Texan Editorial Board

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: The executive alliance candidates were judged based on their interviews which were conducted by the Texan Editorial Board as well as their performances at the SG Executive Alliance debate held Monday night. Voting takes place Wednesday and Thursday at utexasvote.org.

 

Student government at this University is broken. Representatives are not especially in tune with their constituents’ needs and the entire operation has — at times — broken down into a petty, cliquish drama. To many students, the whole organization has delved into something of a joke. Sadly, the humor hasn’t ended with some of the candidates running for executive alliance (president and vice president, respectively).

The ticket of Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu, Texas Travesty editors both, a publication of satire and general lampoonery on campus, has made some good points (their unwavering support of domestic partnerships for the same-sex partners of University staff is a particular bright spot), but we simply cannot take them seriously unless they take themselves more seriously. 

Next, the ticket of David Maly and Stephen Svatek, respectively, has left us underwhelmed. Their platform is basically nonexistent apart from trite talking points, a point that was driven home to us by Maly’s vague answers in his interview with this board.

This leaves us with the ticket of Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi, respectively. We lend our support to Jones and Dargahi not because we were blown away by them but because we have been convinced that they would do the best job once in office.

Jones and Dargahi certainly would not need on-the-job training. Between Jones’ experience as both the speaker of the SG Assembly and chief of staff to former Student Government President Horacio Villarreal and Dargahi’s experience in the other echelons of student organizations, they have an unmatched resume that shows they know how to get things done. We also believe they sincerely have a strong desire to both preserve the good in this University while correcting the bad.

However, a number of similarities between Jones and Dargahi and previous administrations concern us. Simply put, we do not see many meaningful divergences in which Jones and Dargahi could succeed where Rady and Strickland have not. Not to mention the fact that they seemed hesitant to give a firm stance on campus carry. Finally, the platform of Jones and Dargahi, “Let’s talk Texas,” relies too heavily on outside input and too little on their own policy approaches and leadership skills.

In his interview with this editorial board, Jones repeatedly noted how important it was to have a vociferous and effective voice for the student body given this period of tumultuous change for the University. Indeed, with a new University president coming on the heels of a new chancellor, new regents, a new mayor and a new governor, the team at the helm of SG will have a lot on their plates. Compared to their competitors, Jones and Dargahi are the only team truly capable of the job.

Toilet paper legislation would benefit all students

I’m not actually sure who wrote the Op-Ed “Student Government Limits Legislation to Toilet Paper” due to the safety of the sign off, “The Daily Texan Editorial Board,” but I can guess that whoever wrote it is probably a boy. I can say this with such confidence because anyone who has to wipe 100% of the time they use the bathroom knows how important something as simple as toilet paper can actually be.

But I don’t feel like this article was an attack on the Charmin, or lack thereof. No, this is an attack on our student government and the people who use their SG reps as a channel to voice their concerns. During my past four years at this University I’ve seen SG pass legislation from banning smoking on campus to the various “in support of’s” that lack a tangible result. With the toilet paper legislation, however, this is a tangible issue that we can actually feel.

After at least four years of begging our McCombs representatives to address our #1 and #2 issues, our cries are finally being addressed only to be brought down by a lack of quorum and an article that attacks the voices of McCombs students. The Daily Texan Editorial Board calls this issue “bullshit,” but my question is if it’s not SG’s duty to protect our doodies, then whose duty is it? What makes one issue legitimate and the other one crap?

One of the authors of the legislation, finance and government sophomore, Garrett Neville, said “I don’t understand why people are so butt hurt about the issue, because I don’t think it’s sensitive enough for a tissue. Liam and I are calling this the cry for two-ply.”

I think this legislation really shows that the fact that we have single ply toilet paper is tearable. The University of Texas is an institution that has hosted President Barack Obama, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, and PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. Not to mention the thousands of donors to this University that make our endeavors like the Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall a reality. Toilet paper may not be the number one impression they take away from the University, but a scratchy experience probably doesn’t sit well with them either.

The author was kind enough to tell us that we used 133,380 rolls of toilet paper in 2012. With a raw number like that it’s hard to imagine how much that actually is, but without accounting for the thousands of visitors the University receives every year, we’re averaging 1.8 rolls per person each year with a faculty and staff of 24,000 and a student body of 50,000. At $125,044, we average $1.69 per year on toilet paper per person. Let’s not be so quick to flush this issue down the toilet. If the University wants to raise my tuition by a dollar to account for the increase in the Facility Service’s budget, well, I’d say that sounds pretty good on the whole.

This fight might be tough, but hopefully in the end it will mean our toilet paper won’t be. 

—  Chandler Nunez, marketing senior, in response to "Student Government limits legislation to toilet paper"

 

Memorial Museum deserves all the funding it can get

“This is really pathetic. UT has helped fund Texas Memorial Museum for all of it’s Seventy-five year history on campus. Now UT is abandoning it completely. If UT can’t fund TMM, the State should fund it directly. The State just recently gave the Bullock State History Museum five million dollars. It can’t help fund the Texas Memorial Museum? What’s up with that?”

— Online commenter Buck, in response to the news article “Faculty Council pushes to find external funding for Texas Memorial Museum’s outreach activities

 

The Daily Texan Editorial Board is currently accepting applications for columnists and cartoonists through Thursday, Jan. 31. We’re looking for talented writers and artists to provide as much diversity of opinion as possible. Anyone and everyone is encouraged to apply.

Writing for the Texan is a great way to get your voice heard. Our columnists’ and reporters’ work is often syndicated nationwide, and every issue of the Texan is a historical document archived at the Center for American History.

A copy of the Texan runs across UT President William Powers’ desk each day, and the opinions on this page have great potential to affect University policy.

It’s no rare occurrence for Texan staff members to receive feedback from local or state officials or to be contacted by a reader whose life was changed by an article. In such instances, the power of writing for the Texan becomes real, motivating our staffers to provide the best public service possible.

If interested, please come to the Texan office at 25th and Whitis to complete an application form and sign up for an interview time. If you have any additional questions, please contact Susannah Jacob at (512) 471-5084 or send an email to editor@dailytexanonline.com.

Editor’s note: The Daily Texan Editorial Board offers our take on Proposition 1 and 4 in the Austin special election here. Early voting is happening now until Nov. 2, and general voting takes place on Nov. 6. You can find polling locations and other voting information online at votetexas.gov.

Proposition 1: YES

Proposition 1 in the Austin special election asks voters if the general election date should be moved from May to November. This is an easy “yes.” Moving the election date will ensure UT students are more likely to participate in the election, which determines Austin’s mayor and city council members. Under the current election schedule, these positions receive little attention from college-aged voters. Proposition 1 stands to increase participation in city government among all city residents, not just UT students, by grouping city elections with national elections. And the city will save money by combining election costs. We join Student Government in endorsing Proposition 1.

Proposition 4: YES

Proposition 4 entails a change to the city charter that would refashion the city council. Instead of a seven-member body of at-large councilpersons and the mayor, the council would consist of an eleven-member body that would be made up of two at-large councilpersons, eight council members representing specific geographic districts within the city and the mayor. The council structure suggested by the proposition balances local and city-wide interests by including at-large members on the council.

Students stand to benefit from the single-member geographic districts mandated by Proposition 4 because the city council members who would represent council districts with high student populations — those that might include West Campus, Riverside and the Forty Acres — would advocate for student issues at city council. Stories in the Texan and columns run on this page suggest that the city would do well to pay more attention to the concerns of students, and single-member city council districts are a better way to attune the city to students’ needs. The power of the student vote, which under the current all at-large council setup is diluted by non-student voters in the rest of the city, would encourage candidates vying for council positions that represent student populations to pay attention to student concerns.

Single-member geographic districts are also central to Proposition 3, a competing ballot item that calls for ten council members from single-member geographic districts and no at-large members.  The omission of at-large members creates a situation wherein council members would be focused on the districts they represent, possibly at the expense of the well-being of the city as a whole. The inclusion of at-large council members in Proposition 4 provides a better balance between localized and city-wide concerns, while expanding the council to better represent the needs of our growing and diverse city.

A statement from the editorial board regarding Tuesday's editorial cartoon

A controversial editorial cartoon on the Trayvon Martin shooting was published Tuesday on the Opinion page of The Daily Texan. The Daily Texan Editorial Board recognizes the sensitive nature of the cartoon’s subject matter.

The views expressed in the cartoon are not those of the editorial board. They are those of the artist. It is the policy of the editorial board to publish the views of our columnists and cartoonists, even if we disagree with them.

Please direct any inquiries to editor@dailytexanonline.com.

The Daily Texan Editorial Board is seeking suggestions for our Longhorn of the Year distinction. The Longhorn of the Year is an individual who had the most positive impact on the UT community throughout the 2011-12 academic year.

You can suggest a candidate by emailing the name of the nominee and a short explanation to firingline@dailytexanonline.com for potential publication or tweeting us @DTeditorial.

We’ll print finalists later in the semester and announce our selection in May.

Update: The cartoon was taken down from The Daily Texan website.

 

On Tuesday, a cartoon ran on the Opinion page of The Daily Texan that offended many readers, and we sincerely apologize for our decision to run it.

 

The cartoonist, Stephanie Eisner, no longer works for The Daily Texan.

 

However, the decision to run the cartoon showed a failure in judgment on the part of the editorial board. We have engaged in meaningful dialogue with many people who shared their concerns and outrage with us.

 

We made a mistake, and we understand that the outcome of our action extends beyond Tuesday’s cartoon and prompts us to reflect on a larger problem that persists at The Daily Texan and on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, something we should have done before Tuesday’s paper ran.

 

An expectation has developed over time at The Daily Texan that people will come to us with important issues. As a result, in recent years, we have failed to inject ourselves effectively into the University community.

 

This needs to change. This requires a fundamental shift in how we operate and will require us to actively engage with everyone in the community.

 

The Daily Texan will hold an open forum in the coming weeks to raise consciousness of race and diversity both at the Texan and on campus. We will require all Daily Texan employees to participate in a seminar each semester about the relationship between race and the media. We will also seek out and publish opinions that truly represent the views of the entire campus community. We understand these are only small steps in the much larger transformation we must undergo.

 

We sincerely apologize for publishing the offensive cartoon and for the harm that decision caused.

 

— The Daily Texan Editorial Board

Endorsement

The Daily Texan Editorial Board endorses John Lawler and Terrence Maas for Student Government president and vice president. The Lawler/Maas campaign has made several pledges to the student body that include improving safety and promoting sustainability on campus. Though the campaign uses many vacuous buzzwords, such a “accountability” and “affordability,” Lawler’s track record shows he is capable of making progress in many of the areas he and Maas identify in their campaign.

This year, contention surrounded the proposed tuition increases, and though next year is not a tuition-setting year, it will prove no different. Lawler, who has served as a College of Liberal Arts representative for nearly three years, is knowledgeable of the tuition-setting process and understands that next year, students will need to lobby the Legislature to minimize higher education budget cuts. He recognizes that increased state support for higher education can ultimately alleviate any need for tuition increases in the future.

In addition, Lawler and Maas are committed to advocating student issues at the city level, such as city single-member districts and neighborhood alliances. Lawler served for two years on the West Campus Neighborhood Association, which reviews and provides feedback on proposed changes to the neighborhood before implementation. When the city proposed to add 400 parking meters to the West Campus area, Lawler brought students into the discussion and fought for the neighborhood to receive more of the revenue from the meters.

Though Maas, who has no experience in SG, can bring a fresh perspective to the organization, he has a lot to learn about how not only SG but the University operates. Maas has not yet been tasked with engaging the University, but as vice president, he would serve as the chair of the Student Services Budget Committee, a responsibility that requires extensive knowledge of organizations and students on campus. Despite his inexperience with SG, Maas serves on the Inter-Cooperative Council board of directors, where he is partly responsible for overseeing a multimillion dollar budget. This experience will serve him well on the SSBC.

Lawler touts the referendum he authored on tuition, while working as a representative in SG. While it is important to gather student input, we hope Lawler does not rely on referenda as the only means to engage with students. Instead, he and Maas must work to mobilize the student body to voice their opinions on the issues that matter to them. Lawler should realize that the bolder his demands are, the more student support he needs, and with less student support, he may have to make some compromises.

Nonetheless, we are confident that Lawler and Maas are qualified and able to lead the student body next year. Though we admire the sincerity of opponents Thor Lund and Wills Brown, we believe their shallow understanding of University and SG operations and their lack of understanding of the roles of SG president and vice president would be detrimental to their term in office.

While no candidates are perfect, Lawler and Maas would be best equipped to lead the University next year as it continues to face a variety of internal and external challenges.

Editor’s note: The Daily Texan Editorial Board sent questionnaires to Student Government candidates running for executive alliance, University-wide, college-wide, University Co-op Board of Directors and Texas Union Board positions. We did not consider candidates who failed to return a questionnaire, and we did not endorse in uncontested races.

The Daily Texan Editorial Board endorses the following candidates:

The Daily Texan editor-in-chief

Two candidates are vying for The Daily Texan editor-in-chief position: Susannah Jacob and Shabab Siddiqui. The Daily Texan Editorial Board has decided not to endorse for this race, as both candidates are extremely qualified and the editorial board believes either candidate would do an excellent job as editor.

University-wide representative

Avery Walker:
As a current liberal arts representative, Avery Walker is familiar with many of the big issues that will face SG next year. Most notably, she helped develop legislation about a centralized internship database. Walker displays enthusiasm for proposals such as the Interactive Degree Audit that would positively affect many students in her constituency.

Crystal Zhao:
With her previous SG experience as a liberal arts representative, Zhao is the University-wide candidate that displays the most impressive knowledge of University issues. Though she displayed a troubling tendency to blame students’ “apathetic” attitudes for the shortcomings of SG, especially in relation to the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, we feel that Zhao would be an excellent voice for the larger University population.


College of Liberal Arts representative

Kornel Rady:
Rady, a first-year representative in SG, has concrete proposals to improve student life at the University, including pushing for a fall break. He also hopes to increase the transparency of SG by improving UT’s smartphone applications.

McCombs School of Business representative

Aaron Fair:
As an appointee to the Faculty Council, Fair worked with administrators to improve the registration and admissions processes. He displays a commitment to representing minority groups, many of which are not typically represented at SG. His fundamental commitment to the future of McCombs shows the promise of success.

Ross Yudkin:
Yudkin has not been involved with SG in the past but has clearly thought about many of the issues facing the University. Yudkin believes, among other things, that TPAC meetings should be open and advertised to students and that the current committee structure is not representative of students. Specifically, his plan to publicize the services McCombs offers its students is a concrete, attainable goal that we believe would benefit students.

College of Communication representative

Robert L. Milligan:
Milligan currently works as assistant director for Hook the Vote, a Student Government agency that works to increase political awareness and encourage voter turnout. He pledges to involve more students in student governance by authoring more college- and University-wide referenda to include the student voice in a variety of issues, including tuition discussions.

College of Natural Sciences representative

Perry Pickei:
Pickei has no previous experience with SG, but to ensure he reaches out to constituents, Pickei says he will regularly meet with and tell natural sciences students about current projects he is working on. Specifically, he hopes to work to increase exposure to the Freshman Research Initiative, to push for a minoring program in the college and to improve bicycle safety on campus.


Cockrell School of Engineering

Kevin Yuan:
Yuan currently serves as an SG representative for the Cockrell School of Engineering and has supported resolutions in support of a fall break and in favor of increased support for electrical and chemical engineering students. If reelected, he hopes to bridge the gap between SG and the Student Engineering Council, improve the process by which students claim Advanced Placement credit and expand tutoring programs within the college.

Student Events Center president

Carissa Kelley:
Despite Kelley’s recent involvement in the disqualification of Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara, former executive alliance candidates, the editorial board believes she would be best able to lead the Student Events Center next year. Kelley’s platform is focused on making sure the rest of the campus is fully informed of activities and events sponsored by the SEC and improving the relationships among internal committees. Kelley has straightforward, specific goals, including changing the approach to SEC programming, introducing a mentorship program for new students involved in the SEC and exploring low-cost programming options in light of recent
budget cuts.

University Co-op Board of Directors

Stephen Tran:
Between working as a resident assistant and with the Faculty Council, Stephen Tran has a wide variety of experiences that would serve him well as a Co-op board member. Tran’s concrete proposals, especially one that would streamline the textbook ordering process, would update existing Co-op rules to benefit students.

Student government president and vice president candidates attend the debate moderated by The Daily Texan Editorial Board in the SAC Auditorium Monday night. Candidates were given the opportunity to answer questions posed by Editor-in-chief Viviana Aldous and rebut comments made by the opposing candiates.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Candidates for the upcoming campus-wide general elections introduced themselves and their campaign platforms during a forum moderated by The Daily Texan Editorial Board.

The Office of the Dean of Students. During the first hour of the event, contenders for Student Government University-wide representative positions and the two candidates for Daily Texan editor-in-chief each had two minutes to pitch their platforms. The second hour consisted of a debate between executive alliance candidates.

Some campaign promises were nearly universal among the candidates vying for SG University-wide representative positions, including commitments to promote safety, improve the UT shuttle system and increase student involvement in SG. Manuel Ramirez is running on a single issue — the DREAM Act, a bill that would qualify undocumented students for citizenship.

Candidates for Daily Texan editor Susannah Jacob and Shabab Siddiqui each used a distinctive approach to pitch their candidacies.

Jacob briefly described her background in journalism and offered her vision for how the Daily Texan can have a greater influence on and off campus.

“The Daily Texan is strongest when people from outside of the University have felt that if they did not take The Daily Texan’s opinion into consideration, then they were going to have the wrath of UT students on the main mall,” Jacob said.

Siddiqui addressed the audience in verse. Reading a poem he claimed to have written just minutes before, he said “You may ask why I stand here and simply question, no closer to an answer, not even a suggestion. But the job of the Texan is not to serve solutions on a plate, but rather to host your discussion and debate.”

After Siddiqui spoke, four of the executive alliance pairs took the stage to answer questions concerning how they would influence tuition increases, budget cuts and their stance on the proposed smoking ban.

John Lawler and Terrence Maas, the first pair to address the crowd, said they differ from other candidates by running on specific reforms rather than repackaging vague campaign jargon.

“What we want to avoid as much as possible is just simply relying on the buzzwords,” Lawler said. “Things like ‘transparency,’ ‘safety’ and ‘affordability.’”

Each executive team also claimed to have specific plans and offered unique proposals for how they would carry out their positions.

Candidates Thor Lund and William Brown said UT should have a 24-hour library system. Madison Gardner and Antonio Guevara said they would have regularly have breakfast with other campus leaders. Lawler and Maas said they would hold weekly “office hours” at the main mall and would raise revenue for the University by working with the University to start selling beer at football games.

The subject of state funding was discussed by the candidates and each team put forth strategies for interacting with Texas lawmakers in the case of election.

“We will be at the Capitol every day from January to May,” Gardner said. Guevara, his running mate, said, “I have lobbied to the secretary of state and got 6 million dollars pledged to my scholarship fund.”

Lawler reiterated the importance of a student presence at the legislature.

“We will have to, from the moment we get elected, start to lobby the Texas legislature,” Lawler said.

Lund said he would use the power of numbers and mobilize the student body to pressure lawmakers.

“It’s one thing for me to go talk to the legislature, but it’s another thing to get the whole student body behind this,” he said.

After the debate, Lund said he thinks the debate did not really change the campaign.

“It doesn’t change the campaign that much because all these people up here are talking about all these different things,” he said. “What we really need to do is get out and talk to students.”

Lawler said he thinks the debate did impact the race because it revealed more about the candidates.

“I think [the debate] showed who is and who isn’t knowledgeable of the issues, who is and who’s not passionate about fighting for the students, and who has proven results in their background,” he said.

Presidential candidate Yaman Desai and running mate Whitney Langston participated in the debate before rescinding their appeal of a disqualification ruling from the Election Supervisory Board and effectively removing themselves from the race.

Printed on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 as: SG debate introduces candidates