Editor

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

On Sunday, dueling motorcycle gangs in Waco engaged in battle in a suburban restaurant. With nine dead, well more than a dozen injured and nearly 200 arrested, the incident is already one of the biggest acts of mass violence this year.

And it happened in Texas.

Texas, our gun-toting, Second Amendment-protecting Texas. The same state that boasts one of the highest rates of concealed carriage of handguns in the country, with some of the loosest laws regulating guns too. The same state that still wishes to loosen the laws further.

Take open carry, which has taken many forms within the legislative process this year. All the proposals would essentially allow concealed handgun license holders to openly display their arms, arguably a minor difference. Some gun rights activists, though, crowed that this was not enough. One was state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, a proponent of what he calls constitutional carry, which would remove all licensing and regulatory restrictions on carrying arms.

HB 910, a version of open carry that passed the House last month, included a sneaky amendment authored by Reps. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, and Mitt Rinaldi, R-Irving, respectively, but mainly spearheaded by Stickland. They inserted language that prohibits law enforcement personnel from inquiring as to whether individuals openly carrying hold licenses.

"The open carry law as it was passed out of the Texas House of Representatives will cause confusion where there should be none," said Scott Braddock, editor of the political publication Quorum Report. "Lawmakers in the lower chamber voted to make it illegal for police officers to ask a person to produce their license solely because they are openly carrying a firearm."

According to Braddock, state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, removed the language from the bill when it entered the Senate, and there is a very good chance that Stickland's amendment will not be included in the final law.

Still, the recent violence in Waco should only serve to crystallize exactly why the state should — if anything — move toward more firearm regulation rather than less. Before the shooting, the Waco Police Department expressed concern about the possible hotbed of organized crime the restaurant had become by continually hosting the gangs. The restaurant pointedly did not cooperate with authorities.

Under the proposed law that Stickland orchestrated, and the lower chamber passed by wide margins, Waco police would have been unable to use the biker gangs' incessant brandishing of their firearms as cause to question them, leaving them helpless to take effective and preventive measures. Fortunately, not all the legislature has been so supportive.

"The violence in Waco Sunday is an example of why open carry is a bad idea.  Responsible people are not going to be the only ones with guns.  The number of dead and injured could have been much worse," said state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston. "The House version of open carry prevents police from asking if a person has a handgun license, so even our law enforcement officers won’t know who’s carrying a gun.  I do not want to see one member of our brave men and women in law enforcement injured or killed because of a bad bill the Texas Legislature passed.  Really?"

Really, indeed. Fortunately, the Senate still has a chance to place Stickland's rash and reactionary proposal in the trash heap of the session, where it rightly belongs. In an ideal world, they should put open carry there too.

Horwitz is a government senior from Houston. Follow Horwitz on Twitter @NmHorwitz.

Over four semesters at the Texan, Julia Brouillette served as a general reporter, senior re- porter, news editor and, most notably, as the office chauffeur.
Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: A 30 column is a chance for departing senior staffers to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting mark (–30–) to denote the end of a line.

The dark, dank, creepy stairwell that leads to The Daily Texan office is only somewhat symbolic of what the basement is actually like. 

Some days, it was the only place I wanted to be. Other days, it was the last place I wanted to be. But no matter how many nights I left the office feeling physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, I always returned for the nights filled with jokes, weird dance parties and trips to Whataburger.

In my all-too-short four semesters at the Texan, I have met some of my closest friends. The Texan brings people together in a special way that only extreme stress, teamwork and sleepless nights can. 

I know that when I think back on those four semesters, I’ll remember the people I constantly laughed with, cried with and celebrated with just as much as I’ll remember sprinting to crime scenes, transcribing interviews and frantically typing out stories. 

I owe many thanks to many people, and I wish I could include them all, but for now I’ll stick to the big ones.

At the Texan, I learned how to report, how to edit and how to lead a team of 20-something kids in filling a full-fledged newspaper every single day. The person responsible for most of that learning is Jordan Rudner, who started out as my associate news editor mentor and later became my news editor, managing editor and then full-time mom-away-from-mom. I’ll miss having complete conversations with you from across the office by exchanging facial expressions. Thank you Jordan, for everything.

Thanks to former Texan advisor Michael Brick, who showed me the ropes of crime reporting and nagged me to visit the Austin Police Department and introduce myself. I ended up dragging him along with me. 

Thanks to my current staff. You all never failed to amaze me with your creativity and perseverance. Thanks to everyone who has ever edited one of my stories or helped me brainstorm for pitches. Thanks to my fellow department heads for putting up with me; I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each of you. Thanks to Jack and Brett, the dynamic duo of associate managing editors who will forever be known to me as “Brack and Jett.” 

The Texan is a place where good times, good friends and delicious donuts are plentiful. As I pass the torch to future news editors and reporters, I look forward to watching the Texan family evolve and grow from afar.

–30–

Riley Brands, editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan, has previously served as a copy editor, associate copy desk chief, copy desk chief, wire editor, Life&Arts writer and associate editor.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: A 30 column is a chance for departing permanent staff to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting mark (-30-) to denote the end of a line.

Just six windows in the Daily Texan newsroom communicate with the outside world.

Two of those are in my office. And they aren’t positioned to admit the maximum amount of light, either, what with their being perched high above my head.

No, our offices, by their subterraneousness and perhaps other factors, have had a historical tendency to seal us off from the people and world we serve.

I say “serve,” at least for myself and those who have held this position before me, because nearly all of us were elected by the student body, a selection process once common at college newspapers but now hardly extant.

So why, then, given this special and closely guarded tradition, do we seem so isolated from the rest of campus? Shouldn’t an election cleanly close the communication gap between us and the student body?

Not necessarily. I hate to rely on such a well-worn cliché, but communication is a two-way street. An elected editorship allows the student body to communicate its thoughts to candidates during the campaign but offers it little to no recourse afterward if its majority choice refuses to engage.

That has been the Achilles’ heel of so many recent editors, myself included, not because we don’t care but because we don’t prioritize it highly enough. But more important than any of our shortcomings on that front is the need for future torch-bearers to avidly resist the urge to cloister themselves away.

The editor doesn’t handle the daily nitty-gritty of the paper, so he or she should break out of the office more often. As the editor’s responsibilities are currently codified, he or she is the face of the paper. I think we could do a better job of fulfilling that role.

Perhaps that means more events on campus, more visits by the editor to student organizations or more creative, interactive outreach efforts. I’m not sure what those would look like, but they’re worth exploring by future student editors. I haven’t thought through the logistics, but I’m convinced there’s no limit to what could be accomplished.

Serving as editor of this storied publication has been the greatest honor of my young life, but I couldn’t have done it without my always-generous support system: Jamie, Mary, Charlotte, Christina, Ali, Eric, Kathryn and my immediate staff: Toni, Noah, Olive, Olivia and Cullen. Nor could I have stayed focused without my dad, who always made himself available to kick around story ideas, and my mom, who has always taught me by example never to back down from a fight whose cause was righteous. And to Claire, my successor, remember, I’m always just a phone call away.

-30-

Brands has been editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan since June 2014. Previously, he has served as a copy editor, associate copy desk chief, copy desk chief, wire editor, Life&Arts writer and associate editor.

Senior Associate Editor Noah M. Horwitz discusses state, city and University politics on his eponymous radio program.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with UT’s deans. Randy L. Diehl is dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He assumed the position in 2007.

The Daily Texan: Can you tell us what the most exciting projects are in the college right now? 

Randy Diehl: Right now we are working on an initiative that will take about five years to recruit truly outstanding faculty. This is an initiative that has been made possible by funding, from the provost and the president, and it’s targeted at a relatively small number of departments that are considered priorities — history, English, philosophy, government, economics and psychology. Our entire mission, the main components of our mission — teaching, research and community engagement — really depend on attracting top faculty. By attracting great faculty, you can attract other great faculty, great students. It’s what allows us to provide really high-quality graduate and undergraduate teaching. 

DT: As some of us are students of the college ourselves, we are sometimes a little overwhelmed by the size of the administration and how many different people there are that you have to communicate with. Can you explain to us what you do as dean? 

Diehl: Well, to be honest, I spend a lot of my time with people. I spend the better part of my day in meetings. These are individual meetings with my top staff, ad hoc meetings that are requested by department chairs or groups of people. I meet with each of my associate deans…I also spend a lot of time in the provost’s office or the president’s office. I meet with other deans. A big chunk of my time is devoted to development, and that is talking to friends of the college, alumni, prospective donors. 

I spend a lot of time on the road meeting folks who are friends of the college. I would estimate that about 30 to 40 percent of my time is devoted to development — raising the kind of funds we need to build excellence in the college. My job, really, is to work with my colleagues, both in the college and in the Tower, to build excellence in every aspect of our mission. It is what I think of when I wake up. I do very little that is purely bureaucratic. Mostly what I’m doing is working on major strategic issues.  

DT: Is it likely at this point that future cohorts of TAs and AIs will be smaller? [Editor’s Note: Since this interview was conducted, a special task force has released its report on the state of TAs and AIs in the college.] 

Diehl: They may be a bit smaller. I will be honest: We reduced our cohort size starting at the beginning of the downturn. For us, that was in 2009. Our cohort sizes and our total number of graduate students have gone down by around 21 percent since 2009. I think we can’t go too much further in terms of reducing graduate cohort size. In some programs, if we were to go further, it would actually damage the program. They would be below the critical mass they need to actually have a viable graduate program. In the longer term, as new money becomes available, we may be looking toward an infusion of new, recurring money. That money will be used in a number of ways. It will be used to hire great faculty, to restore the size of our faculty to earlier numbers.

DT: On the issue of graduate student stipends: One of the ways to increase those would be to decrease the size of future cohorts, right?  

 

Diehl: Yeah. And in 2009 we were already experiencing a loss of competitiveness in the size of our graduate stipends. I came up with a plan right before the downturn. To help pay for that, we reduced the size of what is called our soft money budget, which helps to pay TAs, AIs and lecturers. We had no choice. But before that, I had come up with a plan to enhance the competitiveness of our stipend by modestly reducing our cohort size. We see the reduction in graduate cohort size as temporary, or at least a component of it as temporary. And then we’ll come back when we have some new money.  

DT: Will you talk a little bit about how the shared services model works? 

Diehl: It works extremely well. The idea was we aren’t forcing anyone to go to shared services, it was voluntary. I have never gotten a complaint from anybody about the quality of the shared services operation. Instead, I’ve gotten nothing but, “Wow, this is so much better than when we had so and so doing this.” The turnaround time on reimbursements, the reduction in simple errors that required the paperwork be reprocessed... it’s really helped the department. 

The way we do it is when we save money — and we do save money — we divide that money between the college and the unit. Typically, the college gets more of the savings than the unit does. It varies a little bit. We’ve done 50-50 divisions in a couple of cases where it was warranted. Otherwise, one-third goes to the unit or the center or the department, and two-thirds goes to the college to pay for the staff that are required for the central business office, or go to pay for other aspects of the college mission. What we’ve found is that the quality of service is higher than it was before, and we are saving money.  

DT: Will you talk about the new geography building and what will be happening there? 

Diehl: The building will have a different name. Right now it’s black studies and Mexican-American studies. That’s what’s going to be housed there. Both black studies and Latino studies would not have happened, either as departments or as research institutes, without the incredible support of Bill Powers, with full support from the dean and the faculty. He made the funds available to go out and get a new faculty and support research. This campus now would be viewed nationally, internationally, as one of the centers for ethnic studies, particularly black studies and Latino studies. 

DT: How do you respond to critics’ claims that the College of Liberal Arts here, and its counterparts at other universities, don’t adequately prepare students for today’s workforce?  

Diehl: It’s nonsense. The marketable skills we provide our students are at the very core of a liberal arts education. I am talking about critical thinking, the ability to write coherently, the ability to speak, the ability to understand how we got to where we are as a society; in other words, to understand enough history, enough of the humanities to understand our culture, to understand our international culture. It is no surprise that a majority of CEOs, when surveyed, will say they are looking for, in terms of hiring, not so much technical skills but the kind of skills that liberal art majors bring to the table. 

Senior Associate Editor Noah M. Horwitz discusses recent university, city and state political news in his eponymous radio program.

Senior Associate Editor Noah M. Horwitz discusses issues pertaining to the state, city and University on his eponymous KVRX program.

SG election is an easy opportunity to vote

Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu compete in the executive alliance debate against candidates David Maly, Steven Svatek, Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi in the Union Ballroom on Monday night.
Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu compete in the executive alliance debate against candidates David Maly, Steven Svatek, Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi in the Union Ballroom on Monday night.

Today, I cast my vote in the University elections being held throughout today and tomorrow. I made my selections for Student Government, Texas Student Media (including the editor of the Texan) and other posts as a part of my civic responsibility as a student here at UT. The entire process was conducted online, at "Utexasvote.org," and took a grand total of 30 seconds. It would quite literally be impossible to vote with any more ease.

Sadly, barring unusually high turnout, for every one student who chooses to vote, four will choose to not vote. Turnout in student elections here on the 40 acres hovers around 15 percent, give or take a few points. Given Texas' reputation as the single worst place in the country for civic participation, I suppose one could infer that the apathy starts from quite a young age.

Braydon Jones, one of the SG Presidential candidates, appeared strangely complacent with this lackluster participation rate at the Executive Alliance candidate debate last Monday. In comments quoted by the Texan, Jones noted that "Fifteen percent of students turned out to vote in last year’s election, as similarly, 17 percent of people voted in national elections and midterms last year," adding "We’re spot-on."

No. We're not spot-on.

According to estimations by the United States Election Project, more than 36 percent of voting-eligible individuals voted in last year's elections, with even higher participation among the registered population. All UT students are ostensibly registered to vote for campus elections, by comparison. Additionally, if voting were as easy in a city, state or federal election as it is at this University, then the rate would be exponentially higher.

Big things happen on campus every single day, and students are lucky enough to give input into that process. The tradition of actually giving a care about that process is one that should be learned young. Only then will we truly be "spot-on."

Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: In this recurring column, science writer Robert Starr rounds up the previous week’s top science stories. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @RobertKStarr, and your link might appear in next week’s Science Buzz.

The Internet lit up Thursday night when Tumblr user "Swiked" posted a picture of a white and gold dress. Or was the dress black and blue? Suddenly, a seemingly simple question (“What color is this dress?”) fostered impassioned debates seldom seen outside of politics, religion or sporting events. The image is an example of a color consistency illusion. Depending on lighting conditions, the same object reflects different wavelengths that hit our retina. Our brain has to make sense of them and adjust for the background light, but not all brains respond the same way.

Read more about how a black and blue dress can look gold and white.

Anyone who ever fed a roll of quarters into a Street Fighter machine knows that computers can be very good at video games, but these computers must be taught. The artificial intelligence for Street Fighter probably wouldn’t be as good at Angry Birds, and vice versa. Google developed a new self-learning video game playing machine to correct this. Without any explanation of the rules, the system taught itself to play several old Atari games through trial and error by analyzing what habits led to higher scores. Soon, the program became better than human players at some games, including Space Invaders, Pinball and Pong (although it didn’t fare as well at Ms. Pacman, Asteroids or Centipede because those games required looking too far ahead or in the past for the program to manage).

Will the computer become self-aware and kill us all?

This week, the United Kingdom approved a new system of in vitro fertilizations that uses DNA from three separate parents. During typical in vitro fertilizations, doctors take sperm from a male donor and match it with a woman’s egg before implanting it inside the mother’s uterus. The new system takes the DNA from an egg and places it into another egg with different mitochondrial DNA before providing the father’s sperm. This technique could be beneficial in situations in which the mother has faulty mitochondrial DNA, which can lead to problems with her offspring, including seizures or even death. Although the treatment received approval from the British House of Lords, it will remain highly regulated, used only in situations when it helps prevent potential side effects.

It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Eve and Other Eve!

Flip a quarter three times and it could land heads every time. Sometimes that happens by chance, but sometimes, it’s from using a two-headed quarter. The same thing happens in research. If people take a new medicine and show lower rates of heart attack than those who don’t, is it because of the medicine or just pure chance? In order to figure that out, scientists calculate a p-value, which gives the odds that a result occurred through chance alone. If this number is sufficiently low — usually below 5 percent — then the results are probably not just coincidence. However, researchers can manipulate this number, often without realizing it, which has led the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology to ban it from any research papers they publish. The “null-hypothesis significance testing”, which is the general category to which p-values belong, is not without its critics, but most scientists feel that it’s necessary until something better comes along.

Journal poo-poos p-values.

Thanks for reading Science Buzz. Check back next Monday for more!

Editor’s Note: The candidates for the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees were judged based on their candidate columns, which ran last week. Only those candidates who submitted columns were considered. The participation rate is noted below. Two at-large seats are available, for which three candidates are running, along with one Moody College of Communication seat, which is uncontested. We have only endorsed in the at-large race. Voting takes place Wednesday and Thursday at utexasvote.org.

At-large seats — 66 percent participated

Amil Malik is a Plan II, business honors and finance junior. She has worked at the Texan every long semester of her college career. She has worn many hats for the paper as well as Texas Student Media, having served in a number of opinion positions in addition to helping a previous editor determine alternative sources of revenue in the face of declining print advertising. Her commitment to this organization is unequaled. We strongly recommend Malik.

McKay Proctor is an English and business honors senior. While he has no prior experience with Texas Student Media, we found compelling his story of missing the now-defunct student-run radio station at Vanderbilt University in his hometown of Nashville. His appreciation of student media as part of the bedrock of UT culture will, we hope, protect TSM from any heavy-handed cost-cutting measures during his tenure. We recommend Proctor.