Amid further controversy regarding the politicization of Texas public school textbooks, it is time not only for the Powers administration but also UT faculty and students to evaluate the true significance of the statues of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, among others, which stand in the heart of our campus. 

A report released this month from the nonpartisan Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, debated in a point/counterpoint in this paper last week, found numerous instances of politically fueled bias in government, Texas, U.S. and world history textbooks. These included comic strips trivializing affirmative action as well as the statement that, during segregation, “Sometimes … the buildings, buses, and teachers for the all-black schools were lower in quality,” which is a significant understatement. Not only do these textbooks effectively whitewash the history of the Jim Crow South, but they are, according to a report, a statement that “understates the tremendous and widespread disadvantages of African-American schools compared to white schools.”

There was so much bias, in fact, that the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute wrote, “The complicated but undeniable history of separation of church and state is dismissed” as well as textbooks undermining the fact that slavery was “the actual trigger for the sectional crisis.”

In the year 2014, this kind of revisionist history ought to be seriously reassessed. However, young students are not the only ones who will feel the consequences of agenda-fueled education.

“My heart is out as well to the students who come to my classrooms at SMU from the study of history in the Texas public schools,” wrote Edward Countryman, a history professor at Southern Methodist University, in his opening statement in his report on proposed Texas, U.S. and world history textbooks. “[I]f they have not taken Advanced Placement history, they are woefully underprepared for the college-level study of history.” 

Just as the Texas State Board of Education’s primary goal is likely not to directly misinform young students, the statues of Jefferson Davis, Albert S. Johnston and Robert E. Lee are not intended by the university to directly represent exclusion and the institution (and perpetuation) of slavery. Rather, these statues are presumably meant to reveal the pride Southerners feel regarding their legacy of rebellion and independence. Though this rationale is good enough for many, it is not good enough for a collegiate community concerned that certain statues represent blatant racism. 

In 2006, President William Powers, Jr. reacted to student-fueled sentiment regarding the removal of certain statues on campus. “[T]he statues have been here for a long time, and that’s something we have to take into account as well,” said Powers after forming an advisory committee, which to this day has no written proof of action. His argument based on tradition is not wholly dissimilar to arguments made in favor of the continuance of slavery in the 19th century, as well as many other contemporary polarizing social issues, including the fight for workplace equality and same-sex marriage. So why is it an argument that is considered valid in 2014?

We need look no further than into our own University’s history to find a complicated and nuanced relationship with race. We are a university that did not racially integrate until mandated to do so by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1950 Sweatt v. Painter case. We are a university that recently has been an epicenter in the debate over affirmative action, from a Supreme Court case to a controversial on-campus bake sale. Race has been and will continue to be an incredibly sensitive issue, and to deny this would imply revisionist history. 

Anyone who has followed the recent controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins football team’s name can attest to the fact that symbolic imagery is important. Images that were considered benign 50, 20, 10 and perhaps even five years ago have taken on an entirely new meaning in our world of heightened sensitivity, especially with regards to race. All aspects of our proud and often ugly history ought to be taught and learned objectively. But by erecting statues in the names of Jefferson Davis, et al., we are also choosing which figures of our history we prioritize and stand behind. Do we choose to represent the ideals of equality, democracy and the acquisition of power through struggle, or do we choose to represent exclusion and the fight to maintain slavery at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives?

Sundin is an English and radio-television-film senior from San Antonio.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

After a nine-month search by a committee including educators, health professionals and students, the University introduced Clay Johnston as the inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School on Tuesday morning.

Johnston, who studied at Amherst University, Harvard University and the University of California–Berkeley, is currently the associate vice chancellor of research and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the University of California–San Francisco School of Medicine. He will begin serving as dean March 1. 

The Dell Medical School, which went into planning in 2012 and was named last year, is in the final states of design and is expected to receive its first class of students in 2016. President William Powers, Jr. said Johnston was selected in part because of his forward-thinking vision for the school.

“We had a dozen fantastic people from around the country,” Powers said. “This really garnered a great deal of interest from some very high level people. [Johnston] is innovative and open and wants to help design a medical school in a new way. He is very interested in new forms of health care delivery, and he has worked and proven himself in the institute that he heads up — in his ability to work with many stakeholders in a complex situation.”

Johnston said he will try to use his role as dean to advance the way medical schools approach health care, which he believes should be more patient-centric.

“I think medical health care is really at an important juncture right now,” Johnston said. “My vision is to create a medical school that really represents where health care should be going, not where it’s been. That’s the beauty of starting from the ground up and then being able to take a look at how health care is working, how medical centers are working and design them for the next century.”

Unlike the six existing medical institutions within the UT System, which each have their own president, Powers said Dell Medical School will be a unit of the University.

Johnston, who plans to continue treating patients as dean, said all individuals involved in the Dell Medical School project have different expectations for his performance. He said he will be expected to deliver excellent care to patients, create multidisciplinary programs intended to advocate research and turn the school and research hospital into modes for economic development in the community. Johnston said one of the first challenges he faces will be prioritizing these objectives.

“The school is going to do all of those things, but when?” Johnston said. “You can’t do all of those things from day one or year one or even year five. So the biggest challenge is prioritizing amongst these critical goals and making excellent progress in all of these areas but managing the expectations so that people understand that it is impossible to grow this thing, even in five years, to the vision that all of us have for it.”

Robert Messing, vice provost for biomedical sciences and chairman of the search committee, once worked alongside Johnston in the neurology department at UC–San Francisco. Messing said he recommended Johnston and one other individual early in the search process for the dean.

“We were faculty members in the same department, which had more than 120 faculty members and spanned four affiliated hospitals,” Messing said. “Our relationship has always been more professional than personal, and those professional interactions definitely helped me recognize him as a strong candidate. I’ve always been incredibly impressed by him whenever our paths have crossed.”

According to Messing, the search committee unanimously recommended Johnston for the dean position because of his work at UC–San Francisco.

“At UCSF, he’s been the leader of one of the largest Clinical Translation Science Institutes funded by National Institutes of Health, which takes research innovations and translates them to patient care,” Messing said. “And he directs the UCSF Center for Healthcare Value which leverages research and clinical practice to reduce costs, increase value and enable innovation.”

Seton Healthcare Family, which runs several hospitals in Austin, committed $295 million to build a teaching hospital for students enrolled at Dell Medical School last year. UT also has a partnership with Travis County Central Health, a county organization which works to give health care access to Austin’s poor. Last year, Travis County voters approved a property tax increase to support the new medical school and teaching hospital.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst shows a photo of Dinah Might to Normandy Scholars, who have been studying World War II in preparation for their trip to Normandy in May. Dinah Might was the B-26 Marauder flown by his father, Major David Dewhurst, Jr., during World War II.

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

When a drunk driver killed David Dewhurst, Jr., his 3-year-old son, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, was deprived of the opportunity to learn about his father’s past. Nearly 60 years after the accident, Dewhurst learned his father led the final D-Day bombing run at Utah Beach during World War II.

“I always wanted to know more about my dad,” Dewhurst said Wednesday, tearing up. “I always wanted to know what I had missed by not having a father.”

Dewhurst’s father participated in the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. Speaking to a group of students enrolled in the Normandy Scholar Program on World War II, Dewhurst said his mother only told him and his siblings that their father was a pilot during the war, but did not specify his duties. 

The invasion involved about 156,000 Allied troops in Normandy, France. Troops landed over a 50-mile stretch of the French coast by air and by sea at Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches.

The invasion was the largest amphibious invasion in world history and is considered the turning point in World War II, giving the Allies the upper hand. The attack resulted in the loss of about 12,000 Allied troops and between 4,000 and 9,000 German troops, according to the D-Day Museum’s website.

Dewhurst, 67, did not gain further knowledge about his father’s involvement in the war until June 7, 2007, the day after the 63rd anniversary of the Normandy invasion, when he discovered a museum on Utah Beach with an exhibit detailing his father’s mission on D-Day.

“The memorial was to my dad and it had his picture. As you’d imagine, it was pretty emotional,” Dewhurst said. “I probably stood there for an hour. I couldn’t move, I just couldn’t move.”

Dewhurst said the events of that day prompted him to do two things: revitalize the museum, which he and his family have contributed millions of dollars to since that day, and to seek out the remaining members of his father’s outfit.

Dewhurst said he found four of them and, aside from asking about their experience of the war, he asked them to describe his father.

“Of course, not knowing him, I kept asking these four people that had flown with him, that had known him: how he acted, how he reacted, what kind of guy was he?” Dewhurst said. “Did he get mad? How did he handle himself? I knew that he occasionally smoked cigars: id he try to do that on bombing runs? Answer: no, but yes.”

Spending most of his talk relating the story about his father, Dewhurst said many people share similar stories. He told students in the program, who will visit Normandy in May after a semester dedicated to an intense study of World War II, that visiting the battle sites and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial will “make you proud to be an American.”

“It will remind you that freedom is not free,” Dewhurst said.

In “The Aviator’s Wife”, Melanie Benjamin shines a light on the rarely told story of author and aviator Anne Lindbergh, whose accomplishments and personality often fall in the shadow of her husband, Charles Lindbergh. 

Benjamin’s historical fiction novel focuses on the marriage of Anne and Charles Lindbergh. According to the book’s accounts, Lindberghs’ marriage may have begun blissfully, but their relationship slowly descended as time and tragedy wore on them. One of the strongest points of this novel is Benjamin’s ability to sharply contrast the high and low points of the couple’s marriage. After all, the narration begins at the story’s end. In just the first few pages of “The Aviator’s Wife,” Anne Lindbergh learns of Charles Lindbergh’s multiple affairs and Charles is approaching his death. But in the next chapter, Benjamin illuminates the days when Charles and Anne first met: a period full of innocence, flirtation, sweet gestures and hope.

The two marry quickly, and Anne is forced to adapt to a new lifestyle, which includes a persistent American press and a demanding husband. With the press stalking their every move, Charles requires that Anne learn how to fly a plane, and she becomes the first woman to earn a first class glider pilot’s license. In her efforts to please Charles, Anne loses her shyness and becomes more independent and competent. Yet she stays dependent on pleasing Charles, often doing exactly what he says and following his every direction. It is not until later in their marriage that Anne begins to defy and resent Charles. Benjamin writes the novel from Anne’s point of view, and her frequent heartbreak and rage is displayed perfectly on the page.

The Lindberghs’ lives are mixed in with complicated and detailed historical events that they often play a major role in. From the kidnapping and murder of their first child (the “crime of the century”) to the Lindberghs’ self-exile to Germany, Benjamin follows the history with expert eyes. She gives each event appropriate detail and equal coverage. For instance, it would have been easy for Benjamin to focus too much of the novel on the kidnaping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. Instead, Benjamin gives the incident proper play and does an excellent job referring to it throughout the rest of the novel, illustrating the devastating effects it had on Anne and Charles’ marriage. 

Throughout her life, Anne accomplished many things that were ignored and tarnished by her husband. She was a successful aviator and a novelist, yet these accomplishments tend to get lost in the shadow of her husband. “You’re just a mom now,” one of Anne’s children remarks to her during her later years of life. “That’s all I can imagine you as.” With scenes like these, Benjamin does an excellent job showing how Anne’s successful life is often overlooked.

It is frustrating that the novel focuses on telling Anne’s life story through her marriage with her husband. If the point of “The Aviator’s Wife” is to focus on a historical figure who is often ignored, then is it not self-destructive to Benjamin’s purpose to tell that story through the lens of the institution that tied Anne to the man that left her in the shadows? Benjamin could have made the novel stronger if she made the focus more on the aviator’s wife herself and less on the aviator. She could have done this by spending more time on Anne before she met Charles and after Charles died. However, this one weak point is not enough to bring the novel down as a whole, and “The Aviator’s Wife” is still an enjoyable read.

Published on January 23, 2013 as "Novel spotlights oft-forgotten Mrs. Lindbergh, lady aviator". 

Zane Jones, 11, carries a flag during Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Community March on Monday morning. 

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, thousands of people gathered Monday to commemorate King’s legacy in the Annual MLK Community March leading from the UT campus to the Texas Capitol.

The 19th annual citywide celebration, overseen by the Austin Area Heritage Council, began with a program near the MLK statue on the UT campus, where President William Powers Jr. and other guests spoke of King’s legacy. 

“Words are forever diminishing in comparison to the brilliance, and even more than the brilliance, but the power and the call to action of Dr. King,” Powers said.

The Sweet Home Baptist Church choir performed a selection of gospel music on the south steps of the Texas Capitol. The march continued to the MLK Community Festival held at Huston-Tillotson University, a historically black institution affiliated with the United Negro College Fund. 

The MLK Day of Service coincided with President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Michelle Sanders, who attended the event, said the inauguration demonstrates that King’s dream is still alive.

“Now people can sit at the dinner table and tell their children and grandchildren that they can do anything,” Sanders said.

The Capital Area Food Bank asked marchers to donate canned goods or nonperishable food items. 

Nancy Carrales, a volunteer for the food bank, said helping those less fortunate represents one of the many beliefs of Dr. King.

Business junior George Chidiac marched from the East Mall to the Capitol and said the event underscores the fact that the majority of Americans believe in King’s dreams for our country.

“The fact that King gave [the ‘I have a Dream’] speech and it was not just words that were said but actually became true speaks volumes,” Chidiac said. “Anyone can say anything, hope and dream for it but the fact that it happens says a lot about America moving forward.”

Chidiac said dehumanization and suppression are on the decline but inequality will continue to be an issue.  

“There will always be a struggle to looking at each other in a way that we can love our fellow man the way we love ourselves, but we can look at Dr. King’s message and continue to press forward,” he said.

Louis Sims, a participant in the march, said growing up, he felt segregation was just a way of life.

“It was like an oxymoron; we accepted the segregation even though it was not pleasant,” Sims said. “But at least some of the dreams Dr. King envisioned [have] come to fruition.”

Printed on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 as: 19th annual march celebrates MLK 

Fall graduation lacks the pomp and circumstance occasioned by spring commencement, but for students graduating in December, the event is no less monumental. With or without fireworks, graduates will leave the familiarity of campus to confront the challenges and opportunities waiting for them beyond it. That they’re doing so in December rather than May might not make much of a difference for students, but it does make a difference for the University’s much-hyped four-year graduation rate. However, the four-year designation itself is somewhat arbitrary.

The administration’s goal is to have 70 percent of students graduate within four years of their enrollment at UT. Currently, around 70 percent of students graduate within five years, but four-year rates hover around 50 percent. To graduate more students more quickly, the Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates, which was established in 2011 by UT President William Powers, Jr., suggested in its Feb. 15, 2012 report that it may be most effective to focus on students who miss graduating within four years by only one semester — many of whom may be walking across the stage this Saturday. According to the report, “For UT Austin to hit a graduation rate of 70 percent in four years, it would need to lower the time-to-degree [by] a single semester for about 800 students and two semesters for another 400. From that perspective, the task of achieving a 70 percent four-year graduation rate is much less daunting.”

The most recent data cited in the report, which focuses on students who entered college in fall 2006, shows that 50.6 percent of students graduated within four years. A semester later, more than 60 percent had graduated, thanks to the 750 or so who participated in fall commencement. According to the report’s logic, if those 750 students could have graduated a semester earlier, the University would be 10 percent closer to reaching its graduation rate goal.

This change would save students the $5,000 or so they spent on their extra semester and could potentially make available classroom seats for more incoming students. But the report fails to acknowledge that the same argument could be made for increasing 3½-year graduation rates. With increasing opportunities for high school students to earn transferable college credit prior to enrolling at a university, three year or 3½-year college careers are a viable option for many students. If the University enhances summer classes, as the report recommends, this option could become even more accessible to students looking to save time and money on their undergraduate education.

The Task Force’s report also neglects to explain why four years represent the perfect amount of time to spend in college. While in the past it may have taken four years to fit in all the coursework required for degree completion, changes in higher education that allow students to transfer credit from community colleges and online classes — changes the University is helping catalyze, thanks to its recent investment in EdX — are challenging the idea that there is a “correct” number of years in which to graduate.

In an editorial published in the Texan on June 10, President Powers was quoted saying, “We fully recognize that there are things that happen during four years. People change their minds, they want to pursue something else. It is not our philosophy that there is only one way through this university.” Our conclusion: Students graduating this weekend, whether they are doing so early or late, will still be receiving the same degrees as their friends who graduated this past May or will walk the stage next spring — give or take several thousand dollars and a few months. Ultimately, the choice is theirs.

Printed on Friday, December 6, 2012 as: Four isn't necessarily a magic number

This photo from surveillance footage shows Scott Allen Chatagnier on the day he allegedly pulled eight fire alarms in buildings around campus (Photo Courtesy of UTPD).

UT’s fire-alarm bandit, identified last month by police as Scott Allen Chatagnier, Jr., 42, was arrested early Thursday morning after police say he pulled a knife on a bouncer at a downtown bar.

Police said Chatagnier was denied access to Dirty Dog Bar Wednesday night because the doorman there felt Chatagnier was too intoxicated. Chatagnier proceeded to shout some racial slurs at the doorman and then pulled out a pocket knife, police said. The doormen from Dirty Dog Bar and the neighboring bar Coyote Ugly Saloon then tackled Chatagnier and restrained him until police arrived, police said. Police had been searching for Chatagnier since Sept. 13 when a warrant was issued for his arrest in connection with the unnecessary pulling of 11 fire alarms on campus between 2:08 p.m. and 3:53 p.m. Sept. 10 and more alarms at Dobie Mall earlier that day, police said.

Chatagnier’s son, Dillon Scott Chatagnier, was killed in a fire in October of 2010 at the age of 18. His daughter, Karissa Chatagnier, died prior to his son, according to Dillon Chatagnier’s obituary in the Beaumont Enterprise. According to the obituary, Dillion Chatagnier died Oct. 16 in a fire at a camp house in which he sacrificied his life to get his friends out of the burning house. It is unclear if there is any connection between the false alarm reports and the death of Scott Chatagnier’s two chidlren. Chatagnier was unavailable for comment. He remains in the Travis County Jail on $95,000 total bond. 

As a result of the alleged pocket-knife incident, Chatagnier was charged with two second-degree felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, punishable with separate maximum penalties of two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. He was also charged with two class-A misdemeanor counts of false alarm or report for the unnecessary pulling of the alarms, punishable with separate maximum penalties of a fine up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail.

According to the Sept. 13 affidavit, police spotted Chatagnier near campus Sept. 12 and recognized him from images captured by UT and Dobie Mall security cameras Sept. 10 during the false alarm pullings. After being questioned by multiple officials that day, Chatagnier said, “I’m not denying it was me,” when shown a still photograph from the Sept. 10 surveillance. Later that day, a cap resembling the one shown in the still photograph was found at Chatagnier’s apartment. Authorities had been searching for Chatagnier since approval of the warrant Sept. 13. 

Additional reporting by Megan Strickland

Printed on Friday, October 5, 2012 as: Police arrest fire-alarm suspect: Chatagnier charged with allegedly pulling eight alarms

Everyone knows the Top 10 Percent law gives Texas public high school students in that tier automatic admission to UT. But how does the remaining portion of the class — 25 percent as mandated by law — get admitted? What do university admissions officers look for in what’s known as the holistic review process?

The answer is not what you’d expect. In recent years, underrepresented minority students have made up a larger percentage of the automatic admits than those admitted under holistic review. According to data provided by the Office of Admissions, from 2007 through 2011, UT admitted lower percentages of African American and Latino students through holistic review than through automatic admission. For example, in 2010 and 2011, 6 percent of automatic admissions were granted to black students, while only 5 percent of holistic review admissions were granted to black students. The same trend stands for 2008 and 2009, but it is even more dramatic for Latinos. In 2010, 28 percent of automatically admitted students were Latino, while only 12 percent of holistic review admits were Latinos. In 2011, 29 percent of automatic admits were Latino and 14 percent of holistic review admissions went to Latino students.

Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission in 2008, sued the University, alleging that it discriminated against her on the basis of race. Her case is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 10.

According to Fisher and her supporters, white applicants are disadvantaged by holistic review. But the numbers show that white applicants benefited considerably from holistic review. In 2011, 41 percent of automatic and 58 percent of holistic review admissions went to white students. The same trend was seen each year from 2007 to 2010.

In other words, UT did not use its holistic review process to admit higher percentages of underrepresented minorities than earned automatic admission. Instead, the university granted drastically higher percentages of holistic review admissions to white students.

The Supreme Court established in its 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, the most recent affirmative action case about higher education to reach the high court, that race may be considered as a factor in admissions as long as schools do not use a quota system. In a recent interview with The Daily Texan, UT President William Powers, Jr. responded to Fisher’s supporters’ allegations that UT violates the Grutter precedent by using a de facto quota system to match the racial composition of its student body with that of the state of Texas. “That’s incorrect,” Powers said. “It is true that African Americans and Latinos are underrepresented. When we say underrepresented, we mean there’s not sufficient diversity in the classrooms and on the campus.”

The recently released numbers seem to prove Powers’ underlying point. For the past five incoming classes, UT has not used its holistic review process to let in higher percentages of minority students; it has done just the opposite by admitting vastly higher percentages of white students and considerably lower percentages of minority students than were granted automatic admission.

Fisher’s lawyer, Burt Rein, agrees that UT’s holistic admissions don’t achieve diversity. He also notes that Fisher’s brief makes the point that not all holistic admissions are about race. He told the Texan in an interview, “It’s very difficult to say if you look at the statistics how much of a contribution to their goal of diversity UT achieves through this use of race. We looked at it [racial composition data] prior to the use of race, and subsequently, and there’s a very small difference in the percentage of minorities admitted … The number of people who could actually attribute their entry to the use of race was very small. Is this policy just a way to label everyone by race? There’s an irony in the case. Texas law has been changed to cap Top 10 Percent admissions at 75 percent [of an incoming class], but if the case is not successful for UT the cap is removed. The effect is letting the top ten percent expand, therefore increasing the number of minorities admitted.”

Kedra Ishop, vice provost and director of admissions for UT- Austin, affirms the necessity of holistic review for a wide range of reasons, including diversity. In an email, Ishop wrote, “The Top Ten Percent rule has helped with diversity, that is not a matter for debate.

However it is also important that the university assemble its class along a broad range of individual characteristics, not just class rank. Employers don’t hire based on GPA; neither should a university accept 100 percent of its students on a single criteria [sic]. The holistic review process for those not automatically admissible is a complement to the Top Ten Percent plan, enabling the university to assemble a class that is broadly diverse and academically excellent.”

About the recent trends shown in holistic review admissions data, Ishop writes: “The statistics to which you refer highlight the fact that the use of race as a part of holistic review may benefit any student — black, Hispanic, white or Asian. This is not a quota system.”

Confusing, yes, but by our reckoning the numbers challenge the arguments made by both UT and Fisher. Both of them hinge on the constitutionality of favoring minority students in the holistic review process. UT argues that the use of race ranks as one of many factors, considered by its admissions officials when holistically reviewing applicants with the interest of increasing campus diversity. Fisher argues that UT’s admissions policy constitutes racial discrimination against white applicants. But if UT officials really are trying to give minority students a leg up through holistic review, they’re not doing a very effective job. UT’s murky explanation of how it admits students conflicts with the straightforward proposition that the Top Ten Percent rule has made to high school students all over the state: Get good grades and you can go to UT-Austin.

This is not a private school, and while other public schools maintain more selective holistic review, the Top Ten Percent rule is fair. Fisher challenges that UT’s holistic review results in a racist policy. But, based on the numbers, we conclude that UT doesn’t just want to admit more racially diverse students; it wants control over who to admit.