University administration

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

For the fall 2015 semester, students will not see an increase in tuition, despite requests from the University administration, according to a report from the Office of Financial Affairs.

Tuition at UT is set to remain the same as levels in 2014, according to UT Chief Financial Officer Mary Knight. Traditional tuition for fall 2015 will be $4,905 for in-state and $17,360 for out-of-state students per semester. The optional fixed tuition rate, which gives students the option to pay one rate for all four years as an undergraduate, will be $5,291 for in-state and $18,275 for out-of-state students per semester. 

Legislative student bodies held public forums in fall 2013 to gauge student opinion on proposed tuition increases, Knight said. After student leaders and the University administration agreed on a proposal, it was sent to the Office of the Chancellor from the president. The chancellor brought the proposal before the UT System Board of Regents for deliberation.

The UT System Board of Regents voted to adopt a tuition plan in 2013 that covered tuition from fall 2014 through spring 2016, according to a meeting agenda from the Board of Regents.

Knight said the Board of Regents approved tuition increases that began in fall 2014 but decided against increasing tuition again for fall 2015.

“It’s in the Board of Regent’s hands, and last spring, the Board of Regents approved some increases for one year only, but they did not address the fall of 2015, so we are keeping the rates the same as the fall of 2014,” Knight said. “There were some [increases] that had been proposed, but the board did not address them in the spring of 2014, so none of those were officially approved.”

Kathleen Corder, exercise science and allied health profession sophomore, said she is glad the cost of tuition isn’t increasing.

“We’re already paying so much and as students, everything costs money, and we’re all broke, so saving just a little bit of money and not having the increase [in tuition] is good,” Corder said.

Chemistry senior Robert Wayne Jr. said the lower tuition at UT keeps the door open for hardworking students.

“It’s fantastic to keep it cheap because you want to keep the University competitive,” Wayne said. “Students receive all sorts of grants, and it allows them to put money toward something else, some other aspect of their life.”

UT System Chancellor William McRaven has voiced his support for affordability but warned that UT System institutions must balance price with the quality of education.

“This is a balancing act — to make education as affordable as can be but still as high quality as it can be,” McRaven said. “Frankly, the students that are looking for a high-quality education, if they don’t think that we’re giving them a high enough quality education, they will go outside the state.”

During the 1970s, nearly 85 percent of UT’s operating costs came from a budget appropriated by the state Legislature, according to a statement on the UT website. Today, however, the State provides for less than 20 percent of educational operations at UT.

Photo Credit: Lex Rojas | Daily Texan Staff

Supporters of the Fiji party perpetuating harmful stereotypes of Mexican immigrants claim that the party was to have had an “innocent” “Western theme.” This claim is accurate — except the innocent part. The panoramic celebration of white heroes combating savages of various kinds is a staple of the American imagination and deeply racist, nonetheless. I understand this as a white woman.

 

In Texas, the Western theme was epitomized by the Texas Rangers, a small corps of state-empowered, white vigilantes lionized in Texas history books even as they persecuted and murdered both Native Americans and Mexicans at will through the 1800s. They repelled Mexicans fighting against the Texan occupation of Mexican territories in 1846. They fought for the confederacy during the Civil War.

 

After the South’s defeat, the Rangers went on to conquer what the Texas state history website describes reverently as a Texas “‘overrun with bad men,’ with Indians ravaging the western frontier, with Mexican bandits pillaging and murdering along the Rio Grande.” In 1916, they killed at least 5,000 Mexicans during civil unrest across the border.

 

The Rangers defended Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan and were openly racist and sexist, forbidding the enlistment of women and minority groups. When charged in the 1970s with not having any Hispanic members, Rangers replied that there weren’t any qualified Hispanic officers available: “I don’t see any Japanese here,” said one. “I don’t see any Chinamen. We can’t hire every doggone breed there is in the United States.”

 

The Rangers are in their twilight years, their traditions and purposes given over to modern priorities. However, the mythology about them and the pervasiveness of their ideas about the presence of Mexicans in our state — the wild, racist West — remain.

 

So, indeed, the Fiji party, a truly disgusting spectacle of racist stereotypes, did have a “Western theme” in the same way that the law students’ party had a “ghetto theme” in 2006. However, the Fiji party is only the most recent expression of a pattern of ongoing injury at UT against its students, faculty and staff of color. 

 

Fraternity parties are not the exception to the rule of racism at UT. Statues of Confederate leaders greet visitors to our Main Mall. Two years ago, it was revealed that Simkins Dormitory was named after a Grand Dragon of the KKK. There is a monument to the Texas Rangers in the form of the “Littlefield Home” at the corner of 24th Street and Whitis Avenue. 

 

Off-campus racism is common as well. Over the past year, black students have reported being targeted by West Campus residents who threw balloons full of (the symbolically pointed) bleach. In 2013, Young Conservatives of Texas called off a terroristic “immigrant hunt” to challenge the “threat” of undocumented students and workers following pressure from the campus community and the community at large. 

 

The Fiji party was given a pass by the University because it occurred “off campus.” In not sanctioning the organization, the University administration commits another agression against its students of color and the broader Austin community.

 

We cannot expect the University to take meaningful action against racism. Now, as in the past, civil rights gains have emerged from struggle from below. Centers for Mexican and Mexican American studies, black studies, Asian and Asian-American studies and women’s and gender Studies did not appear as gifts from the administration. The pressure put on the University during the civil rights movements in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in gains in representation and voice for minority students. Budget cuts in the ever-more-corporate, lean, mean neoliberal university roll back those victories — making it even less likely that students will be educated in the truths rather than the mythology of Texas expansion.

 

And then there is the attack on affirmative action. Since the Hopwood decision banning attention to race in 1996, and in spite of more recent partially corrective decisions (like the top 10 percent rule), the proportion of black students at the University remains at less than four percent in a state where black people comprise 13 percent of the population. Latino/a representation is also vastly disproportionate to the demographics of our state. Abigail Fisher’s recent challenge to a perceived but completely false discrimination against white applicants sends yet another message to students of color: You are not welcome here. 

 

What can we do now to combat this pervasive, taken-for-granted racism on and off campus? I propose that we undertake a sustained, multi-racial, agitational movement to educate the campus and broader community about the realities of racism and to hold the administration accountable for offenses committed in the Tower’s shadow — including off-campus racist fraternity parties. 

 

An embrace of a multi-racial movement may be controversial among activists who rightly want members of their particular communities — those most heavily impacted — in the lead. It also might be controversial to analogize anti-Mexican and anti-Mexican-American racism with anti-black racism. 

 

However, the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ adage, “They divided both to conquer each,” applies here. The capitalist society that depends upon inexpensive immigrant labor (which, in turn, perpetuates the category of the hyper-exploitable “illegal” immigrant) also depends upon the scapegoating of black people, resulting in mass incarceration and police murder of black men, women and children. We have seen the eruption of a national conversation about race since movements in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country (including here in Austin against the police murder in 2013 of Larry Jackson, Jr.) forced the broader society to take notice.

 

White people like me should stand in solidarity with the oppressed to contest efforts of the establishment to “divide both” to “conquer each.” What happens when we all stand together? We should find out, because both black and brown lives matter. 

 

Cloud is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the Department of Rhetoric & Writing. She is also a member of the International Socialist Organization.

Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

The Parking Strategies Committee recently announced its report and recommendations for University parking, which include permit rate hikes for at least the next five years. These hikes were solicited in January 2013, when a group of 13 businesspeople released the Committee on Business Productivity’s report for UT. This report called for various rate hikes, privatization plans and budget cuts. The University administration has been faithfully implementing these recommendations despite campus opposition. The Shared Services plan, which called for eliminating 500 staff positions and centralizing the remaining workers (removing them from their home departments), was met with a rally, mass faculty letter, staff speak-outs and a student sit-in, all of which decried the plan as an undue step toward corporatization of the University. Corporatization is an openly stated goal of President William Powers Jr., who endorsed the Business Productivity recommendations and stated that the University ought to follow the “best business practices.”

On Tuesday, the parking committee presented its report at a campus-wide town hall meeting, at the Graduate Student Assembly meeting and at the Student Government meeting. The committee presented on Thursday at a Staff Council meeting. The permit rate hikes are not intended to fill in budget gaps, but simply to increase University revenue. This revenue will not return to the campus community, through employee wage increases or otherwise, and thus this move can only be understood as a business operation that seeks to increase profit from customers. (Bob Harkins, chair of the committee and associate vice president for campus safety and security, told the Texan it is to fund the construction of new parking garages, but this is not the same information that was presented at the town hall.) Indeed, Parking and Transportation Services is designed as a business to begin with, as its sole revenue stream is from paying customers. In FY 2013 - 2014, for example, PTS made about $1.1 million from citations, $2.7 million from permits and $11.7 million from parking facility fees — that is $15.5 million in total. 

This economic model leads to an antagonistic relationship between PTS and the University community it serves, as PTS can only increase revenue by charging the community more. The alternative would be to bring PTS into the public sphere by appropriating University funds to it — in FY 2013 - 2014, however, PTS received a whopping $0 from this coffer. So rather than abide by the cooperative mission of a public university, UT’s proposed permit rate hikes push PTS in a privatized direction. This is an openly stated goal, as the Parking Committee’s report states that the primary motivation is to tack toward market-level rates, which are higher than the University’s. For a public university concerned with affordability, this lesser cost is appropriate — for a business, it is simply lost revenue.

In fact, $0 is a misleading figure. To be more exact, PTS actually receives negative dollar amounts from the University coffer. In FY 2013 - 2014, it had $8 million in excess income over budgeted expenses, and this was returned to the University in its entirety, through debt service and transfers to various departments (such as UTPD) and reserves. PTS has had steadily increasing excess income since at least FY 2009 - 2010, when it was $6.7 million. Every year, however, this surplus has been drained by the University administration — the Parking Committee recommends intensifying this policy, and by Year 4 it has PTS in the red for over $200,000. This is not an unprecedented move by the corporatized administration. For FY 2013 - 2014, PTS had requested additional funds to prevent UT shuttle bus cuts but was denied even though there was a reserve fund of $800,000 from past PTS surpluses. As a result, Capital Metro announced cuts to shuttle routes in the fall of 2013, and these cuts especially impacted financially precarious graduate students.

However, the corporatized University administrators have outright contempt for the idea of affordability. In a Daily Texan news article, the Parking Committee’s chair, Bob Harkins, cited the 2012 Campus Master Plan’s recommendations as another motivation for the permit rate hikes. Harkins notes that these recommendations included the replacement of surface parking lots with more expensive garage structures. However, the plan also states that this will “eliminate spaces that currently provide relatively low-cost options for faculty and staff” — Harkins doesn’t mention this, which is curious given that he was on the committee for the Master Plan as well. The permit rate hikes will obviously exacerbate this affordability gap, but the Parking Committee’s report does not include any discussion on these issues. Whether this is contempt or simply negligence, it is clear that affordability is not a priority of the University administration. 

For students, it’s worth noting that “student leaders” like Student Government President Kori Rady match the administration’s priorities – Rady recently told the Texan that “there’s nothing [they] can do” to prevent PTS from raising parking rates. This blasé attitude is consistent from student leaders on affordability issues, such as tuition hikes. Rather than take initiative to discuss tuition, they consistently wait for UT System intervention, whenever that may happen. Last year, an ad hoc tuition committee pushed through tuition hikes within a three-week time frame, and then-Senate of College Councils President Andrew Clark stated that hikes were inevitable because “we are at the mercy of the UT System.” This failure of leadership continues, as Rady told the Texan he is unconcerned that the student leaders haven’t formed a new tuition committee this semester, and Senate of College Councils President Geetika Jerath said they may simply repeat the ad hoc process.

This contempt for affordability — whether about Shared Services, tuition hikes or parking rates — is particularly outrageous because the administrators have alternative and direct ways of increasing revenue. The most obvious is to request additional funds from the UT System’s massive Permanent University Fund, which currently holds over $17 billion — this is the largest public university endowment in the country. Alternatively, an in-house solution could address the fact that UT has some of the highest rates of executive pay in the country — over 100 (and increasing) University administrators earn more than $200,000. An administrative salary cap at $200,000, an amount that is still excessive compared to the average staff worker salary of $52,000, would annually save $20 million in revenue. The Parking Committee projects that its recommendations will generate $40 million in 10 years — the salary cap, which puts a minor dent in inequality at a public university, would generate $200 million in that same time. Those who want to fight for a public university can sign the petition against the hikes. 

Rathi is a computer science honors junior from Austin. 

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

The second Monday of October could be known as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” instead of Columbus Day if a petition asking the University administration to make the change is successful. 

The petition, which was created on Columbus Day by the Native American and Indigenous Collective and can be found on their website, passed 500 signatures last week. The NAIC is an organization housed within the Multicultural Engagement Center and aims to provide services and host events for
indigenous peoples.

Jacob Barrios, Mexican American studies junior and co-director of Operations for the NAIC, said the petition was inspired by a movement across the nation that began in the northeast to shift away from the celebration of Columbus Day.

Barrios said he believes the notion of celebrating Columbus Day and the idea that he “discovered” the Americas, even though there were already people living there is a harmful, Westernized mentality.

“[Columbus] was the beginning of the exploitation of the land and resources of the Native people by Europeans,” Barrios said. “We think that instead of honoring that legacy through the celebration of Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day would celebrate the resilience, resistance and the beauty of Native culture, instead of the start of this tragic demise.”

Seattle and Minneapolis were the first two cities to officially celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day this year. Barrios, who is indigenous to Mexico, said he believes the University has not made an active pursuit to recruit Native American students.

“I don’t think UT as an institution is connecting with those communities in the way that they could be,” Barrios said. “We think that Indigenous Peoples’ Day would be the start to changing the culture of UT.”

According to the 2010 government census, Texas has the fourth largest population of individuals who identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native, but the past four University freshmen classes have been composed of less than 1 percent American Indian population.

UT spokesman Gary Susswein said the University does not currently honor Columbus Day, but it would consider honoring Indigenous Peoples’ Day if a resolution were passed through Student Government.

“We are always proud of UT students when they engage and drive debate on important issues, especially those that relate to equity and justice,” Susswein said. “If the proposal to use that day to honor indigenous peoples is approved by Student Government, University officials would review it closely.”

Max Patterson, history senior and president of University Democrats, said he believes the establishment of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an example of the community owning its history.

“Any telling of our history has to be a complete one or else we are putting ourselves back,” Patterson said. “If we don’t recognize the incredible sacrifice the Native Americans had over the past hundreds, thousands of years, we are doing a disservice and not paying a full credit to our history.”

Barrios said the community can help in ways other than signing the petition, such as being cognizant of the contributions of the indigenous peoples to society and educating those who are unfamiliar with the history.

What are the perimeters of the power of the UT System Board of Regents, and have the regents overstepped them? These days that question — posed amid speculation that the regents are actively attempting to fire UT President William Powers Jr. — consumes the mental resources of the Texas Legislature, the University administration and faculty, the regents themselves and possibly Gov. Rick Perry, who appoints those regents. The UT students, whose interests are said to be at the heart of this battle, are, for the most part, blissfully (but worryingly) unaware a fight is taking place.

The governor-regent-president soap opera is a commentary on the explicit, compromise-lacking, broken nature of public dialogue today, but it also exposes how the regents and Powers embrace fundamentally different philosophies about this public university’s purpose, how its mission should be accomplished, how the success of accomplishments should be measured and who should pay its bills. The victor will not be the last man standing; all the men standing are due to exit office in a matter of years. Instead we can only hope it will be future taxpayers and students. Ideally, this battle will help address the reason we pay for and attend college at all. Do young people go to college to better themselves or for the benefit of society? What will UT look like in 50 years? How much should it cost to go to college? What job training and education does a college degree offer? Who should get one?

Powers personally believes that an “atmosphere of innovation” is created when administrative forces “get out of the way,” which is what the UT president said during his speech at the recent South by Southwest interactive festival. Powers advocates that as many resources as possible be directed in an intelligent, targeted fashion to undergraduate and graduate education and UT’s research facilities. He asks that endeavors at this University and the caliber of its faculty both be measured by their contributions to their fields. With his confidence of how deserving UT is of vast wealth, Powers has been a proficient fundraiser, raising upwards of $200 million each year he’s been in office. He follows a line of similarly proficient fundraisers who have served as UT presidents. UT undergraduates reap the benefits of this University’s resulting largesse. Because of the fundraising, UT students have school-subsidized trips to other countries, great minds teaching small classes, unmatched accessible scientific research, funding for independent research and a wealth of archives.

The regents have not said they oppose those assets and benefits, but with backgrounds in business and corporate management, they seek funding models that promote efficiency and lower-cost degrees. They want professors who will shoulder heavier teaching loads and put those responsibilities above establishing their research credentials. The regents have made multimillion dollar investments in online educational resources MyEdu and edX, and favor expanding technology in the classroom. And they don’t support raising tuition, even if that means recruiting fewer Nobel Laureates who teach a single class a year yet command six-figure salaries.

 The UT student walks unaware between these diverging philosophies, but the ideas of the regents and those of UT’s administration need not clash, despite the currently overheated public discourse. As a governing body and as human beings, the regents are not micromanaging each time they express their position on the University. And the University is not, in fact, a thinking man’s gluttonous picnic desperate for the regents’ corrective attention, but rather a protected space explicitly called for in the Texas Constitution. Today, that university is physically larger, overseeing more enterprises and more populated than ever before. The stakes are higher and the arrival of the Internet poses big questions about its structure, purpose and number of students.

Many of the questions about UT’s future have no obvious answers and the adults in the room leave us hungry for leadership. Neither the regents nor the administration have made an effort to correct public perception that they are engaged in a political fight over personalities, and both groups are careful to speak out under very protected circumstances. UT students attempting to understand the stakes must muddle through only vague references to what is going on. The future of UT is too important for the squabbling and the self-serving obfuscations.

The Daily Texan has been an essential part of the University community for more than a century. It provides all of us with news, information and opinions that help us make decisions and hold accountable those who have power over our lives and our work, whether in the Tower or the state Capitol or City Hall. Anything that damages its ability to carry out its journalistic mission does harm to us all.

The Texan faces a short-term financial crisis that threatens to destroy its economic viability. Its plight is similar to that of all traditional print news organizations: a sharp decline in ad revenues caused by the digital media revolution. The Texan’s staff and the Texas Student Media board of trustees that oversees its operations have struggled to come up with solutions, and students and alumni are now actively engaged in the process. Still, the trustees are considering cutting back on the number of days the newspaper is printed as a stopgap measure. It’s too soon to take this drastic step without trying other strategies and without seeking more help from its far-flung and highly mobilized alumni and other interested parties.

The longer-term issue concerns the structure of Texas Student Media. The Texan is supposed to be an autonomous student-run organization, producing good journalism without fear or favor. In reality, the University administration exercises practical control over budgets, personnel and access to technology. Many of us were surprised to hear from the students who are supposedly in charge of the news website that it is effectively under the control of the professional staff that reports to the administration (see “A student-run website for a student-run paper,” Daily Texan 2/27/13).  This is the opposite of the spirit of a student-run enterprise. The University administration has neither the expertise nor sensibility to operate a student-run news organization.

The School of Journalism has an important stake in the future of the Texan. An outstanding student newspaper is an important recruiting tool in attracting the best journalism students to Texas. It also serves our educational mission by providing students a lab in which they can practice and produce journalism in real-time conditions. And it serves our larger goal of promoting good journalism throughout our community. We want to see the Texan — both in print and online — sustained and thriving. The blossoming public conversation over how to preserve its future needs to continue without a rush to judgment.

Glenn Frankel is Director of the School of Journalism and has the G.B. Dealey Regents Professorship in Journalism.

The UT System Board of Regents took nearly one year to review and address disclosures about loans to the faculty from a foundation established to support the UT School of Law. In December 2011, those disclosures forced the resignation of former UT School of Law Dean Larry Sager.

The time the regents devoted to the issue appears well spent and, in the best possible outcome, their efforts could lead to more and welcomed transparency about UT faculty compensation.

According to a report released the week before Thanksgiving drafted by UT System Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Barry Burgdorf,  in 2009 the University administration, due to budgeting limits, denied Sager a raise he had requested. Burgdorf’s report states that Sager then approached Robert Grable, then president of the UT Law School Foundation, about receiving a $500,000 forgivable loan. Subsequently, the foundation’s executive committee, which oversees the organization’s $111 million endowment, approved Sager’s loan. The foundation’s executive board also approved a slew of others loans to law school faculty members. Sager, who is still a faculty member of the law school, said through a spokesman in a statement issued following Burgdorf’s report that he did not deliberately try to avoid University oversight. But Burgdorf’s report concludes that flaws existed in the approval and reporting of loans from the foundation to the law school faculty members.

So far, the regents in their response to Burgdorf’s review have been careful not to insult the foundation while simultaneously endorsing Burgdorf’s conclusions, which the Office of the Attorney General also supported.

In a carefully crafted statement issued on Nov. 13, the regents wrote, “We express gratitude to the Law School Foundation which has been cooperative and helpful throughout this process. It plays a significant role in supporting the goals of the UT School of Law.” After a Nov. 15 meeting, Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell issued a written statement that said, “Let me first acknowledge the importance of the extraordinary support provided by UT affiliated foundations and the many additional foundations and nonprofit corporations, as well as the work of countless volunteers working with these entities.  We are grateful to the individuals who participate on these important boards and who contribute their time and generous financial support to advance the missions of UT institutions.”

But Powell’s statement also added that Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa has asked UT administrators “to identify and cease any impermissible direct payments, benefits, or reimbursements to UT employees for their work on behalf of UT from external sources and to assure that external support is not provided in the form of gifts targeted to specific individuals.” Powell also announced the establishment of an advisory task force on the relationship of UT System institutions to UT-affiliated foundations, which will be chaired by Regent Brenda Pejovich, who will be joined by Regents Bobby Stillwell and Wallace Hall, and, among others, UT and Attorney General representatives.

With the regents, the University administration and the AG’s office now somewhat focused on how and when deans may pass out goodies from foundations to faculty members, we believe transparency — apparently long-needed — will enter into the equation. Transparency, when it comes to University governance, invariably represents a step forward.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series about the legislative student organizations at UT and their transition to new leadership over the next few weeks. The quotes of the incoming leadership came from their applications for their positions.

Student Government President Natalie Butler and Vice President Ashley Baker took office in a new building last spring and under a new set of rules. One year later, the Butler/Baker administration leaves behind their personal imprint on UT, SG and the University administration.

In 2011, Butler/Baker pledged that if elected their administration would connect students and realize possibilities on campus by increasing student involvement and representation at UT. Although the pair’s yearlong term ended April 3, Butler said she and Baker will spend the rest of the semester helping the new president and vice president transition and will finish up work on their platform goals.

“Every year’s priorities are different because those priorities are set by the student body,” Butler said. “I hope none of our big projects we’ve worked so hard on are abandoned.”


Thor Lund, current SG president, said he and vice president Wills Brown have started meeting with administrators and will continue the work from Butler/Baker that lines up with their platform.

Butler/Baker was the first administration to operate under recommendations from the 2010 SG Reform Task Force. This year, the vice president no longer presided as the chair of the assembly or the liaison between the executive and legislative branches. In addition, the task force called for many offices and agencies within SG to be consolidated.

Butler said she felt she and Baker were the guinea pigs for this new structure and admitted they made mistakes at the beginning of their term because they didn’t know how the reform was going to impact them.

This year, Butler/Baker focused on accomplishing increasing student budget representation, outreach and service, safety, health and wellness, transportation and social responsibility. Butler and Baker sat on many committees overseeing issues affecting students on campus, including the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, where Butler supported the proposed 2.6 percent tuition increase over the next two years. Butler said getting a student on the University Budget Council was one of the biggest goals she and Baker accomplished this year. President William Powers Jr. appointed Butler to the council this past year and will recommend students for the position in the future.

“We met with administrators that didn’t like the idea of having a student on the budget committee,” Butler said. “We are making sure students are a stakeholder in that conversation with the reagents.”

SG operated on a $112,820 budget in 2011-2012. Of that, $21,245 went to SG agencies; $14,000 went to operating expenses including a copier, toner and phone lines; $10,400 was set aside for Butler and Baker’s tuition allotment and $26,790 for executive board stipends, which some members refused, among other costs. They also used $4,850 set aside from the 2010 budget for a new website.

Baker said the administration worked hard to improve the experience for student organizations by creating tools like Find a Space, an online database meant to simply the room reservation process. SG also allocated $37,000 to registered student organizations, developed a service event to provide aid after the Central Texas fires and implemented a service partnership with UT Elementary.

John Lawler, former SG presidential candidate and outgoing liberal arts representative, said he was impressed at Butler/Baker’s work increasing parking spaces on campus, getting a student on the University Budget Council and making the SG budget more transparent. However, he said he was disappointed the administration did not address safety and lighting in West Campus more aggressively.

Marc Musick, associate dean for the College of Liberal Arts, said he works and interacts with SG through the students they appoint to committees on campus, such as the LGBTQ presidential task force. Musick said student representation is essential and affects decision making at UT, and he recently appointed Butler to a summer orientation task force. “There’s a sense that people who work with SG and Senate are just there to line up their resumes,” Musick said. “I can easily name names of people working hard. The students never see it, all they see are Daily Texan headlines.”

Psychology sophomore Simone Reed said although she is not involved with SG she thinks SG is important because they appoint students to various committees on campus. Reed said although she does use the Find a Space room database this semester, she is not familiar with Butler/Baker or the other work they have done.

“The only reason I know you can even go to a meeting is because a girl who went to them told me there was a meeting,” Reed said. “The vast majority of people know the general idea but don’t know what [SG] is about.”

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly oversees SG and said the Butler/Baker team was the first executive team she met with on a weekly basis. They were committed to transparency and reaching out, Reagins-Lilly said, and many people do not know the hours of work put in by the executive branch analyzing, pondering and ensuring they are doing the right things for students.

“Each team is different, distinct and unique,” she said. “It’s like a garden. They all grow.”
 

Students and faculty criticized University administration for a new rule restricting camping on campus and questioned the motivation at a time when camping is a prime symbol of the Occupy movement at a faculty council meeting Monday.

University spokesman Gary Susswein said the amendment to the Handbook of Operating Procedures took effect Jan. 11. The Office of Legal Affairs drafted the amendment. President William Powers Jr. then reviewed it and submitted it to the University of Texas System, where it was approved by the executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, Susswein said.

The amendment defines camping on campus as the attempt to establish temporary or permanent living quarters outside University housing, sleeping outdoors between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and setting up a sleeping area at anytime with tents and other “sleeping equipment.” People may not camp on campus except in cases of sports tailgating, performances authorized by the University and natural disaster situations.

Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for Legal Affairs, said the amendment is not a response to Occupy UT protest concerns, but is supposed to clarify rules already enforced by the University. Powers said the administration will help students interested in protesting.

“If it’s the symbolic act of putting up tents we can work with that,” Powers said.

Powers said the amendment is important to reiterate the University’s position.

“I don’t think we want people for long periods of time camping on campus,” Powers said.

The Occupy UT movement has protested against several grievances, including proposed tuition increases, but it has not used camping as a form of protest. Assistant English Professor Snehal Shingavi said the amendment seems like a response targeting the Occupy movement.

“I think that it has a political motivation,” Shingavi said. “It’s been presented in a way to intimidate students from protests.”

Marketing professor Mark Alpert said there are rational reasons to limit camping, such as campus safety. He said the amendment is not an administrative attempt to limit free speech, but is an important clarification to provide to students.

“I think this administration is trying to encourage students to protest,” Alpert said. “A lot of people are trying to work to help people to disagree with us.”

Lucian Villaseñor, Mexican-American studies senior and Occupy UT member, said it feels like the administration is trying to squelch Occupy UT. Villaseñor said occupying a space at UT is still a possibility if membership numbers increase.

“The only way to receive any change here is to not operate within the system,” Villaseñor said. Villaseñor said the administration should not make exceptions for other groups if Occupy UT is not allowed to camp out. He said administrators approached individual Occupy UT members but did not attend general meetings to discuss the camping issue.

“They’re trying to outline how we can have a toothless protest,” Villaseñor said. “Maybe they think we’re a threat to the University.”

Now that Harry Potter has finally defeated Voldemort, we can return to dealing with the other You-Know-Who. We’re talking, of course, about Rick O’Donnell and his funding-eaters at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

In June, more than 200 alumni and other individuals concerned with the ongoing debate over Texas higher education banded together to form the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education. Calling themselves a “powerful and diverse group of Texas business, philanthropic and community leaders,” the coalition has published several press releases, primarily in direct response to prominent criticisms of the University. For example, former UT System adviser Rick O’Donnell published a new report last week attacking faculty productivity and workload. Within hours, the coalition published a scathing retort, centered around ad hominem attacks on O’Donnell while largely glossing over the report’s findings and recommendations, saying only that the ideas “have been previously rejected through analytical and knowledgeable review.”

So far it seems the coalition’s primary purpose is to do just that, to rebut the latest attack on the UT status quo. Albeit, it is a worthwhile battle in many regards. Several of the proposals offered up by the TPPF in the form of the “seven breakthrough solutions” are misguided and short-sighted “reforms” that would have an extremely negative impact on the quality of education offered by UT. The problem, rather, is that the ongoing debate over the role of research at UT seems to be the only battle the coalition wants to fight. Rather than being advocates for improving the University, the group has been content to serve as a public relations firm, vigorously defending the University administration with a circle-the-wagons mentality.

That protectionist mindset might not be such a glaring issue if the status quo were not so ghastly itself. Since 2004, when tuition was deregulated, the cost of attending UT has risen 40 percent, more than twice the rate of inflation over the same period, including constant tuition hikes both before and during the recession.

And while state appropriations have remained relatively stagnant, University operating costs have continued to rise every year since the mid 1990s. Now that the budget reductions have been finalized, it is almost inevitable that the University will seek to raise tuition next year.

Our University’s president has been quick to cite the fact that while state appropriations once accounted for a large percentage of the University’s funding, they now only constitute around 14 percent of the budget. What doesn’t get mentioned is how the University’s operating costs have exploded over the same time period. Until the recent budget reduction, the state wasn’t giving us less; we were just spending more.

If this coalition really is more than the University administration’s pet watchdog, then it’s time to show some teeth. The University’s president has a fully staffed public affairs office to write press releases and defend the systems and structures they have created. The administration can fight its own battles.

The real question is whether this coalition is willing to stick up for students, some of whom won’t be able to afford the next round of tuition hikes and will subsequently be forced out of the University. Among the endless back-and-forth over the value of research and faculty workloads, the debate has largely glossed over the most important constituency involved: the students. Whether those students should be viewed as consumers in a market-driven industry or sages thirsting for the attainment of knowledge is a matter of personal opinion and, quite frankly, irrelevant. What is relevant is just how much tuition is going to increase by next year and how many classes and faculty will be cut.

Over the past year, the ongoing debate regarding the future of Texas higher education has devolved into a dichotomous struggle between two polar ideologies. Both sides claim to have students’ best interests at heart, yet neither is acting like it. One camp seems perfectly content to continue the tuition hikes and budget expansion of the last 10 years, thereby recommitting UT to the bidding war that higher education in this country has become. Meanwhile, our “reformers” seem set on bleeding the University down to a community college. And while downgrading the quality of education offered by the University should not be an option, upgrading UT via a Harvardesque price tag is an equally unacceptable outcome.

The next year promises a new set of difficulties for this University, both for its leaders and constituents. Now more than ever, students need their most vocal advocates to recognize the implications of larger tuition hikes before the die is cast. Balancing UT’s budget on the backs of students is not an acceptable outcome.


Dave Player for the editorial board.