
Sen. Cornyn:
I think budgeting is all about priorities. Clearly education is a priority. Most of it is funded at the state level, about 90 percent for K-12, and as you know a lot of students have to borrow money to fund their education. The President talked about that at his State of the Union. The problem is that education funding should be a priority, but there are a lot of things we are spending money on now that could be spent on education and other priorities.

DT: So what are those unneeded expenditures?
Sen. Cornyn
: Some of it is as simple as duplication of services. I was talking in Admiral Inman’s class a moment ago about job training. It’s something that he said is a government function, and I agree with him. We need to help people acquire the skills needed in order to get a job, but right now there are 40 different federal programs that provide job training. Obviously, I would argue there is a lot of duplication and a lot of inefficiency. Some of it is that. Some of it is simply reining in some tax expenditures, things like the ethanol subsidy. I would also encourage people to look at the Simpson Bowls Report that came out in December 2010, called “Moment of Truth”. They said we had about 1.1 trillion dollars in tax expenditures that are currently increasing the deficit, which could instead go into people’s pockets if certain provisions in the tax code were eliminated. That would go along way.

DT: What can UT and other universities do to keep college open to everyone as tuition rates and student debts continue to rise? What role does the government have in that?
Sen. Cornyn:
In my way of thinking it’s simply unacceptable to deny people access to college in this economy. We know that if people finish high school, wait to get married and if they wait to have children that their chances of joining the middle class and not being poor are much better. We haven’t had a federal budget in more than a 1000 days now, and what happens when you have a budget, whether it be a small business or government, is that you have to make hard decisions. We have to decide: what are the things you have to have, like education, what are the things you would like to have, and what is not necessary. The federal government has not been making those kinds of decisions and we need to.

DT: Is there a role that the government needs to take to ensure that education remains inclusive? Especially in a state like Texas, which has a quickly growing population.
Sen. Cornyn
: I would say we need to do a better job in reaching out to everybody in making sure that education is available to all. We have challenges, the drop out rate and things like that, but we can create a great system of community colleges that teach skills that are necessary for jobs that exist but for which there’s not a quality, trained workforce. This needs to remain at the top of our list of priorities. This is something that we are never going to be able to say we’re done with, and that it’s fixed.

DT: What advice do you have for students preparing for jobs in an economy projected to have notably lower growth outcomes than the previous generation?
Sen. Cornyn:
Well I would say don’t accumulate any more debt. Unfortunately the federal government took over all student loans in 2010, and this summer will start charging 6.8 percent on those loans. The cost of those loans is actually much lower, and the government is using the cost from those loans to fund other programs, like the health care bill. It doesn’t seem quite fair that students should have to bear that additional cost. I would say look for opportunities to complete your formal education in a shorter rather than a longer period of time. Even though Pell grants are available for 9 years, if you can do it in 5 years you can save a whole lot of money and that’s going to make it easier for you to do with that student debt, and for the countries debt.