University of Texas at Austin

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Graduates and family prepared to gather in front of the Tower to celebrate the class of 2015.  Instead, bad weather and safety concerns derailed the University-wide commencement, leading to its cancellation.

Earlier in the week, the University released statements saying, rain or shine, the ceremony would still be held.  However, thunderstorms and heavy rain Saturday created too great of safety concerns for the ceremony to continue, according to UT officials.

UT Commencement 2015. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Photo Credit: Bryce Seifert | Daily Texan Staff

UT alumnus Larry Konig said he was disappointed with how the school handled the ceremony.

“I just can’t believe this happened,” Konig said. “They knew it was going to rain this weekend, and they should have rescheduled.”

University spokesperson Gary Susswein said the option of moving the ceremony to the Frank Erwin Center was not feasible because of the ongoing construction and its use for college commencement.

“It made sense to have [commencement] on the main mall and to give students the energy and opportunity of the outdoor commencement,” Susswein said. 

Susswein said he is not aware of any University-wide commencement being canceled in recent years.

Biomedical engineering graduate Kevin Gandingco said he was disappointed with the decision because of family coming at different times but realized the ceremony itself is not as important as the meaning behind it.

“It’s a disappointment right now, but looking back it was not about the ceremony,” Gandingco said.  “It was about all the hard work and the people I met and the experience at this university that made me realize what a great time I had here.”

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Because of more bad weather from a rain and tornado warning, fireworks did not go off as expected.  Susswein says the University tentatively plans to light the fireworks 10 p.m. Sunday.

An alternate ceremony was held at 8 p.m. to explain the University’s decision and to allow commencement speaker, Darren Walker, president of the corporate nonprofit Ford Foundation, to give his speech.

Keynote speaker Darren Walker graduated from the University with degrees in government, speech communications and law. He told graduates about his life, from being born in a charity hospital in Lafayette, Louisiana, to going through Ames, Texas, public schools in the Head Start program before being admitted to UT. 

Walker said his success story is best understood through the metaphor of crossing bridges. 

“You see, my mother crossed a bridge to take my sister and me into Texas,” Walker said.  “I’ll never forget crossing the bridge over the Colorado River on my first visit to Austin.  I crossed a bridge into New York, when I took my University of Texas education out into the world.” 

Walker said each bridge he crossed gave him better opportunities.

“Being a bridge is the work of a lifetime,” Walker said.  “But you’re prepared.  Privileged but poised to change the world.”  

As the ceremony came to an end, UT System Chancellor William McRaven recognized military veterans who completed their degrees or could not attend their commencement because of being drafted.  McRaven went on to recognize President William Powers Jr. with a medallion for his work and sacrifice for the University.

“In less than two weeks, Bill Powers will step down after more than nine years of service to this institution,” McRaven said.  “He is the second-longest serving president in UT history, founded two colleges and $3.1 billion were raised for the campaign for Texas  the most for any Texas institution.”

Click here to see our Storify of how students prepared for commencement and reacted to its cancellation.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information from the University's press conference on the canceled commencement ceremony.

Currently, the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are debating the right to gay marriage. The debate has invoked the same themes that have surrounded this issue for decades: morality, church and state, biology, the definition of marriage, constitutionality and the rights of citizens. While the debate remains contentious and the ruling could go either way, the proceedings have reminded me of the discrimination that persists at the University of Texas at Austin, discrimination that is not perpetuated by the University itself, but by the state of Texas. 

Specifically, I am referring to domestic partner benefits, or “competitive insurance benefits” as they are sometimes called. In the state of Texas, domestic partnerships and same-sex marriages are both prohibited. Accordingly, state law prohibits this University, a state institution, from providing health insurance to the domestic partners of LGBTQ faculty members as they are only permitted for “spouses.”

 Personally, I find this abhorrent. Regardless of your stance on the morality of same-sex marriage, how could anyone logically assert that two people providing the same services should not be given the same benefits? 

To use an analogy offered by Chief Justice John Roberts, if Joe can extend benefits as a University employee because he married Sue, why can he not receive those same benefits if he marries Tom? Does Joe all of a sudden become less deserving of those benefits? Does his work suffer? Is there any logical reason to treat him differently as an employee because he loves a man instead of a woman? No, it’s illogical, it’s unconstitutional and it’s hurting our University’s competitiveness in recruiting and retaining top-tier faculty and staff.

 Beyond the moral debate, there’s a strategic one at play. For years, potential applicants have forgone the opportunity to teach and research at UT because their partners cannot receive benefits: “In sum, we fail to make the best hires because UT does not offer same-sex spouse benefits,” said Nicolas Shumway, previously chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. “I’m certain that versions of this story get played out across campus every year. Indeed, without a meaningful change on same-sex spouse benefits, UT will always be at a hiring disadvantage in comparison with the best universities in the country, both public and private.”

Indeed, many other college campuses across the nation provide domestic partner benefits. In fact, 304 universities — including every Ivy League school — provide the benefits. 

Of the 304 schools, some are private, some are public, some are in Texas and some are elsewhere around the country. However, any of them may appeal to potential faculty for a variety of reasons better than we can. For example, a faculty member at this University earning $80,000 per year loses out on approximately $8,108 in benefits because of the lack of domestic partner benefits. Further, partners who are ineligible for this University’s health care coverage can face insurmountable expenses through other insurance policies. This doesn’t even mention the difficulties faced by partners who have no access to any health care at all. 

Fortunately, there might be some change on the horizon. State House Bill 1797 is pending in the State Affairs Committee. HB 1797 authored by state Rep. Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso, seeks to change the State Insurance Code. These alterations would allow UT to provide insurance benefits to the domestic partners of faculty and staff. I understand that this is part of a much larger debate in our nation about marriage equality. However, the next time you turn on CNN or read about the debate on Facebook, remember that it isn’t just some case about abstract ideas. Rather, it’s a case that impacts many of your friends, professors and the University you attend. Indeed, this is a very close issue.

Dimitroff, a University-wide representative in Student Government, is a history and government junior from Houston.

Correction: A previous version of this column misidentified Nicolas Shumway. He is no longer chair of UT's department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of UT Austin

After three years of planning, the University switched over to a new academic logo for use online, in merchandise and in other matters related to UT. 

The University debuted its new logo, which features a burnt orange shield with the word “Texas” to the right of it, last month. The logo no longer uses the traditional “The University of Texas at Austin” wording in full. 

The idea to alter the logo came about as the result of requests from different schools and colleges at the University, according to Kathleen Mabley, the director of brand marketing and creative services.

“We have lots of different logos around campus and for the different schools here,” Mabley said. “It doesn’t build the brand of the University as much if everyone looks different, and there’s not one consistent academic symbol. We created a system that symbolizes both the University and its individual schools and organizations.”

The logo’s design was inspired by the University’s official seal, which displays a shield in its center. The new shield has been slightly altered but also features a star, a “book of knowledge” symbol and 18 tree branches that represent the 18 schools and colleges at UT.

The logo will be implemented gradually, according to Mabley. University officials first began using it on brochures, and it is now
featured on University social media profiles and printed merchandise. Nine of the 18 University schools and colleges have adopted it as of Thursday. By the end of this year, Mabley said she expects many of the already-existent old logos around campus will reflect the new design.

Unifying the academic trademark is important for a large-scale University, said Allen Quigley, the assistant director for branding and marketing at the College of Liberal Arts.

“I think that with such a complex organization [like UT], you really need a consistent symbol,” Quigley said. “I see the need for it. Making all of the colleges have the same symbol is greatly beneficial. We’re all part of the same family.”

The new logo is only meant for academic branding and will remain separate from the official school seal and the athletic burnt orange Longhorn symbol. Schools, colleges and organizations do not have to adopt the logo unless they want to.

Some of the student reaction to the new logo has been negative, especially online. Radio-television-film junior Jeanine Hulst, who commented on the logo on Facebook, said she thinks the University has made a mistake in its new logo.

“Our school is a traditional and high-end school, and our original logo represented that well,” Hulst said. “I don’t think the new logo is appealing or sophisticated. I understand what the University is trying to do, but I think they could have done a better job.”

On Monday, the University of Texas at Austin Campus Climate Response Team released its second annual Campus Climate Trend Report detailing bias incidents reported during the 2013-2014 school year. Just as in the previous year, bias related to race/ethnicity tops the list in terms of types of bias reported, followed by reports citing sexual orientation and gender. The trend report also presents data about two high-profile bias incidents on campus and the role of social and digital media in bias reporting. 

Like hate crimes and sexual assault, bias incidents are grossly underreported, which we believe makes trend reports like these all the more important. The annual report is published in the spirit of transparency and is meant to help us understand the nature of bias occurring at UT Austin. In doing so, we can better address bias on campus through policy and programming.

In addition to gathering data about bias incidents at UT Austin, which it has done since its inception in 2012, the CCRT responds to reports of bias affecting the campus community through a University-wide committee. The CCRT is not a disciplinary or judicial body. Instead, we work to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, faculty, staff and visitors by connecting them to resources for support when bias incidents occur. We serve as a volunteer committee composed of staff across the University, and we initially respond to reports of bias made in person, by phone and through our website within two business days.

Bias incidents at many universities — including ones targeting students of color and the LGBT community, investigations of racial and ethnic discrimination and reports of exclusion based on gender or disability — have brought national attention to the subject of the social climate on many campuses. Bias incidents are defined by a range of behaviors, including threats, degrading language, slurs, harassment and verbal or physical assault. Often overlooked in this spectrum of bias are microaggressions: brief, everyday exchanges that disparage or malign a marginalized group.

Women, people of color, religious minorities, people with disabilities, immigrants and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are frequent targets of this kind of bias. Microaggressions often contain hidden or overt messages that stereotype others, serving to devalue a person or group even when it is not the speaker’s intention to do so. (One example is when an individual uses the term “gay” to describe a movie that they did not like. The hidden message: Being gay is associated with negative characteristics.) 

Microaggressions may read as friendly banter or harmless jokes to some. But to the targets of such statements, the subtext of these messages can be devastating. Feeling unwelcome or excluded, they may search for and associate larger meaning with these incidents and feel anger, anxiety and exhaustion, thereby creating the sense of an unwelcoming or even hostile environment for these individuals. 

Our University has always been dedicated to the principles free speech and free expression. Yet realizing the consequences of our speech and actions on others is also the responsible thing to do for our campus community and benefits us all. Research shows that discriminatory environments can significantly influence the educational outcomes and productivity of students, faculty, administrators and staff. Words matter, and for all of us to assume an attitude of respect toward others is, we believe, an important step in helping UT Austin fulfill its core values and “serve as a catalyst for positive change in Texas and beyond.”

The annual trend report is evidence that UT Austin is not immune to bias — nor could it be, given that bias is a much larger cultural issue. But we can help foster a more inclusive, welcoming environment here at UT Austin, and the most effective way to achieve that environment is when each of us takes a role in making it happen. The CCRT is committed to supporting those who experience bias at UT-Austin, and we entreat all campus community members to adopt a personal pledge to make every Longhorn welcome, both in word and in deed. 

 

CCRT 2013-14 Trend Report

Civil engineer freshman Rachel Piner (right) shop for clothes with her friends communication junior Millie Negron (middle) and corporate communication freshman Alexandra Gonzalez (left) at the Campus Environmental Center’s Trash to Treasure sale. Students could buy items ranging from clothes to kitchenware at a dollar an item or five dollars to fill a bag up.  

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Nestled in a corner on the ground floor of the SSB is the home of the Campus Environmental Center, UT’s first major environmentally-focused student organization. What started in 2002 as a grassroots, student-run effort to supply recycling in departments, offices and classrooms has expanded into a sponsored student organization, unique in its opportunities for individual students to gain work experience while improving sustainability efforts at UT. The mission of the Campus Environmental Center is to empower The University of Texas at Austin community to reduce its negative environmental impacts and to foster a genuine culture of sustainability on campus through collaborative and constructive means. In working towards this mission, CEC not only serves as a voice for students on environmental issues — on and off campus — but also has the ear of supportive UT staff and administration through its situation under Facilities Services, as well as the resources to act.

At the Campus Environmental Center, we run projects that make a difference, embracing that think global, act local mindset. Currently, almost 20 students are employed by CEC to manage its various programs. From a garage-sale event called Trash to Treasure that diverts waste from the landfill to the Microfarm and Concho Community Garden that grow organic, local food for students and the community, from the 350,000 loblolly pines growing at the UT Tree Nursery to reforest Bastrop to the Green Events consulting program that helps organizations reduce their environmental impacts at events, CEC members spend the semester highlighting an issue whose importance and implications are often woefully overlooked on this campus and in our country.

It should be no secret by now that Central Texas (and really much of the western United States) is in a water crisis, resulting in severe droughts and massive aquifer depletion without adequate recharge rates. This is not just an environmental issue, but a social and economic one as well. The environment impacts everything. Our concerns as students and as citizens directly link back to the health of our surroundings, and what we do as a campus now will directly affect what we hope to do later. Thankfully, UT boasts an impressive irrigation system that has saved millions of gallons of water since its installation in 2011, the year of the Bastrop fire and one of the worst periods of drought — a drought not yet over — in Texas’ history. Such efforts by students and the University to reduce our environmental impacts are laudable and should be a source of Longhorn pride, and yet they receive very little attention and publicity.  

The student body and the University both need to continue collaborating to promote environmentally-friendly practices. We need to improve infrastructure and safety for biking and other alternative transportation options, to expand composting, electronics recycling and other waste-reduction facilities, and to support programs that successfully engage students in these efforts, such as the Green Fee. Next time you walk across campus, take note of the composting bins in the Union, the xeriscaping outside the Harry Ransom Center, the Orange Bike Project bike rentals. The direct result of a mere $5 fee taken out of each student’s semester tuition, these projects are proposed, funded and implemented by students for the betterment of the University. These projects have proven their benefits time and again, and CEC or other UT departments have adopted many of them to ensure their continued execution and success over the years. The Green Fee will be up for renewal during student body elections in the spring, and it is critical to improving sustainability at UT that students approve the fee once again.

The problem is that most students do not know about the Green Fee, the irrigation system, the waste-reduction efforts in the stadium, the great strides DHFS has taken in sustainability; nor do they know about the work still yet to be done, their rights to a healthier environment or programs and ordinances within the city of Austin. The Universal Recycling Ordinance, in effect since 2012, is a prime example of this. The ordinance mandates that apartment complexes and office building provide easy access to recycling facilities, yet many students, especially in West Campus, do not have any way to recycle in their apartments, a direct violation of the URO. With most of these violations going unreported due to a lack of awareness among the student body, the massive environmental footprint of West Campus will continue to cast shadows on progress made by the city and by UT so far. (Students can call 3-1-1 to report URO non-compliance issues.)

If there is one thing that CEC has demonstrated, it’s that when students care about their environment and are supported with the tools to put thoughts into action, tangible change occurs. CEC programs, Green Fee projects and research initiatives are daily proof. The power of students to be environmental stewards has yet to be fully harnessed, and we as a student body and a university must do more to increase environmental efficiency and education on and off campus, to encourage student engagement and to take pride in our accomplishments thus far.

Kachelmeyer is a Plan II, geography and international relations senior from Sugar Land. She is the director of the CEC. She served last year as the editor of the Cactus yearbook, which, like the Texan, is a property of Texas Student Media.

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

The Senate of College Councils passed a resolution at a meeting Thursday requesting the University require the honor code be placed on all course syllabuses. With its passing, the resolution will be submitted to the Faculty Council for review. 

In 2012, the Senate of College Councils changed the University’s academic honor code to read: “As a student of the University of Texas at Austin, I shall abide by the core values of the University and uphold academic integrity.”  

“That’s something that every student looks at, and that’s a contract between a student and a professor,” said Sasha Parsons, at-large Senate representative and author of the resolution. “So, there’s no better place to have it right now.”

According to the Senate President Geetika Jerath, current syllabuses have a section included about academic dishonesty, but it is usually outdated, written by a specific department or not consistent across the University. Jerath said the goal of the resolution is to establish a consistent honor statement in all University syllabuses and open a dialogue about how it varies for individual professors.

“We need to have discussions,” Jerath said. “[Academic integrity] differs from each college, each class. There are different components to each classroom — whether it has technology or not. So, we really wanted to start that discussion and have something feasible to work on.”

Many students do not know what happens when one is accused of academic dishonesty, but having information about Student Judicial Services in syllabuses would clarify that process, according to Parsons.

“We really want students to understand the repercussions if they do something wrong, but also who’s there to help them,” Parsons said.

Parsons said the honor code will help to maintain the value of a student’s education at UT.

“We’re here to get degrees and certification that we have learned something,” Parsons said.

At the meeting Thursday, representatives suggested to the authors that a statement be added to the resolution requesting that professors define what academic dishonesty is in their specific course, but the amendment did not pass.

Shannon Geison, at-large Senate representative and author of the resolution, said personal professor statements should be discussed in a later bill, after more research has been done.

“I think that all of the opposition that we have seen has just been trying to have professors provide more definitions and having them address these things, like technology in the classroom,” Geison said. “Which are things we are definitely talking about but coming at a later date.”

Geison said these statements should include integrity policies on the use of technology — such as Google Docs, QUEST and Spark Notes — in the classroom. The topic will be discussed on Nov. 19 at a Campus Conversation meeting hosted by the Senate’s Academic Policy Committee.

According to Parsons, some students have expressed concerns that having the honor code in a syllabus will not change academic dishonesty, but she said it would with time.

“We just have to realize that everything is a gradual process, and it’s about the attitude people have and talking about integrity and the hard decisions we make in college,” Parsons said.

Who decides your fate? Who has the right to make life-and-death decisions on your behalf? You may not know it, but, for many of you, it happens be the University of Texas at Austin. I am writing this article to bring to the student body’s attention a policy that, at its very core, violates a right to which each and every one of us is entitled. It is the right of medical determination that many of us may be signing away without even realizing it. 

Let me start by describing who I am and why I am writing this. My name is Vance Roper, and I am a graduate student and disabled Army veteran. I am writing this as a student, disabled veteran and concerned citizen. I suffered a severe, traumatic brain injury during my service, and, as such, have very specific medical needs. I do not speak about my injury often or publicly, and I hesitate to do so now; however, my history drives my motivation and action on this issue. I joined the Army and served my country proudly with the belief that, as a country, we stand for so much that is right: the freedoms we espouse and the rights we hold firm. When we, as a people, lie down in the face of violations of our rights, we are no better than those who strive to strip our rights away from us.

Time and again, courts and public opinion have affirmed that a student does not give up his or her rights just by attending a particular school. Yet that is exactly the situation we face today. I recently learned that the University of Texas at Austin requires any student traveling to an event that happens to be sponsored/sanctioned by the University to fill out a medical authorization form titled Authorization for Emergency Medical Treatment. This form, in its complete and utter vagueness, removes the medical determination right from University students. Take the phrase at the bottom of the form:

“I, the undersigned, do hereby authorize The University of Texas at Austin and its agents or representatives to consent, on my behalf, to any medical/hospital care or treatment (including locations outside the U.S.) to be rendered upon the advice of any licensed physician.” 

This statement is problematically vague. The term “agents or representatives” can be construed to cover just about any University of Texas employee or representative. This could include secretaries, landscapers, cooks, clerks at the bookstore and a plethora of other personnel. These individuals, while talented, are likely not medical experts. With consent to this form, though, any of these agents or representatives can authorize a wide array of medical treatment as long as a licensed physician recommended it. In essence, any of the people I mentioned could authorize an amputation, brain surgery, blood transfusion or innumerable other medical procedures.

I attempted to clarify what this statement meant with the administration; I was told that procedures are in place that require any request for medical treatment to be forwarded to the Dean of Students’ office. At the time of this writing, it is still unclear if these procedures are written or merely a verbal policy. 

There are several problems with this system. First, procedures are not always followed and mistakes can be made. Second, verbal directions or information on how a policy is supposed to work does not supersede a signed authorization. The fact that a person is supposed to pass the decision on to the Dean of Students does not mean that he or she is required to do so. Further to this point, there is no liability against the University’s agent or representative if the decision is not passed up to the Dean of Students’ office. 

It is not the place of the University to insert its will in place of our individual rights. It is not the place of the University to supersede our family in making medical decisions for our well-being. A family member or loved one should have the right to make medical decisions in the event that any of us are unable to do so. However, this document, if signed, would brush aside those rights with the stroke of a pen. A stranger who has no idea of our needs or wishes is placed in a position to decide our fate. Is that truly what we should accept? Should the school we attend have the power to decide what happens to us regardless of our wishes and the wishes of our family? 

I am truly saddened that the University of Texas denies students the opportunity to participate in University-sponsored events unless they relinquish their right to medical self-determination. No student should be required to give up any rights in order to fully participate in the University experience. We should certainly not have to give up rights in order to represent the University. A school of higher education should strive to protect the rights of students. Expression, understanding and thought are the hallmarks of what we expect out of the student body, and the University ignores these hallmarks when its thoughts on our medical determination are substituted in place of our own. 

I do not write this piece to be difficult, confrontational or denigrate the school that I love. I bring this issue to the forefront out of my sincere desire to rectify an obvious wrong and hold the University to the high standards of individual opportunity to which it aspires. I have fought too long and too hard and sacrificed so much for my beliefs in this country; I watched many of my closest friends perish before my eyes in the name of defending our rights. I cannot stand idly by and have those rights held hostage in order to participate in the University experience. 

In fairness, several administrators have been supportive of my concerns and have attempted to address this situation. I greatly appreciate this, but ultimately the policy remains in place. An exemption applied to me does not solve the issue of students’ rights being superseded by this policy now or in the future. 

I feel it is my responsibility to continue to fight for the individual rights of myself and of other students. As such, I intend to work with rights groups and the Texas Legislature to right this wrong. I encourage any of you who feel the same way to join me in this endeavor by emailing me at vanceroper1@gmail.com.

Roper is a public affairs and community and regional planning graduate student.

Liberal arts are more than economics

Business students watch performers at the Career Expo hosted by McCombs School of BusinessÂ’ Career Week. This fair was aimed at helping students network in the business field and improve their professional skills.
Business students watch performers at the Career Expo hosted by McCombs School of BusinessÂ’ Career Week. This fair was aimed at helping students network in the business field and improve their professional skills.

Dear employers attending the University of Texas at Austin’s Liberal Arts Career Fair Wednesday,

For some odd reason, the University has designated the major of economics a liberal art. But do not be fooled. There are many more majors in the liberal arts college than just economics. Please do not be surprised when students approach your booth with majors that might not conform to the rest of your Brooks Brothers army. They likely will not have taken many economics classes, because, incidentally, it’s not their major.

It is a detriment to the rest of the college that economics is deemed a liberal art. It is a business field and should therefore be in the business school. Its inclusion creates unrealistic expectations for both employers and non-economics students. The liberal arts beyond economics are valuable in their own right. It is called the Liberal Arts Career Fair after all, not the Economics Majors Career Fair.

It should not be a surprise that they haven’t taken many business classes. It should not be a surprise that most students at the fair have not had a finance or a business consulting internship. That’s why they’re here after all. Liberal arts students come to their career fair looking to apply the skills they have learned to the real world. These skills will not be the same skills learned in McCombs. It is understandable that you want employees with the skills to do the job, but you have a six-week training program anyway to teach new hires what you really want them to know. Be open to their pitch about how their education can be applied to your field.

If you want a business student, go to the McCombs career fair. But we are liberal arts. We’d like to work with you, but not when you expect us to be something we’re not.

Sincerely,

An adaptable problem solver, a fast learner, a critical thinker, an open-minded team player, a highly motivated non-economics liberal arts student.


Haight is an associate editor.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Much has been said in the past couple of days about UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa instructing President Bill Powers to resign at risk of termination. I have never before written a letter to the editor, but I cannot imagine a more apt time for my first.

I recently left the 40 Acres after three years as a Longhorn student-athlete to begin my professional baseball career. I officially graduate with B.A. degrees in English and History this August, but recent circumstances request my voice be heard as a Texas Ex and proud alumnus before the ink is dry on my diplomas.

I unequivocally support Powers, and you should as well if you care about the best interests of The University of Texas at Austin.

Since Powers took office in 2006, he has been a dedicated leader of our proud University, which simultaneously reaps the benefits and bears the responsibilities of being the flagship institution of higher learning in the state of Texas, the proudest state in the Union. The facts prove Powers’ merit; the University's improved academic standards, enriched general endowment and new medical school all testify to the president's tremendous resourcefulness and diligence.

However, Powers' job is being threatened not because of his past performance or even his ability to maintain his (excellent) standards of operation going into the future. He is being attacked politically, at a time when the University of Texas desperately needs a president who is brave enough to weather personal political affronts in honor of what is best for the University. Thankfully, Powers has withstood the challenge.

For years now, the Texas Legislature has decreased public funding to the University of Texas in opposition to the University's ambition to become the best public research university in the country. Non-Longhorns (like our longtime governor) wonder why it is so important to the state for The University of Texas to aspire to such great heights. They scratch their heads and envision the University of Texas at Austin lowering its admissions standards and issuing cookie-cutter degrees in contravention of its core mission. Surely, these non-Longhorns are unfamiliar with the motto on our university's seal, "Disciplina Praesidium Civatis." (Translation: A cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.)

I find that phrase intriguingly applicable to the situation in which Powers finds himself today. At a time when Powers is committed to bettering the University and providing a superior environment for the cultivation of minds, UT System Regent Wallace Hall is leading an undemocratic witch-hunt to oust him. The Board of Regents apparently does not believe that it needs to abide by the instructions of state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, which has specifically said not to fire Powers during a current investigation.

Interestingly enough, Hall, who so desperately wants to oust Powers, is currently at risk of being impeached himself for wrongdoing in the investigation of Powers. Perhaps foreseeing the end of his own career has motivated Hall to hasten his groundless attacks against Powers in the middle of summer while students are away from their studies.

When students do return to campus, though, they will inevitably pass the Tower countless times. Whenever they do, even if they do not take notice, they will pass on the southwest corner of the building an engraved inscription describing the University, "Core Purpose: To transform lives for the benefit of society." If you have not yet watched Admiral McRaven's 2014 Commencement Address, I suggest you go do so on YouTube as soon as possible. If you have, perhaps you will remember that Admiral McRaven posited that the Class of 2014 alone can change the lives of 800 million people if each individual graduate changes the lives of but 10 separate people. (For my part, I am first working on making my bed more often.)

I am confident that the University of Texas will continue to transform lives for the benefit of society whether or not Powers survives the upcoming Board of Regents meeting. That said, I am equally convinced that more lives will be transformed for the better if Powers retains his current position. Personally, I experienced both the ups and downs of being a student-athlete at The University of Texas, and I know that the rest of my life will be profoundly affected for the better by my past three years in Austin. I understand that Powers is not solely responsible for the overwhelming pride I possess for my alma mater, but I also appreciate what a fine job he has done and will continue to do as the president of the school.

Longhorn pride runs deep in my family, with both my parents and several other relatives having graduated from the University. Next month, my younger sister will enroll in the Business Honors Program as a part of the Class of 2018, and I hope that she, too, will be able to spend the majority of her time on the 40 Acres with Powers at the helm. If retained, he will continue to lead the University of Texas at Austin to a bright future in accordance with its motto, core purpose and mission, which is "to achieve excellence in the interrelated areas of undergraduate education, graduate education, research and public service."

Powers has refused to resign, and I support him. I implore anyone else with an ounce of burnt orange in his or her blood to join me in resisting the Board of Regents' unreasonable call for Powers’ resignation/termination. Sign the online petition that already has 7,500+ signatures at the time of this writing. Publicly support the man who has publicly supported the University of Texas so well over the past eight years that he was elected by other university presidents to be the chairman of the Association of American Universities.

This May, I received my final email as an undergraduate student at the University from Powers. He concluded it by saying, "From teaching to nursing, accounting to the arts, engineering to journalism, and in so much else, what starts here changes the world." Powers has repeatedly done everything he can do to improve the University of Texas at Austin — and in turn, change the world. Therefore, we do not need to change presidents. If you disagree, revise what Davy Crockett once famously said to end with, "... and I will stand by Bill Powers."

 

Hook 'em,

 

John Curtiss

 

B.A. English 2014

B.A. History 2014

Plan I Honors

Longhorns Baseball, 2012-2014

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

As past and current student leaders at the University of Texas at Austin, we have followed the controversy surrounding certain members of the UT System Board of Regents and our president, William Powers Jr., for over three years. 

We attended the Board of Regents meeting in December 2013 while studying for finals during a closed-door session. Sitting and waiting for hours longer than expected to hear Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s recommendation regarding Powers’ employment was extremely stressful and tense. We were relieved to hear his support for Powers as we sat in a room full of students, alumni, prominent officials and Powers himself. Yet despite recommending that Powers remain the president of UT-Austin just six months ago, it has been reported that Cigarroa delivered an ultimatum to Powers on July 2 to resign immediately or be fired Thursday. Worst of all, delivering the ultimatum during a holiday-shortened week in the middle of the summer certainly appears to be an attempt to remove Powers while few are on campus to respond. 

As former UT System general counsel Barry Burgdorf said in his testimony before the House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations last year, it was the “clear intent” of some regents to “get rid of Bill Powers” as UT’s president. It is clear that this latest salvo is yet another attempt by those who do not have the best interests of the University at heart. Their methods have succeeded only in detracting from our mission of educating students to be the leaders of tomorrow and carrying out cutting-edge research expected of a tier one University.

The students are the lifeblood of this university. This ultimatum does not serve our best interests. Instead, it disrespects a successful university president who has continuously directed UT to epitomize a “university of the first class.”

The students of UT-Austin have continually made our position clear. In response to a similar situation last year, the Senate of College Councils and Student Government passed Joint Resolution 1, “In Support of President Powers’ Vision for the University of Texas at Austin.” This support is unchanged, and we are disheartened and disappointed by Cigarroa’s ultimatum. For this action to be perpetrated by a chancellor who has already announced his resignation, and while the University is quiet for the summer, reveals its self-destructive motives. To date, no reason has been provided by Cigarroa as to why the ultimatum was delivered, but it is clear why it is injudicious. 

Powers has proved his commitment and his ability to serve as an outstanding leader time and time again. He spearheaded the first core curriculum reform in 25 years and created the School of Undergraduate Studies. He is leading an unprecedented $3 billion dollar capital campaign. He was selected by his peers to serve as the Chairman of the Association of American Universities, an immense honor that brings pride to our University. Through President Powers’ leadership, UT-Austin has been ranked No. 27 in the world by Times Higher Education. As we look to the future, he is in the process of creating the first medical school at a tier one university in several decades. His tenure as president has been consistently filled with success that has vaulted UT into the arena of the world’s elite universities, all during the most trying times higher education has ever seen.

These accomplishments do not go unnoticed at our University. 

After news of this ultimatum broke, we started a petition in support of Powers that has received over 6,000 signatures during a holiday weekend. The Faculty Council has called an emergency meeting for Wednesday to reiterate its unequivocal support for Powers with the chairwoman noting that faculty are as unanimous as she has seen in 27 years in their support. Newly minted president of the Texas Exes, former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, notified all Texas Exes that “a forced resignation or firing would be a travesty for UT” and alumni should “stand up and fight” for the University’s stature. Students too have expressed their support for Powers in large numbers on social media. Even after an attempt to minimize exposure of this ultimatum, Longhorns everywhere have rallied in a powerful way. 

The Board of Regents should remember that its fiduciary duty is to do what is best for UT-Austin. Let our message be clear: Powers is what is best for our University, and he deserves much better. It is now more important than ever that Longhorns everywhere come together and stand with Powers.

Jerath is president of the Senate of College Councils. Clark is president emeritus of the Senate of College Councils. Rady is president of Student Government. Villarreal is president emeritus of Student Government.