The Daily Texan

Sebastian Herrera worked as both a sports and news reporter while at The Daily Texan, learning what he said were invaluable skills useful in journalism and life.
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 first time I saw my name on this newspaper as a staff member in January 2013, my measly 200-word track and field recap barely took up a corner of the sports page. But to me, it meant everything. 

Before then, I only dreamt of what it would be like to call myself a reporter for The Daily Texan, the newspaper I had long heard of before arriving on campus. It was my first journalism goal since swearing to the profession in high school. 

After not making the news staff that previous fall, I questioned if I could do it. Then a sports editor by the name of Christian Corona hired me and made me feel like I could. I didn’t really know what I was doing at first, but it just felt special to be there. 

I experienced memories few college students have the privilege to. I witnessed significant UT sporting events up close and wrote stories on legends such as Jordan Spieth. I was able to enter into the lives of UT athletes and share their stories, while being able to blog about the World Cup and debate who would win the Heisman. 

But the most special memory was being able to pick up the Texan on a weekday morning and know how hard 20-something-year-old students had worked to put it together the day before. 

I didn’t get to hang out in the newsroom for various reasons as much as I wanted to over the years, but that made it all the more special when I was there. 

The Texan, from the beginning, has been there for me. It was there to teach me how to be a valuable journalist. It was there waiting for me after breaks to pursue internships, and this semester, when I decided to switch from sports to news (I guess I was meant for it, after all), it was there to re-tune my skills as I enter the professional world. 

To the great peers I’ve had at the Texan, as well as editors such as Christian, Chris Hummer and Stefan Scrafield, to whom I owe much to, and the fantastic news staff that took me in this semester, I have had a blast and learned so much. I have been able to work with people who will all go on to achieve great feats. 

No matter what the industry holds for us, the Texan will always be special to me and everyone else fortunate enough to pass through its doors — where, for only one night, there is a reassurance that journalism is alive and well, and its future is safe. 

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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.

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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.

Student editors read over page proofs before the Texan is sent to the printers. Students maintain complete editorial control over the content that appears in the pages of the Texan.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Texas Student Media has a bright future ahead.

I couldn’t necessarily have said the same had you asked me when I started at The Daily Texan in the summer of 2012. At the time, I was just a lowly entry-level staffer who wasn’t privy to key discussions on the budget. That said, I knew people were nervous about our financial future.

By a college student’s standards, the problems weren’t of a particularly recent vintage. After all, like nearly every other newspaper in this country, we had taken an enormous hit after the recession set in in 2008 and print advertising revenue, still the greatest source of most newspapers’ money, began to plummet. 

The extent of our financial troubles didn’t really become apparent to me until the spring of 2013, when the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees, which sets the budget for the Texan, the Cactus yearbook, the KVRX radio station, Texas Student Television and the Travesty humor publication, met to discuss the possibility of decreasing our print schedule from five days a week to four.

It wasn’t a major change, but it would have taken the Daily out of The Daily Texan and forever changed its identity.

Many other college newspapers in recent years have swallowed the poison pill and completely altered their print schedules, in some cases going so far as to slash the print product altogether.

But the Texan staff, led by then-editor Susannah Jacob, and the paper’s alumni weren’t going to let us succumb to that fate. (To their credit, the alumni rallied together in large numbers, taking out a full-page ad in the Texan to express their opposition to the change and creating the Friends of the Texan alumni group, which has helped raised money to continue the Texan’s education and journalistic missions.)

So instead, the board agreed to a 50 percent cut in all student wages to stanch at least some of the bleeding.

The staff took that change on the chin, but an even bigger threat was on the horizon.

That next spring, the board considered something even more drastic: making The Daily Texan the weekly Texan.

The mere proposal was enough to cause jitters, and serious discussions were had within the newsroom about what such a change would spell for the future of our operations.

We beat back this threat thanks to the generosity of President William Powers Jr.’s office, which promised us several hundred thousand dollars of transitional funding for three years to bridge the crevasse between financial obscurity and financial light.

That funding, along with a $1 million endowment for TSM obtained by the Moody College of Communication, is already putting us on a firmer financial footing and will take much of the anxiety out of future student editors’ jobs.

The lifeline we’ve been thrown won’t keep us afloat forever, but it will at the very least keep us bobbing along long enough for the changes implemented by TSM’s new professional director and advertising manager to take effect.

I have about a month left as editor of the Texan. Many things remain uncertain, but our immediate financial future isn’t one of them.

Brands is a linguistics senior from Austin. He is editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan.

Editor’s Note: This year two candidates are running for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan in the campus-wide elections. The editor of the Texan, elected by the entire student body, has three primary responsibilities: 1) to oversee the paper’s opinion content, 2) to set policy for the paper and 3) to serve as the paper’s representative to the campus community and beyond. Per the TSM election code, the candidates, David Davis Jr. and Claire Smith, have been asked to write two 500-word columns. The second column focuses on a topic of the candidate’s choosing relating to their campaign. Candidates wrote their own headlines. Only light typographical corrections were made. For more information on the candidates, please visit our candidate database here.

 

When I first tried out for The Daily Texan, I did not feel confident in being hired because my personal beliefs did not match the viewpoint often expressed in the Texan in past years. 

Soon after I was hired, I wrote a column about the difficulty in starting a national dialogue about race in the wake of rioting in Ferguson, Missouri.  It was a challenging column because there are many people who know the issue more personally and more acutely than I do. 

Although called upon to express my opinion, I worried that it would not be valued because my personal experience is less direct. Whether on Ferguson or any other burning issue, I believe many students on campus feel the same way  --  our opinions on the important issues of our day and on the issues most important to our campus aren’t worthy of expression in our own student newspaper.  That’s why I’m running for editor-in-chief. If I am elected, I will do everything in my power to build an inclusive opinion page that opens the door to the broad diversity of opinion on campus.  I want you to be heard.

Inclusiveness means opening the editorial door to all thoughtfully considered, well-expressed opinions. We don’t have to look too far in the news to find things that will affect people on campus. And UT students ought to be heard on those issues. We don’t share a two-dimensional campus either. There are more opinions than those that come only from the right or from the left.  Those opinions deserve to be expressed too. I will fight to make sure that all legitimate opinions get a fair hearing without entertaining expressions of hate or uninformed vitriol.

To me, inclusiveness means growth.  A vibrant opinion page encourages the expression of different and competing viewpoints. Too often editorial pages are slanted and biased, and the Texan has been guilty of that in the past. On my watch, the opinion page will be an open forum where ideas can be debated, the diversity of campus opinion can be expressed, and consensus opinions can be challenged and defended.

There are people on campus who don’t want the opinion page to be more inclusive. They’re satisfied in “safe” expressions of opinion, preferably their own.  But we are better than that. 

We shouldn’t be afraid of ideas. Our ideas are what make The Daily Texan matter. The free expression of those ideas opens our understanding of ourselves, our community and our world. That is worth protecting and celebrating.

My editorship will be dedicated to ensuring all the diversity of opinion on our campus can be expressed in our student newspaper, because it’s our newspaper. My opinion page will be inclusive.  It will empower students to thoughtfully express their own beliefs, to challenge other beliefs, and to grow.  Our University exists for all of us, and so must The Daily Texan. 

As editor-in-chief, I will be your advocate, fight for your voice, and make this your Daily Texan.

Smith is a history and humanities junior from Austin. She is running for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan.

Editor’s Note: This year two candidates are running for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan in the campus-wide elections. The editor of the Texan, elected by the entire student body, has three primary responsibilities: 1) to oversee the paper’s opinion content, 2) to set policy for the paper and 3) to serve as the paper’s representative to the campus community and beyond. Per the TSM election code, the candidates, David Davis Jr. and Claire Smith, have been asked to write two 500-word columns, the first on the following question: What role should fundraising play in the Texan’s future? And what risks does the paper run by actively pursuing such alternative sources of revenue? Candidates wrote their own headlines. Only light typographical corrections were made. For more information on the candidates, please visit our candidate database here.

Much like other print news organizations, the Internet revolution has created new challenges for the future of The Daily Texan. Last year, President Powers’ office promised Texas Student Media up to of $250,000 annually for the next three years to buffer TSM’s recent financial aches and provided a written guarantee of imminent financial support two weeks ago. But that may not be enough. The next editor-in-chief should be expected to pursue fundraising opportunities to ensure the Texan’s future within and beyond the next three years but take care to avoid risks to the Texan’s integrity as a news agency.

In lieu of falling advertising revenues, fundraising has played a modest yet vital role in the Texan’s ability to stay in print. The recently-formed alumni group, Friends of the Texan, has taken an active role in the Texan’s finances in the past, but those efforts do not altogether remedy our empty wallet. As a reflection of this, in 2013, TSM discussed changing the Texan’s traditional five-day printing schedule to four days a week, and last year, discussed reducing the print schedule to once a week. The Daily Texan is struggling just to maintain the “daily” in its name. For the immediate future, independent fundraising for the Texan is a necessity.

I am excited to think outside the box to find healthy ways to finance the Texan, but it is important for the editor-in-chief to work with the TSM Board to pinpoint appropriate fundraising endeavors. Fundraising for media entities inevitably raises questions of propriety, but under my leadership, fundraising would never come at the cost of the paper’s or the staff’s integrity.

I believe the Texas Tribune could serve as a model of fundraising that does not infringe upon the paper’s independence. The Tribune collected $750,000 in grant money in 2009 alone. In 2011, the Tribune was granted $975,000 for a project with the nonprofit news organization the Bay Citizen from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a private, non-profit foundation that promotes journalism and media innovation. Fundraising opportunities can co-exist with journalism ethics and the Texan’s staunch standards for fair and factual reporting. But I understand the path to these grants may not be easy. The University of Texas’ large endowment may complicate assuring grant-giving foundations of our need. That should not stop the Texan from pursuing external funding. The University of Texas is a flagship institution; it deserves a flagship student newspaper. With the administration’s support for the next three years, I will work with TSM to find viable, appropriate fundraising options to put the Texan’s long-term health on track despite the changing landscape of print media.

While keeping the Texan in print five days a week will be my chief goal, I am not willing to do so at any cost and certainly not at the expense of the Texan’s independence. During my tenure as editor-in-chief, independent fundraising would be doggedly sought but will never impair editorial discretion.

Smith is a history and humanities junior from Austin. She is running for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan. Follow Smith on Twitter @claireseysmith.

Members of the TSM Board discuss the upcoming election for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan.
Photo Credit: Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Student Media Board certified David Davis Jr. and Claire Smith to run for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan in a contentions meeting Friday.

A third applicant, David Maly, was not certified because he did not meet the qualifications specified in the Texas Student Media (TSM) handbook. Maly worked for the Texan for three semesters as a reporter and copy editor, but has not worked for The Daily Texan since January 2013. 

The handbook specifies that each candidate must have experience of one semester as a permanent staff member in The Daily Texan’s opinion section as well as experience of one semester in another section. In the past, these qualifications have been waived by a two-thirds vote from the TSM Board. 

The TSM Board, which manages five student-produced media properties — Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX 91.7 FM and The Daily Texan — voted to amend the handbook in November, altering the application requirements for editor-in-chief. Candidates who do not meet all of the requirements can now only be certified if no other fully qualified candidates have applied. 

In a meeting Thursday, board members — finance senior lecturer Heidi Toprac, journalism senior lecturer Robert Quigley and Adam Alloy — recommended the Board “roll back” November’s decision. 

At the meeting, Maly presented written concerns to the Board regarding November’s decision to amend the requirements for certification. Maly said that although he had not served as a permanent staffer in the opinion department, he had significant work in opinion departments at other publications, including The Horn and The Odyssey. Maly serves as editor-in-chief at both publications, according to a resume he submitted as part of his application.

Board President Mary Dunn said she thought the Board was correct to amend the certification process.

The debate between Board members about maintaining or discarding the November changes was, at times, contentious.

“I want to be very clear on this. I was aiming for clarity. I was aiming for consistency. I was not out on a personal vendetta against anyone,” Dunn said.

Five Board members, including Toprac, voted to uphold the decision. Only Quigley voted in opposition. 

“Our intent was to not add a new roadblock [to being certified],” Quigley said. “I don’t deny that, as a Board, we made a mistake in the fall — it was a ‘dunderheaded’ mistake … I think the solution should be that we to try to fix the mistake.” 

Board Vice President Arjun Mocherla said he didn’t see the merit in having qualifications if those qualifications could be easily waived.

“I think the qualifications of one semester in opinion and one semester not in opinion — at least from my outside perspective — seem fairly reasonable,” Mocherla said.  

Smith and Davis will begin campaigning Wednesday.

Three UT students apply for Daily Texan editor-in-chief position

Three UT students have applied to run for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan. On Wednesday, Texas Student Media released the applicants' names and applications, including letters of recommendation and statements to the Board. The TSM Board must certify each applicant before the applicant's name can go on the ballot.

The three applicants are David Davis, French and international relations and global studies senior, David Maly, journalism and economics senior, and Claire Smith, history and humanities junior. The editor-in-chief position is a year-long role. 

Certified candidates are required to have completed at least one semester as a permanent staff member in opinion, according to the TSM Handbook. Smith and Davis are the only applicants who meet this requirement. 

Davis spent three of his five semesters at the Texan in opinion as a columnist and associate editor and currently serves as associate news editor. Maly spent one semester as a copy editor and two semesters in the news department as a reporter, but he has not worked for The Daily Texan since 2013. Smith joined the Texan for the first time in the fall as an opinion columnist and has since been promoted to senior columnist. She will begin working as a copy editor Thursday.

In his letter to the board, Maly said he would work to make the Texan's opinion section less inclusive.

"Along with content, as Daily Texan editor a priority for me would be to make the Opinion Section less inclusive," Maly said. "Furthermore, I would like to make the section less inclusive in terms of staff and coverage."

All three candidates also acknowledged TSM's ongoing financial woes.

Board-certified candidates will run in the campuswide election on March 4 and 5. If necessary, a runoff election will be held March 11 and 12.  

Davis, Maly and Smith will discuss their applications with the Board at Friday’s meeting. To read the candidates' application documents, click here.

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of the University of Texas’ friendly rivalry with the University of Oklahoma, the editorial boards of The Daily Texan and The Oklahoma Daily have exchanged editorials. The Red River Rivalry, or the Red River Showdown, as it is now officially known, is played every October in the neutral meeting ground of Dallas and is a time-honored tradition that brings out both the best and, some would say, worst in Texas and Oklahoma football fans. In anticipation of Saturday’s game, both editorials are running in Austin and Norman today. To read the editorial written by The Oklahoma Daily editorial board, click here.  

Regardless of the time you’re reading this, Texas still sucks.

We know Sooners are looking forward to watching the Longhorns flounder on the football field Saturday, much like their slow-moving, cud-chewing mascot Bevo, the sanctimonious cow. 

Besides, by the time Saturday rolls around, UT probably won’t have enough players on its roster to field a full team because head coach Charlie Strong will have kicked them all off.

You know what they say: Everything is bigger in Texas, including the football losses. Sure, we lost to TCU last week but at least we haven’t gotten destroyed two years in a row by an out-of-conference Brigham Young University team, including a near shut-out at home in September.

At this point, we aren’t sure the Longhorns fully know how to play football. For example, they screwed up the opening coin toss in their home loss to UCLA, one of the most fundamental skills for any football player. 

It’s almost too easy to poke fun at Texas this year. When UT’s own coach refers to the BYU loss as “… an embarrassment to this program, it’s an embarrassment to this university,” it makes our job a lot easier.

However, we have to thank UT quarterback Tyrone Swoopes for giving us the laugh of a lifetime by claiming he fully expects Texas to still make the playoffs this season. Swoopes, you have got to be kidding. But then again, a bloated sense of entitlement seems to be a prerequisite for being a Longhorn. 

UT’s 2-3 record puts it near the bottom of the Big 12, and the Longhorns’ only wins this season are over the University of Kansas — the running joke of our conference — and the University of North Texas. Granted, five of the top-10 ranked college football teams lost last weekend, but it’s still going to take near-perfection to earn one of the four coveted playoff spots, a far cry from UT’s losing record.

Really, Texas, it’s almost sad. UT has the richest athletic program in the country, but money clearly can’t buy a tradition of winning. Texas spent nearly $13 million and developed a literal task force to bring in Charlie Strong, and the team is still losing to nonconference opponents.

Strong is known as a no-nonsense authoritarian, and in a preseason speech to Texas high school football coaches, Strong said he planned to put the “T back in Texas.” In reality, this season UT seems to be putting the “T” back in tanking. Sorry Charlie, but some things, like UT football, are just beyond repair.

We aren’t worried about the Sooners cruising to a handy victory over UT on Saturday. The team in crimson and cream in Dallas on Saturday will be an entirely different beast than last year’s overconfident squad. Don’t believe us? During his time as OU’s head coach, Bob Stoops has never lost a revenge game.

Texans probably don’t know how to say OU running back Samaje Perine’s name now, but we doubt they’ll ever forget it after Saturday. We aren’t opposed to all of Texas’ traits, though. As the state sign commands, we’ll be sure to “drive friendly — the Texas way” right into the end zone over and over again. 

The only thing that could further cinch an OU victory would be if the game was played in Norman, but we understand Longhorns are too afraid to make that trip up north. Longhorn logic says the game is played in Dallas because the Lone Star State is better than Oklahoma, but we’re pretty sure it has everything to do with OU’s 87-5 winning home record under Stoops.

Not to mention, OU has this little thing called Sooner magic. Longhorns can doubt it all they want, but the Sooner faithful believe in their team no matter what. UT’s bandwagon fan base, on the other hand, is more flaky and fair-weather than tried and true. Don’t worry; OU fans will be enjoying Bevo burgers as Longhorn “fans” evacuate the Cotton Bowl en masse when the Sooners take the lead on Saturday.

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of the University of Texas’ friendly rivalry with the University of Oklahoma, the editorial boards of The Daily Texan and The Oklahoma Daily have exchanged editorials. The Red River Rivalry, or the Red River Showdown, as it is now officially known, is played every October in the neutral meeting ground of Dallas and is a time-honored tradition that brings out both the best and, some would say, worst in Texas and Oklahoma football fans. In anticipation of Saturday’s game, both editorials are running in Austin and Norman today. To view the editorial written by The Oklahoma Daily editorial board, click here

It’s that time of year already, the week when we pause to remember that there’s a rogue band of hill people roaming around on the other side of the Red River. 

Last year you came to Dallas undefeated and full of hope. We really thought you had the pieces to make a championship run. Your quarterback had a cool nickname, “Belldozer,” like some off-brand Transformer whose special power is throwing INTs. Your defensive backs were running around pretending they were sharks like some pee-wee soccer team. It was adorable.

But somehow we still managed to beat you. Even with his head-coaching death rattle, Mack Brown was able to hand your school its biggest embarrassment since the 2013 graduating class. 

We weren’t even really trying that hard. Seriously, the MVP was Case McCoy, who didn’t even joke about trying to go to the NFL. That’s right, this time last year you got schooled by a guy who we’re pretty sure is currently selling Cutco knives or something.

But really, are y’all even trying to keep us interested? Your fans can’t even get our hand gesture right. It’s sad looking over to the South End Zone halfway through the second quarter to see that your Hook ‘Em Horns is already drooping downward. And a little strange, since we always figured Sooner men would have exceptionally strong wrists. 

It’s like you’re losing focus. You already lost to TCU, probably because Trevor Knight was too busy sexting Katy Perry. At least we can enjoy her career for these last few days before she becomes an Okie, moves to Norman and starts hanging out at T. J. Maxx.

Now we’re not perfect, we know. We’ve taken our share of hits during a tough rebuilding year, though we’re optimistic. Sure, we lost to BYU, but they have God on their side. You guys just have the Devil, or “Barry Switzer,” whatever he’s calling himself nowadays.

Moving on, though, in light of your school’s refusal to live up to even the most modest of expectations, we’ve decided to go ahead and handicap this game ourselves. You may have noticed we’ve already kicked off several players, including former starters. Just in case that’s not enough, Coach Strong has promised that if we’re still winning at halftime he’ll pull Tyrone Swoopes and let Tony Romo play quarterback. If we go up by 14, he’ll let Big Tex start calling the plays. 

The times really are changing. Coach Strong has brought a new dawn on the 40 Acres. We’re proud to see him enforce his five core values: honesty, treating women with respect and no drugs, stealing or guns. Which means if he were your coach, he’d kick the Ruffnecks out of the program, but he’d have to do it respectfully.

But there is a fundamental difference between our two football programs. When two former Longhorn players were accused of sexaully assaulting a woman, Strong immediately kicked them off the team. After Dorial Green-Beckham and Joe Mixon were accused of battering young women, you gave them scholarships. Actually, it makes a lot more sense now why your local press was comparing Mixon to a young Adrian Peterson last spring.

Face it, your Standards and Compliance office is about as reliable as Sam Bradford’s knees. What do the signs read at the OU Practice Facility? Give us your poor, your tired, your felonious position players with remaining eligibility?

Regardless of your school’s moral code, or lack thereof, we still have a game to play on Saturday. Deep down, there’s a part of us that still feels like embarrassing you on national television. Guess old habits die hard.

We live in a tumultuous period in our nation’s history. From ISIS to the Russians, the news is full of troubling headlines and apocalyptic threats. Wait, sorry, you don’t follow the news, so let us contextualize. Imagine they were going to cancel “Mike and Molly.” Scary, right?

America needs some reassurance that there’s still some good in the world. America needs Texas to beat OU. 

Wait, you don’t think OU is awful? Well, not sure how best to explain this, but you are. We’d rather spend six hours stuck on the tarmac after a Delta flight than attend OU. Matthew McConaughey will actually convince someone to buy a Lincoln before you get us to believe your state isn’t a Roosevelt-era government works projects designed to attract and retain simpletons, like a fly trap, but with more half-finished GEDs. Oklahoma is what “Deliverance” would be like if it were set in a gas station bathroom.

Just how truly awful is Oklahoma? I-35 North is the only time we’ve ever muttered “Thank God” upon seeing a “Welcome to Kansas” sign.

Lastly, the Texas Department of Transportation has issued a warning that there may be delays this weekend because of highway construction, so be advised that OU still sucks.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The pages of the Texan are proof that someone, somewhere cares and has cared about the day-to-day of University life for over a century. As former Daily Texan Editor Willie Morris wrote in 1955, “The Daily Texan is bigger than any one man. We will protect it and its traditions with our personal reputation. You will be jostled, cajoled, embarrassed. Yet, through our telescope of ideas, you will see your life here in much nobler focus.”

Morris was speaking of the Texan, but he might well have been speaking of the University, which finds itself at the precipice of change much in the same way the paper does now. Heavily dependent on its print product for revenue, the Texan has struggled to adapt to a digital world without changing both its business model and its mission. Heavily dependent on tuition dollars and state funding, the University is floundering to figure out where online courses and antiquated degrees fit into the changing model of higher education.

This year, after a series of tense Texas Student Media board meetings and more than a few fiery editorials, the Texan found a (temporary) answer to the question of its future when President William Powers Jr. secured transitional funding for the paper’s move to the Moody School of Communication and, presumably, a few years down the line, the Texan’s adoption of a new business plan. The promise of the money quelled quite a few concerns, but it should have raised more. 

If the solution to the paper’s inability to adapt was to find a generous benefactor in the tower, what will be UT’s solution to insufficient funds when tuition can’t be raised any higher? The folks at the Capitol may not be as generous to the University as Powers was with us, and given our state’s aversion to taxes, they may not have so much to give.

I raise these questions here because I think what happened at the Texan bears remembering as the University charts its course in the decades to come. For instance, 10 years ago, questions began to enter the conversation about the Texan’s future — questions like how we might keep our print product in the face of fading revenue or how we might retain a staff as large as generous decades had accustomed us to. Those at the Texan then should have been asking why the paper existed in the first place. Had they, I’m sure the answer would have been that The Daily Texan exists “to educate and inform”  — the model of delivery notwithstanding. And yet, 10 years later, we are just exiting a burdensome argument about print.

So what does this have to do with higher education? Conversations about the future of UT are often raised in the context of “how’s”: how we might get students to graduate in four years, how we might get them into the right class, how we might make their degree most valuable. But if the Texan’s history is any indication, now is the time for why’s and what’s: Why do we teach students in the classroom? Why do we charge what we charge for tuition? Why are we here, learning and striving? What is the meaning of being a “University of the first class,” as the state constitution requires us to be? The answers may not be in line with what we think of as a University education. If that’s the case, its better we find out now, so that we can start working toward changing our ideas of what it means to attend UT. The University, like the Daily Texan, is bigger than anyone man, and it is our job as Longhorns to chart a course that serves not our own understanding of a University education but our belief in its higher purpose. 

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Wright is the outgoing editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan. She started at the Texan in summer 2012 and previously served as a life & arts senior writer and an opinion columnist.