Billy Calve

Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson is the 2013 recipient of the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship, a student-nominated award given to an undergraduate professor who has demonstrated excellence in teaching and has contributed to the University community. Ekland-Olson has served in various academic positions in the College of Liberal Arts, Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs and the College of Natural Sciences.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

A parade of students and colleagues barged into Sheldon Ekland-Olson’s 10 a.m. class carrying a $25,000 check with his name on it.

Ekland-Olson, a sociology professor and director of the School of Human Ecology, was selected by the Friar Society as the winner of the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship Award, a prize granted to professors nominated by UT students for their dedication to the University. Friar Society members, along with university faculty including Christine Williams, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, met outside the College of Liberal Arts building in preparation for the surprise.

Williams said she thinks Ekland-Olson is well-deserving of the Friar Award.

“I think that he’s a remarkable teacher and he’s somebody who’s really dedicated his whole life to this institution, and more than anything he cares very deeply about the students,” Williams said. “He’s just been an inspiration to all of us on how to live an upright, forthright and dedicated career.”

Ekland-Olson is a former dean of the College of Liberal Arts, a former Provost of the University and an influential author, Williams said. She said Ekland-Olson has written about the death penalty in Texas and his most recent work is called, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides.”

“He’s a specialist in the study of the criminal justice system,” Williams said. 

As the group arrived at Ekland-Olson’s classroom, one Friar member played music on a boombox, while Billy Calve, a government senior and co-chair of the award selection committee, announced their entrance by ringing a cowbell.

Calve said he and his co-chair directed Ekland-Olson’s selection for the award.

“My co-chair and I oversaw the process for the fellowship,” Calve said. “We solicited nominations from students as to who they felt was the most deserving professor, and we distributed that information to the rest of the Friars and then the Friar society as a whole selected Dr. Ekland-Olson for all his years of service to the university.”

After Ekland-Olson received the award, he said he was grateful for the honor.

“This means a lot to me,” Ekland-Olson said. “It’s sort of a lifetime achievement, and it’s very nice to be acknowledged.” 

Calve said the Friar Society has a tradition of surprising the winners of the award.

“Yeah, we think it’s more fun to take the winner by surprise,” Calve said. “So we barge into their class unannounced and we present them with this giant check, and it really is a special moment to see them surprised and so happy.”

College Republicans opted out of a Wednesday debate with University Democrats, citing a lack of organization and communication by Hook the Vote, despite debate organizers’ assertions that the debate was planned well in advance.

Earlier this semester, College Republicans and University Democrats agreed to a debate Wednesday hosted by Hook the Vote. Hook the Vote, which has hosted College Republicans/University Democrats debates in previous semesters, is a nonpartisan SG agency that aims to register students to vote and to educate them on issues in the election. Longhorn Libertarians President Jose Niño said his student organization agreed to debate in place of the College Republicans.

Danny Zeng, College Republicans communications director, said his organization felt Hook the Vote did not communicate or publicize the debate early enough in advance. Zeng said Hook the Vote was slow in getting a moderator, making a Facebook event and reserving a room. Zeng said before last week, all College Republicans knew was the debate’s date.

“CR officers re-evaluated the whole situation and saw absolutely no benefits for us to stage a dog-and-pony show, putting our members through debate prep, for a group of maybe twenty highly partisan college students,” Zeng said in an email.

Hook the Vote director Billy Calve said that University Democrats and College Republicans were informed of the debate’s date and format throughout the semester.

“All of the organizations participating in Hook the Vote have been made aware of the debate, and they were sharing the information with the members,” Calve said. “That covers a wide area of campus.”

More than 30 political, social and other student organizations are partnered with Hook the Vote.

University Democrat Leslie Tisdale said this move by College Republicans is detrimental to both the debate and political conversations on campus.

“I think it really hurts their cause and their club,” Tisdale said.

Calve said by dropping from the debate, the College Republicans hurt Hook the Vote’s efforts to inform students about issues from all sides of the political spectrum.

“The purpose of this debate is to inform students about the issues both parties are promoting,” Calve said. “If we don’t have one of those sides represented, students are not hearing about all the options.”

The debate will be at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday in Gearing Hall, room 105. Susannah Jacob, The Daily Texan’s editor-in-chief, will moderate the debate. Both University Democrats and Longhorn Libertarians will have three students represent them at the debate.

Published on October 24, 2012 as: "Longhorns Libertarians step in for Republicans"

Senior government major Blake Medley, treasurer of the University Democrats, assits students registering to vote during Hook the Vote at Gregory Plaza Tuesday night.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Students flocked to tables across campus Tuesday to prepare for the forthcoming election on the last day of voter registration.

Hook the Vote, a nonpartisan, student-run organization to promote voting and voter registration to UT students, hosted its final day of voter registration tables throughout campus. Although students have had opportunities to register earlier in the year, the tables received their largest turnout Tuesday, Billy Calve, Hook the Vote director, said.

Calve, who is a government senior, said the organization sets up tables to raise voter awareness and to ensure students register to vote. The organization’s usual efforts were supplemented with additional tables on Gregory Plaza and a voter registration rally that lasted until midnight.

Calve said getting students registered to vote is important, especially since students’ schedules are usually busy.

“All we want is to get a lot of people out there to try and change the way the politics are,” Calve said. “The rally was really exciting, because it gave us a chance to celebrate voting and the pleasures and rewards that come with it.”

English junior Betsy Roche said the rush to register on the last day was unsurprising given that students have become more aware of the deadline as it approached.

“People came on the last day seeking us out rather than us trying to pull them in,” Roche said. “It’s going to be cool to see how local elections play out this year, knowing that so many UT students are going to be voting.”

Communication studies senior Presley Hall said other organizations are hard at work to get students registered. Hall said her sorority made it a priority to get its members registered to vote.

“We had a meeting at my sorority the night before the deadline, and registration was first and last on the agenda. Whether you are really into politics or not, voting is important,” she said.

Printed on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 as: Hook the Vote provides tables on campus to register students

Talent is lacking in the Democratic Party, and it is up to the future generation to change it, a political writer told a group of about 50 students at a University Democrats meeting Wednesday. Paul Burka, senior executive editor of Texas Monthly, writes a political blog and has worked for the magazine since 1975. He also served as an attorney in the Texas Legislature for five years and holds a degree from UT’s School of Law. UDems President Billy Calve said Burka speaking to the organization is a great opportunity to get a different perspective on Texas politics. “Paul Burka is an institution in Texas politics,” Calve said. “We really hope our members will build on their understanding by hearing from him.” It’s over for Anglos, Burka said. He said the future of Texas is up to the Hispanic majority because there has not been a significant time when Hispanics have voted in large numbers. If all Texans voted, the state would prove to have a much stronger Democratic voice, he said. “If you plan to spend your life in Texas, you will live in a blue state,” Burka said. However, Burka that the increase in affluence in South Texas threatens Democrats because increased wealth, combined with a cultural sense of family values and patriotism, could lead more Hispanics living in the Valley to vote for Republicans. The Democratic Party hard said ly exists in Texas, he said. He said the party’s infrastructure is not strong because it has not been able to reach out to the Hispanic population. “The talent level you have to replace is not very high,” Burka said. Burka said Gov. Rick Perry is an unsympathetic politician who is not interested in the Legislature but is a political pro who knows what to do and always has a plan. “There’s nobody better at running a campaign and nobody worse at running the state,” Burka said. Burka said charisma is what makes a very strong candidate. He said the next generation of lawmakers need to be better at it. “The ball is there, and somebody has to go pick it up,” Burka said. Government sophomore Huey Fischer said he appreciated Burka’s insight on Texas politics because he came from a nonpartisan perspective. He said UDems members gained new insight into how to move forward for the 2012 elections. “We do need to start recruiting tougher candidates, better candidates, charismatic candidates,” Fischer said.