University professor

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

A university professor predicts that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule against bans on same-sex marriage this week.

There has been a remarkable change in public opinion in the past five years, and the court will cause more tension if it votes in opposition, Sanford Levinson, professor of constitutional law and government, said. A 2013 study held by the Pew Research Center showed a majority of Americans endorse gay marriages — among those aged 18 to 29, support is as high as 70 percent. 

“Even four years ago, the court may have found that the safe thing to do was not intervene, but today politics are different,” Levinson said. “The court will get lots of applause, and many politicians will be ecstatic if the court takes this issue out of the 2016 race.”

The question is less about whether the court will affirm marriage equality and more about how, Levinson said. The court could focus on the purpose of marriage or the fourteenth amendment’s anti-discrimination clause. 

“[Illegality of] marriage is one illustration of discrimination against the LGBT community, and that would have more implications for a variety of laws that discriminate,” Levinson said. 

Although statistics show it is increasingly common for youths to support gay marriage, they should be conscious of the effort it took to get here, law student Louis Lobel said. 

“Don’t forget about the many LGBTQ people that suffered to get to this point,” Lobel said, who is vice president of OUTlaw, an LGBTQ student organization in the law school. “[Now,] nobody wants to be on the wrong side of history.” 

Many American corporations showed support for gay rights in March by opposing proposed legislation aiming to allow businesses to deny service to gay people. Levinson said this showed an unprecedented level of support for the LGBT community in American politics.

“These shifts by major businesses are influencing Republican candidates to come out against legislation designed to stop same-sex marriages,” Levinson said.

While the political climate is warming up to marriage equality, there are more issues politicians need to address on a state or national level, said Jordan Wilk, English junior and event coordinator for the QueerStudent Alliance. 

“The community still faces a variety of issues, such as youth homelessness after coming out to their families and murders and everyday violence of queer and trans people of color,” Wilk said. 

Andrew Dillon, dean and professor in the School of Information, has been conducting research that suggests the way people read online impacts their ability to comprehend texts on paper.

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

The amount of time you spend reading Facebook posts and skimming web pages could impact one’s ability to read and comprehend longer texts on paper, according to a University professor.

School of Information Dean Andrew Dillon said the way online content is formatted leads to breaks in attention span, which can then make it more difficult to return to extended texts, such as novels.

“We’re spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scrolling and jumping through text that, when [you] sit down with a novel, your daily [habit] of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you,” Dillon said. “We’re in this new era of information behavior, and we’re beginning to see the consequences of that.”

Dillon, who studies reading and human behavior, said the change in reading habits occurs because of increasingly smaller electronic devices and the challenge web publishers face to attract audiences to online content. 

“As the technology moves, the content providers adjust and, since screen real estate and human attention are at a premium, shorter texts, increased use of animation and color, and a concern with getting the message across quickly all come to the fore,” Dillon said. “This is the new norm, and you probably won’t be seeing too many people reading Proust on their iPhone anytime soon.”

According to Dillon, this emphasis on reading in short bursts could have damaging effects on comprehension, especially for younger readers who have grown up in a digital age.

“Studies have shown that there’s a comprehension gap between reading digitally and reading on paper, and, funnily enough, people don’t see it themselves,” Dillon said. “Particularly for a generation raised on largely digital information … I think we have to be conscious of the skill set that’s involved with deep immersion with long extended reading and be conscious of that in order to retain that skill.”

Theatre and dance sophomore Kathleen Brown said she prefers reading on paper to reading online because the Internet can be too distracting.

“I definitely get easily distracted when I read online,” Brown said. “There’s always this temptation to just open another tab or click on another link. I think I retain a lot more of what I read when I read on paper because I can take notes, and I can’t click on another link and get distracted.”

English associate professor Matt Cohen said, although digital reading may not match the depth and sustained concentration of extended reading, it also has some benefits. 

“I do think reading on digital platforms affects reading but perhaps not in a simple negative-or-positive way,” Cohen said. “For instance, it’s way easier to look up things I don’t know — allusions, symbols or myths — than it used to be thanks to online resources.”   

Although digital content may be changing how we approach reading, Dillon cautions that the basic skills behind it remain the same.

“We [still] have to make a conscious decision to put the necessary effort into reading if we want to fully understand an argument,” Dillon said. “You cannot cheat the basic limitations of your attention and memory system, although the technology often creates the illusion otherwise.”