Sean Cashbaugh

The Liberal Arts Building.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

A proposed policy change in the College of Liberal Arts that is expected to be implemented during the 2014-2015 academic year will stop funding for graduate students in the college after their sixth year.

Currently, a graduate student may be employed as assistant instructors, graduate research assistants, academic assistants, assistants, teaching assistants and tutors for a maximum of 14 semesters. According to Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, a liberal arts college executive assistant, the college began pushing for quicker degree completion several years ago because there isn't any money coming into the college and the cost of attendance keeps rising.

“This would have the benefit of limiting the amount students have to borrow to attend graduate school and allow us to recruit more successfully and improve degree completion rates,” Bairnsfather said.

Along with stopping funding for graduate students after six years, Bairnsfather said the proposal would increase stipends for teaching assistants and assistant instructors.

“Some of our students are funded for seven and more years with amounts that, spread over a shorter time period, could provide for better stipends,” Bairnsfather said.

David Ochsner, liberal arts college spokesman, said the change would get graduate students out faster.

“I think more students finishing their terms on time will give us more resources to spend on more students and increase the level of stipends,” Ochsner said.

Sean Cashbaugh, an assistant instructor in the American studies department, said the department was informed of the changes through an email from department heads, but he has not seen an official change by the University.

“One of our major concerns is the lack of transparency,” Cashbaugh said. “This is a major change to policy as it currently stands.”

Cashbaugh said the policy change did not consider the unique situations of each student.

“Everybody does different types of work, and the College of Liberal Arts should be attune to that,” Cashbaugh said. “How much time we take to complete our degrees and write our dissertations is best judged by our advisers.”

Although the goal of the policy is to increase stipends for graduate students, Cashbaugh said an increase in the amount of money students are paid wouldn’t always help.

“Paying graduate students more over a short amount of time doesn’t necessarily guarantee they’ll finish faster,” Cashbaugh said.

 
David Villarreal, Graduate Student Assembly president, said GSA will be working all summer to help students fight the policy change.

"This is a pretty serious thing, at least for graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts, because it affects our livelihood," Villarreal said. "It affects whether we can afford to stay and study at the University."

End of Austin
Photo Credit: David Lopez | Daily Texan Staff

Through Austin’s endless traffic, bustling nightlife and growing population, one group is attempting to catalogue the rapid evolution of America’s fastest growing city. The End of Austin, known as TEOA, is an online journal, started by American studies professors and graduate students in fall 2011. The journal features different works of art and writing pertaining to Austin in some way. 

Randolph Lewis, American studies professor and editor of TEOA, watched the publication start as an in-class project. 

“We wanted to have a group project that would live beyond the course,” Lewis said. “People seemed to like it so we thought, ‘What if we turned it into sort of a regular publication?’”

The project did just that. After two years, the journal continues to come out every six months and involves collaboration from students, professors and Austinites alike. Some of those who were involved in End of Austin’s first publication are still contributing today.

Two key members of TEOA’s editorial board, Carrie Andersen and Sean Cashbaugh, both doctoral candidates in the American studies program, contribute to the publication with works of their own and by scouting other possible contributors.

“If people are doing interesting things around the UT campus or around town, we reach out to them,” Andersen said. 

Lewis said he looks for the flow of each piece with the next in every publication. 

“I often really enjoy just seeing one [piece] next to another,” Lewis said. “I like the collage effect. I think we try to look for a balance of perspectives, we probably thought originally we’d have more people writing for us who were lamenting Austin’s changes, but so many people have only been in Austin for a
short period.”

According to Andersen, TEOA is broadening its search for perspectives, particularly in the field of science.

TEOA includes different works ranging from editorials on the change in Austin, obituaries on dead shopping malls and storytelling through photography. The pieces, although put together by different people, follow a familiar theme and message. 

“I think a lot of people have very similar concerns on where the city’s going,” Andersen said. “It’s sort of a natural thematic thrust that develops.”

People creating the different works in the publication are concerned with things such as sprawl, traffic and the gentrification of Austin. 

TEOA has not gone unnoticed. The publication currently has 35,000 hits on the site and that number continues to grow. 

“People are responding,” Cashbaugh said. “Part of the interesting thing is putting something out there and seeing what happens to it.”

Steven Hoelscher, an American studies professor, has even incorporated the journal into his Introduction to American Studies curriculum. Hoelscher said the site, like the field of American studies, questions uneven economic development, symbolism, identity and popular culture.  

“I wanted to make a point that American studies is not just about the past, it’s ongoing and living and it’s a vibrant field today,” Hoelscher said. “One example of that is the End of Austin project. Elements of this long history of American studies are found in that project.”

Lewis hopes the publication will cause people to look at the greater consequences facing the city.

“There’s discussion between people in a democracy about the kind of place they live in, and it needs to happen more often,” Lewis said. “Rather than just being passively floating down the river like a leaf and not caring about whatever future happens.”

Although TEOA brings some serious issues to light on people’s perspectives of this changing city, Lewis does not think the site is necessarily about the “doom” of Austin. 

“We’re not pessimistic, but we’re trying to ask, ‘What if the rhetoric doesn’t play out the way people assume it will?’” Lewis said. 

TEOA is not only for the community, but also serves its creators. 

“End of Austin is a way for us to look right over the fences of UT, look into the community, be a part of the community and create discussions about what the city’s going to be like,” Lewis said. 

The latest issue of TEOA can be found at www.endofaustin.com.