Liberal Arts Council

Photo Credit: Angie Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Students from small towns shared their experiences such as struggling to break into existing social networks at UT, feeling unprepared for college and wanting to return home at the Liberal Arts Council’s first focus group of the semester on Wednesday evening.

Emily Frazier, a linguistics and Spanish sophomore from Waco, Texas, said during the discussion that it’s harder to get in touch with people in a big city like Austin.

“It’s very easy to feel drawn back to going home a lot, especially if a lot of your friends from high school stayed in your hometown,” Frazier said. “Some of (my friends) are going to Baylor, some of them are going to community college there, and I have guaranteed time to hang out with friends there. Over here people are usually busy and they don’t live near each other.”

Ishaana Talesara, co-chair of the LAC college ambassadors committee, said the Liberal Arts Council wants to use focus groups to hear stories from different students and get ideas of ways the Council can work to improve the college experience.

“The people who ran my committee before me realized that LAC tries to advocate on behalf of students, but there’s a lot of groups we don’t reach because none of us are a part of those groups,” said Talesara, an economics and math junior. “We want to not just send out surveys by email. We wanted to actually hear people’s stories and the ideas that people have.”

Michael Sanchez, a Plan II and history junior from Brownsville, Texas, said it would be helpful to have a program where older college students provide prospective UT students from small-town high schools with connections.

“I’m personally trying to do that right now with students from my high school who are here and saying ‘Hey, I know this person,’ and making introductions that are necessary,” Sanchez said. “You can’t just expect everyone to go out there and put themselves in social situations where a lot of people know each other and they come from the same area.”

Emma Giacomello, an anthropology sophomore from Huntsville, Texas, said she did not feel prepared for college because her school did not offer the same resources as other schools.

“I heard about the classes other kids took in high school and the organizations they were in, and we didn’t have those,” Giacomello said. “You feel less prepared for college because you’re like ‘These kids did way more than I did in high school.’”

Plan II sophomore David Engleman, international and global studies junior Geetika Jerath, and marketing and sociology junior Yaneli Rubio were elected to the three open positions in the Senate of College Councils on Thursday evening.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

The Senate of College Councils elected Geetika Jerath as its next president on Thursday.

Along with Jerath, Senate elected Yaneli Rubio as vice president and David Engleman as financial director. Both Jerath and Engleman are in the Liberal Arts Council. 

Senate is a legislative student organization representing 20 college councils at the University. Elections are conducted internally, with each council allotted one vote to select the organization’s leaders.

Jerath, an international and global studies junior, has been involved in Senate since her freshman year and is currently in the Liberal Arts Council, a role she said makes her qualified to work with external and internal parts of Senate.

“Not only do I have internal experience, but I’m also in a council,” Jerath said. “I know the direction Senate needs to go. I have innovative practices that I would like to see, and I know how to get us there.”

Jerath said she hopes to develop a branding campaign and a strong presence at the Capitol.

“I have a very unique vision for Senate next year,” Jerath said. “It will definitely be a change that I think the University and Senate needs to see for the future.”

Rubio, a marketing and sociology junior, said her experience in Senate and other organizations qualifies her for vice president.

After spending her last semester studying abroad in Paris, Rubio said she returned with a fresh mind.

“I think studying abroad helps me a lot because I was able to step away from university politics, which a lot of university leaders get caught up in,” Rubio said.

Rubio said as vice president she hopes to improve orientation. Her experience as an orientation advisor inspired her to seek feedback from students to help the program grow.

Engleman, a Plan II sophomore, said his experience as financial director of Liberal Arts Council has prepared him for the role of Senate financial director. He said he will guarantee that all councils will receive a fair allocation of Senate funds each year. 

“A major focus of my position this year and my position next year is to maintain and build strong relationships with the staff that help the financial directors do their job,” Engleman said.

Senate president Andrew Clark said he felt all candidates were qualified for their positions. Clark said serving as both vice president and president during his time in the organization taught him that Senate needs leaders who can handle difficult situations and are able to respond to things quickly.

“There’s no better way to learn how to do something like this than just get in there and do it,” Clark said. “Everybody gets to put their own stamp on the organization, which I think is the best part about it.”

Pofessors David Edwards and Bethany Albertson, with Texas Politics Project director James Henson discuss the 2012 election with UT students at “The Amazing Race” presented by the Liberal Arts Council on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Professors in the College of Liberal Arts discussed the potential impact and historical value of the 2012 presidential elections and other aspects of this election season at a panel Tuesday.

The Liberal Arts Council presented “The Amazing Presidential Race,” an open discussion about the 2012 U.S. presidential elections, as part of Liberal Arts Week. Government professor David Edwards, assistant government professor Bethany Albertson and Texas Politics project director James Henson formed part of the panel discussing the election and answering student questions.

The factors marking the current presidential election as “unique” and “amazing” were one of the first issues addressed by the panel. Albertson said the role religion and race are playing in this election sets it apart from any other in U.S. history.

“We have an African-American and a Mormon running for the presidency and this is huge,” she said. “No way would this have been the case 20 years ago.”

Henson said every election can be considered historic, although in retrospect they seem less so. He said the only thing he considers that makes this election historic is the clear definition between the two candidates.

“There is an interesting contrast between the parties that make us feel like we are making real choices,” Henson said. “We are especially seeing that in [the candidates’] rhetoric and the policy proposals.”

Students in the audience were asked to send in their questions about the election through Twitter using the hashtag #lacvotes2012. One of the issues raised through this medium was the importance of Latino voters in the current presidential election. Edwards said the power of the Latino vote could have a heavy impact on the election but their reluctance to vote poses a big setback.

“Nobody seems to know how to get Latinos to the polls, and that’s the problem,” Edwards said. “If Latinos start turning in at elections, they will transform the elections in many states, not just Texas.”

Among the other issues raised during the discussion were the importance of drug and foreign policies, women’s issues and the role of a candidate’s public image in this year’s presidential campaign.

Sonali Kalvala, Liberal Arts Council co-chair for academic affairs, organized the event. She said the goal of the discussion was to give students the opportunity to actively engage in the election.

“The presidential election happens every four years and as young students it’s something that we should be taking part of,” Kalvala said. “We wanted students to interact with professors and have this discussion that would inevitably help them make a political decision in the future.”

At the end of the event and in honor of National Voter Registration Day, the Liberal Arts Council registered students to vote.

“Politics are important for every citizen but also as young adults,” Kalvala said.” Now that we’re in college, these decisions impact us more than ever. Although we are students, we determine the future.”

Printed on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 as: Panel discusses 2012 election

With more than 50 majors in the College of Liberal Arts, defining a liberal arts student is not always easy. But this year’s Liberal Arts week will attempt to explore that, starting with an essay contest and a panel on religion in American politics.

Government senior Morgan Caridi, president of the College of Liberal Arts council, said this year’s annual Liberal Arts week will showcase the college’s resources for students. Caridi said the Liberal Arts week is held annually, and students outside of the college are encouraged to attend. Each year has a theme, and this year’s theme is “You know you’re in Liberal Arts when ...”

Plan II Honors senior Christine Thorne-Thomsen, program director on the Liberal Arts council, said trying to define what makes a liberal arts student is a challenge.

“It is not just one definition,” Thorne-Thomsen said. “I think that is what makes us liberal arts students. We are all over the place. We are passionate about all different things.”

On Monday, “The Liberator,” the College of Liberal Arts’ news-magazine, is hosting an essay contest with a $250 prize. The winning essay will also be published in the October edition of “The Liberator.” The topic is “How would your liberal arts education influence your personal platform for the presidency of the United States?”

Mallory Foutch, communications director of Liberal Arts council, said this is the second year the College of Liberal Arts has hosted an essay contest with a cash prize.

“It is very common that if you’re in the liberal arts college, you have good writing skills, just because they’re critical no matter what your major is,” Foutch said.

The essay is due at 5 p.m. by email to The council is also hosting a panel Monday discussing religion’s role in American politics.

“We have such a diverse college, we really like to highlight the smaller departments,” Caridi said. “We’re showcasing a professor that specializes in different religions.”

Politics is a consistent theme throughout this year’s week, Caridi said, because of the presidential election in November. Tuesday, the council is hosting an open discussion on the 2012 presidential election called “The Amazing Presidential Race.” Caridi said some of the topics they will focus are the roles of media and mud-slinging in the election.

Thorne-Thomsen said not all of the events will be strictly serious. On Wednesday, the council is co-hosting a game of New York Times Jeopardy with a New York Times representative.

The council is also informing students about destressing techniques on the West Mall. Caridi said the Wednesday event is the last big event of the week — she said the week is “top heavy.”

Throughout the week, the College of Liberal Arts will have a white board near the Six Pack, where liberal arts students are encouraged to write why they love being a part of the college and have their photo taken. The photos will be used as part of a collage in the new Liberal Arts building when it opens in the spring.

Cardi said Monday through Wednesday on the West Mall, the Campus and Community Focus committee of the Liberal Arts Council is partnering with Hook the Vote to register students to vote.

Printed on Monday, September 24, 2012 as: COLA week offers events for students

Alumni Randi Shade and Ian Davis discussed their experiences as political activists as UT students and in their careers in a panel titled “Moving Austin Forward” on Monday evening.

Photo Credit: Victoria Montalvo | Daily Texan Staff

Students should have a working knowledge of how to effectively advocate for their interests on the local level because so much of what the city does impacts the UT community, said Huey Fischer, Plan I honors government junior, before a Liberal Arts Council discussion.

The Liberal Arts Council hosted a discussion session Monday with UT alumni Randi Shade and Ian Davis, to discuss how to get involved in and begin a successful career in public service.

“Being able to connect the dots and being able to see something in one place and apply it somewhere else, I think is critical thinking and learning this through the College of Liberal Arts you are getting great knowledge for the future,” Shade said.

The alumni discussed city issues that were relevant to students, such as single member districts, traffic and parking and Capital Metro. They discussed how it is essential to get involved with these issues and to vote for what you believe is right.

“If [the city council members] don’t hear from you then they don’t think you care,” Davis said.

One major issue that was discussed was the future plan of changing elections from May to November. Shade and Davis encouraged elections to be moved to November due to the fact that students would be more likely to vote because school is in session.

“There’s only 60,000 votes that happen in May and there’s 50,000 students here,” Davis said. “A lot of students are not in the city due to summer internships in other cities, so obviously it would be a lot better to have voting in November.”

Shade agreed.

“November elections make a huge difference,” Shade said. “That will definitely affect the vote.”

Shade, a Plan II Honors graduate who later earned an MBA from Harvard Business School where she was awarded a Public Management Fellowship, served on the Austin City Council from 2008 to 2011.

“Shade has always been an active friend of the UT community, especially as a former Student Government president,” said Fischer, who was the discussion moderator. “As a former member of the Austin City Council, she brings to [the] discussion a unique perspective on the inner workings of city government.”

Davis, a Liberal Arts Council and SG alumnus, serves as senior regional field manager for the Texas Sierra Club and is an activist in local and state politics.

“Mr. Davis is an alumnus who is involved in city politics from an activist role,” Fischer said. “He has worked on several city council campaigns and brings to the discussion his knowledge on how to ‘get things done’ in Austin.”

The purpose of this event was not to advocate any particular agenda but was designed solely for informational purposes, Fischer said. He said he hoped students would walk away with two things: awareness and empowerment.

“Students need to be aware of the local issues that impact their campus,” Fischer said. “They need to be empowered with the knowledge of how they can effect change.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 as: Students encouraged to engage locally

Both polite questions and angry accusations marked a College of Liberal Arts open forum Tuesday night, when students and college deans met to discuss a $1 million recommended cut to various ethnic and identity studies centers. The Liberal Arts Council and the Senate of College Councils co-sponsored the COLA State of the College Address for students to exchange dialogue with the college’s administration regarding last November’s budget cuts proposal. Many Student Government and Senate representatives attended, as well as members of The Students Speak, a group formed in November in reaction to the cuts that they say will negatively impact students. “It’s outrageous that we have to fight to keep ethnic studies alive, something that we had to fight to get here in the first place,” said Leticia Silva, a Latin American studies senior. The Academic Planning and Advisory Committee proposed the cuts to 14 centers and institutes, with the Centers for African and African American, Middle Eastern, Mexican American and Latin American studies receiving the largest blows. The proposal is the first of a series of steps that Dean Randy Diehl said will be complete later in the semester after the deans have taken input from students and faculty. Diehl said at the time the cuts were initially proposed, administrators had just learned that a proposed $90 million liberal arts building would not receive funding from the Board of Regents and the state. The college had to choose between the building or a budget re-evaluation. “We could scuttle the building project or develop an alternative way to fund the building, and we decided to go with the latter,” he said. Diehl said the new building is “critical to the future” of the College of Liberal Arts, and it is important to build it now because costs are low. Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Richard Flores said in December that without the pending 10-percent cut from the State Legislature, the $3.5 million cut that includes the centers’ cuts would be unnecessary. The college is still trying to determine how to cut the other $2.5 million. A recent evaluation determined the Center for European Studies, which got increased funding in the first proposal, will also have its budget reduced. Liberal Arts Council President Carl Thorne-Thomsen said he thought the forum was a success because it allowed students to give input to the deans. “We certainly understand how students might have felt that they haven’t had a say in some in these decisions, [so] it’s pretty reassuring to know that they are coming out to listen,” Thorne-Thomsen said. The Students Speak spokesperson Bernardino Villasenor said the forum was great in terms of getting students to come out, and he is hoping the student input will have more of an impact. The Students Speak invited the deans to come to its public forum Feb. 1 to hear from more concerned students. Villasenor said their forum will be the beginning of actions they will take this legislative session. “We are completely against these cuts and we are going to try to keep them from happening here,” he said. “That means we are going to have to evolve our fight and go to the Legislature, and we will do that.”

Fewer than two weeks after the College of Liberal Arts recommended cuts to centers and institutions, more than 100 UT students, faculty and staff attended the second meeting of a new organization Monday night called The Students Speak. Students from majors that use the centers' resources and organizations such as Student Government, Liberal Arts Council and student activist groups ¡ella pelea! and Stop The Cuts offered their perspectives as to how to affect the decision before it becomes final. Those who spoke said petitioning, working with administrators, protesting and grassroots outreach may all be part of the group’s efforts. Specialized centers fund research, scholarships and programs that expand opportunities for students and faculty in related departments. The College of Liberal Arts helps fund these centers under its overall budget and many centers also have access to federal funding. “It’s a matter of recognizing grassroots organizing as powerful,” said Latin American studies senior Carina Souflee, one of the group’s organizers. “Just because it’s not institutionalized doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. These are our majors, and if they go away, it’s a problem not just for us but for the people who come after us.” The recommended cuts to the centers, which total $1 million, will predominantly impact the Centers for African American, Mexican American, Latin American and Middle Eastern studies, which account for three-fourths of the reductions. The Center for European Studies would gain 11 percent in funding, totaling $10,276. The Academic Planning and Advisory Committee must recommend cuts for a total of $3.5 million. They used a series of metrics, including enrollment in related courses, number of research grants and national reputation to determine how to allocate cuts, said associate dean for academic affairs Richard Flores. Students at the meeting said Flores and other administrators had not replied to e-mail requests for additional information and explanation. Flores told the Liberal Arts Council on Nov. 16 that if it were not for increasing state-mandated budget cuts, the college would not have to consider such cuts to the centers. He said departments were cut 20-33 percent of their soft money budgets in the spring, and centers were the next area for consideration. Students at the Students Speak meeting noted that it was important to consider the center cuts in the national context of university budget cuts. “This is probably the sharpest edge in the crisis because they’re gutting some of these programs, but there is a hollowing-out of programs throughout the University,” said assistant English professor Snehal Shingavi. “It’s pretty awful what’s happening, and it’s happening in California; it’s happening all over Texas.” SG University-wide representative Matt Portillo urged the students to not only target the University with organizing and action but to take their passion before the state legislature and lobby on behalf of increased University funding. Other students said they do not feel student governance organizations such as SG and Liberal Arts Council are willing to adequately fight on behalf of the issue and spoke in favor of direct action such as protests. The group will be signing onto a protest hosted by ¡ella pelea! on Dec. 1.

Ethnic studies centers and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies may fall under the swinging axe of University budget cuts, and members of a new student organization called The Students Speak said they will do whatever it takes to fight back. The College of Liberal Arts announced last week that under a recommendation from the Academic Planning and Advisory Council, 15 centers and institutes stand to lose a combined $1 million, with the centers for African and African American, Mexican American and Middle Eastern studies taking the largest hit. In response, members of Chicano advocacy group MEChA organized the first Students Speak meeting Tuesday night with about 50 students from different area studies majors, as well as Student Government representatives and other interested students. They said they hope that through protests, education and working with student leaders and the administration, they can reduce cuts they say could irreparably harm the education of students who use the centers for classes, research, programs and organizational support. “I started school at Brown, and I transferred here because of the Center for Mexican American Studies,” said Diana Gomez, a Mexican American studies senior. “We’ve agreed that this organization needs to be a student initiative because we’re in these courses and these centers, and we’ll fight to keep them in place.” The $1 million dollars is part of $3.5 million that the dean’s advisory council must identify for cuts to fill an unexpected shortfall in money received from tuition. That money was used to fill other budgetary holes in response to cuts ordered by legislative leaders. Other plans include cutting faculty by offering early retirement packages and leaving vacant positions unfilled. The College of Liberal Arts will not be out of deficit until the 2014-15 school year, according to projections from the advisory council. Richard Flores, the senior associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, attended the Liberal Arts Council meeting Tuesday night and gave a presentation to explain the metrics used to determine cuts for each center, including how they use the funding they have and how many students major in programs related to the centers. Although the original recommendations included no student input, Flores said College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl and other administrators hope to meet with students, faculty and staff from each center to get input on the possible effects of the cuts. “We’re pulled in two directions. One is we want to hear and consult broadly, but on the other hand, center directors need to start making decisions,” Flores said. The Students Speak members left their meeting to attend the Liberal Arts Council meeting, and they said it was the first time they had access to the information Flores presented. There was some confusion because the council members said their meetings are not a forum open to all Liberal Arts students. “We were left out of the process, and it’s not until tonight that we managed to finagle our way into this [council] meeting and see some of the metrics they used to make these cuts,” said Mexican American studies senior Bernardino Villasenor. “In slashing these programs, they’re slashing our cultures and identities, too.” Liberal Arts Council President Carl Thorne-Thomsen said he wants to work with SG to plan open forums so students can get involved in future conversations about Liberal Arts cuts. In addition, the Senate of College Councils expects to launch the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Council for liberal arts before the semester ends, providing a direct link between the administration and students in the college.