Kay Bailey Hutchison

Kay Bailey Hutchison, former senator and president of the Texas Exes, spoke at the KBH Center Symposium Friday. The symposium offered an interdisciplinary take on Mexican energy issues, exploring UT’s potential role in drilling opportunities in Mexico.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison spoke at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on Friday during the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center’s Symposium on North American energy security, an event designed to discuss geopolitical issues in North American energy. The symposium was part of UT Energy Week, a conference showcasing emerging research in the energy field. Hutchison discussed about the future of energy technologies and the effects of the energy reforms in Mexico. After the event, Hutchison sat down with The Daily Texan for a Q&A.   

Daily Texan: Where did the idea for the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center come from, and what unique perspective does a multidisciplinary study of the industry with business, law and engineering have to offer, specifically?

Former senator Kay Bailey Hutchison: Honestly, John Beckworth, associate dean of the UT law school, thought of a joint business and law school energy center. I immediately loved it because I have been general counsel of a corporation, and I know so often that the business people do not understand the legal needs to make sure everything in the transaction is right. Conversely, sometimes the lawyers do not understand the needs of the business people to complete a transaction in a timely way so that they do not lose their deal or their customer. So, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to have a joint center where law students in the energy field would learn about the business side and the business students would understand the legal side. [The Center] also has a particular focus on Latin America and the differences in the laws and legal systems. This could be very helpful for somebody who wants to explore or produce energy in another country. It was a perfect fit, and when they decided to name it after me, I was thrilled. 

DT: How would you gauge the success of the KBH center in achieving the goals that you mentioned?

KBH: Well, we have only been created since last summer, but we have come such a long way in a very short time. I think this inaugural symposium has been a huge success. We have had Mel Martínez, the former senator and cabinet member, and Bob Jordan, the former ambassador from the United States to Saudi Arabia. They have given great insights on international energy. Mel is the chairman of J.P. Morgan Latin America, so he showed us the corporate side. Bob Jordan was insightful because Saudi Arabia is doing so much right now to affect the price of oil globally. He also had some good insights on the new king and the new hierarchy in Saudi Arabia. The symposium has been a wonderful success. The panels have been good, the questions have been good. The audience is really asking questions and that is what you want in a good conference. 

DT: Has the KBH Center participated in the debate regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline?

KBH: I am a total supporter of the Keystone Pipeline, myself, but we have not taken a real position on that. It has been discussed in the symposium, and the [Obama] administration was represented here by an assistant secretary of state. The question has come up: Why would we not have a Keystone pipeline? Many in the room think that it would be an environmentally safer way to transport oil from Canada than the trucks that we are having to build new highways to accommodate. So that has been a real debate here and it has been very relevant.

DT: At a panel earlier this week, during UT’s Energy Week, experts agreed that for some issues, such as energy storage, regulatory agencies have fallen behind in developing regulation. Has the center tackled any of these issues and did you encounter any of these issues as a senator?

KBH: Absolutely. As a senator I encountered the new energy innovations. With solar energy, the biggest problem with using it was that it was so cyclical, and we could not store it. Even natural gas for cars. There has been so much that has emerged just in the last 10 years. I think the regulators are certainly trying to keep up with what is necessary in the regulatory field, but it is a work in progress. 

DT: Could you talk about some specific ways that you helped regulatory agencies catch up?

KBH: Well, for sure, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center will be able to shed light on what is coming up in regulation in terms of what might be needed, what might not be needed, what would be a better way to regulate. We want to allow for creativity to grow and progress. [We] do not want to stifle creativity by regulating something that is not there yet because it is not ready. There has to be balance to assure that the new kinds of energy, clean energy especially, are not regulated to death before they are able to be useful. For instance, the lack of battery storage for solar panels is a problem. If we allowed battery storage we would be able to run manufacturing plants consistently rather than have to lessen output in peak hours. Battery storage is an area where the federal government is doing more research and it’s very important to develop that. But, we want to make sure that as we do, there are environmental rules that assure that we are doing it safely and in an environmentally friendly way. We want the creativity to emerge so we can start using solar energy more efficiently. The new technologies would apply in other areas as well.

DT: Obama has supported an all-of-the-above policy that supports natural gas as well as nuclear and other forms of energy. So, a lot of different forms of energy are being researched. What energy innovation are you most excited about?

KBH: I think it is essential to make sure that we are getting the oil and gas in an environmentally correct way so that we become energy independent. It is going to make us more competitive globally because our businesses will have lower-cost energy. This is an area where America has led. We creatively produce new ways to get oil and natural gas out of the ground and out of the water. So, I think oil and natural gas is probably the biggest area where we can move forward and truly towards energy independence. Solar power and wind power are also very promising. We do not have the mechanics yet to make it a big percentage of our energy use, but Texas is doing quite a bit in wind, as well as solar, and it is very efficient once it is up and going. If we could get the battery storage, it is going to be a real part of our overall energy independence. I am excited about that, and I am excited about Texas’ role in producing these new options. 

There is also another option — using currents in the oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. [We] can use currents to generate energy for use on land. That is something that is being experimented in the Galveston-Houston Area. The University of Houston is doing work in that area, as well as others.

DT: Today’s symposium has an international focus of stabilizing North America’s energy. What are specific energy initiatives in Mexico by Mexicans, Americans or private actors that you look forward to see implemented?

KBH: The exciting part of energy in Mexico is that they are opening it up. It used to be just PEMEX, the national oil company, that was able to produce oil and gas in Mexico. But President Nieto has certainly made strides in saying, “We want to open it up, we want foreign investment and we want more out of the ground, as well as the Gulf of Mexico.” He is making it happen, and the [Mexican Legislature] is going along with it, and they are in the regulatory stage now. I think the American companies are going to want to be a part of this. They are going to want to work, in some cases, with PEMEX, and, in some cases, independently. [The companies] are going to bid on leases in the northern part of Mexico that would be the continuation of the Eagle Ford find in South Texas that we think continues on in North Mexico. But also, in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a lot of opportunity. American and European countries are bidding and winning in the Gulf of Mexico for drilling in the deep water, but it is very expensive so that may be down the road because the price of oil is so low right now. But, the big question mark out there is safety and the drug cartels. No foreign company is going to want to come in if they are not going to be able to be safe and also be able to do business in a transparent way because we have laws that require that. This large criminal element in the drug cartels is really hurting so much of the tourism in Mexico, most certainly, and in some ways, business as well. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Panelists discussed the current state of American government and the influence of  extreme partisan divides at the "Can the Center Hold?" keynote discussion at the 2014 Tribune Festival on Saturday.

Former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley; Jon Huntsman, former ambassador to China and Utah governor; former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison; Ron Kirk, former U.S. trade representative and Dallas mayor; and Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta spoke on the panel, moderated by Evan Smith, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune.

While the panelists have varying backgrounds and levels of experience in politics, they all agreed the current system of government is broken.

Bradley said the problem with today’s government is the partisan division in Congress.

“I don’t know a president who isn’t thinking like an executive,” Bradley said. “They want to get things done. The problem is Congress. You will never defeat power except by power.”

According to Hutchison, who currently serves as president of the Texas Exes alumni association, the party division in the Senate poses a problem.

“I think it is the polarization and the toxicity,” Hutchison said. “I think the Senate, which was very carefully crafted to be the adult in the room in the whole balance of powers, has lost that role. One of the things that protected that was, and this is a different issue, was the two-thirds rule and the 60 percent rules, where you really couldn’t do anything without a supermajority.”

Advocating for an open primary system in Texas, Hutchison also said she thinks the existing primary system in America is broken and contributes to the heavy party divide in Congress.

“If we are going to have the primaries the way they are today, in Texas especially, you do have the appeal to the very narrow primary voters,” Hutchison said. “People who want a different track need to vote in the primaries. Look at the competitive races you care about. You need to vote in that primary so you can ask for a broader appeal.”

According to Reed, the national division that exists between parties is not as prevalent on smaller governmental levels, making city government positions ideal for individuals who want to see action.

“The kind of hyper-partisanship that goes on nationally is not happening in cities, thank goodness,”  Reed said. “Because of that, you’re going to see more highly talented people put their energy and their passion into cities.”

According to Huntsman, who ran for president in the 2012 race but said he has no presidential aspirations for 2016, Congress' mentality needs to mirror that of city government.

“I would say part of our longer term fix is how do you change the culture, the ethos on capitol hill from anger, animosity and acrimony to problem solving?” Huntsman said. “In order to do that, you have to infuse in people who believe in problem solving and then give them something to do.”

Kirk said he thinks the rise in prominence of social media has caused a shift in political culture.

“I think the explosion of social media changes everything,” Kirk said. “We now all get a peek behind the curtains that we didn’t get before – giving more strength to those who are villains.”

Kirk also said the country ought to have a third, moderate party. 

Reed said he is optimistic that change will come.

“Just about every great revolution in the world was started by someone in their 20s or 30s,” Kirk said. “It wasn’t a bunch of 60-year-olds sitting around pontificating about how life used to be.”

Kay Bailey Hutchison speaks at a conference on research in Dallas Tuesday, June 4.

Photo Credit: Bobby Blanchard | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: Associate Editor Noah Horwitz currently works with Jason Fuller, Hutchison's former regional director. Horwitz was not involved in any way in the planning, writing or editing of this editorial.

Last Monday Kay Bailey Hutchison was named president of the Texas Exes, UT’s 100,000-member alumni association. It came to us as a pleasant surprise that the former United States Senator had found a way to re-establish a personal relationship with the University from which she graduated twice and for which she has fought across her career. 

The position of president of the Exes brings with it a number of challenges. Unlike most public university alumni associations, the Exes are not officially affiliated with the University. That frees the group from restrictions on petitioning the Legislature and thus broadens the scope of its leadership. Scarcely can its president shy away from the spotlight and hang his or her hat on the title. In addition to making the rounds of the private donor circuit, the organization’s chief fundraiser must also work the political machine inside the Capitol, firing the cylinders of philanthropic muscle while also greasing the wheels of checks-and-balances friction.

That friction, while to a certain extent inevitable, has increased as a result of the past few years of discord between the Legislature and the University. Two sessions ago, legislators made massive cuts to higher education appropriations that sent the University reeling. Since then, those wrongs have been partially righted, but the wound of the Wallace Hall-initiated public relations disaster has been torn open in its place. The UT System regent has been in the news for more than a year for his sweeping open records requests of the University and now his possible impeachment. In addition, just last week it was reported that UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa had given an ultimatum to our very popular president, William Powers Jr., to resign or risk being fired.

With the terrain rockier than ever, Hutchison will have to exercise great finesse to find her footing in the new position. However, we expect she will rise to the occasion with ease thanks to her decades of experience in the U.S. Senate and her tireless advocacy for both the state of Texas as a whole as well as higher education more specifically. Already, she has shown her leadership skills and commitment to the University by condemning Cigarroa's recent actions in an email to the Exes.

During her time in the Senate, Hutchison unabashedly sought to maximize the state’s take of federal dollars for local projects. While this earned her scorn from some in her own party, she never backed down from her commitment to the people of Texas, casting her divergence from the dominant anti-earmarking sentiment of the Republican Party as a safer bet than leaving the state at the mercy of federal bureaucrats. 

More importantly, though, Hutchison understands the importance of statesmanship and compromise. While she always disliked being labeled a moderate, it seemed the only fitting descriptor for a senator who eschewed hyperpartisan brinkmanship and embraced across-the-aisle outreach at a time of increasing division, bitterness and rancor.

We think the skills Hutchison displayed in Washington, and more recently here in Texas, will serve her well in her work for the 40 Acres. The University needs them now more than ever.

Kay Bailey Hutchison speaks at a conference on research in Dallas Tuesday, June 4.

Photo Credit: Bobby Blanchard | Daily Texan Staff

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison took office as the president of the Texas Exes alumni association on July 1.

Hutchison, who is 71 years old and a former UT cheerleader, will lead the organization of more than 100,000 UT alumni for the next year. Hutchison said she will use her position to protect the University and its relevance to the state.

“This is a time where I think all of us who love the University need to come together to assure that the value of our diploma and the value of UT to the state of Texas is not diminished,” Hutchison said.

Tim Taliaferro, Texas Exes spokesman, called Hutchison’s involvement an honor for the University and the association.

“It’s just a point of pride, regardless of your politics. She’s the kind of person that Texas Exes are proud to associate with,” Taliaferro said.

Hutchison earned an undergraduate degree from the University in 1962 and graduated from the School of Law in 1967. Hutchison said her love of the University motivated her to accept the position.

“I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it with the other things I’m doing, but I decided that it was so important that we all try to promote our University and give back where we can,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison was the first woman to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate, serving there for 20 years before retiring in 2013. Hutchison has also served in the U.S. House of Representatives and as state treasurer.

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Business and Law, a joint center of School of Law and McCombs School of Business, was recently named in her honor. She is also a member of the UT Law School Foundation Board of Trustees and the UT Southwestern Medical Foundation Board of Trustees.

“We are proud that such a wonderful public servant who has a long and cherished relationship with the University is going to continue her legacy of service by leading the Texas Exes,” UT spokesman J.B. Bird said.

Hutchison, who has been supportive of Powers, said she hopes the University can move past controversies that have strained relations with the UT System leadership.

“I think the leadership of the Texas Exes has been excellent and the past presidents with whom I’ve met are all very supportive of assuring that the controversies don’t cause any lessening of the value of our diploma, the value of UT to the state of Texas, and the enthusiasm of our alumni,” Hutchison said.

Robert T. Alexander, an Austin attorney and lifetime Texas Exes member, said he was happy with the selection.

“She is without a doubt the classiest lady — she loves this university,” Alexander said.

Hutchison, the seventh female president in the alumni association’s 125-year history, said she is looking forward to the year ahead leading the organization.

"We have the greatest group of chapters all over the state,” she said. “I think we have to get through this and just stay steady in our support of UT.”

When Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senior U.S. Senator from Texas, retires at the end of this legislative session, we will have a front-row seat to a marked shift in the Texas Republican Party. Likely to replace her is Republican nominee Ted Cruz, a Tea Party favorite who currently leads his opponent, Democrat Paul Sadler, by nearly a 2-1 margin. While both the senator and her likely successor are Republicans, a comparison of Hutchison’s legislative record with Cruz’s goals highlights the contrast between them.

Hutchison, a former UT cheerleader who graduated at 19 and obtained a law degree five years later, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1993. During her 19 years in that office, Hutchison stood with the GOP on most issues, voting with the majority of Republicans almost 90 percent of the time, according to The Washington Post. She invariably supported the oil and gas industry at the expense of environmental protection, and voted for an outright constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. She also voted to exclude sexual orientation from hate crimes criteria. However, her breaks with recent trends in the Republican Party show that she isn’t as through-and-through conservative as many of her colleagues.

Hutchison’s voting record presents a mixed bag on the issue of abortion. She consistently voted for strict restrictions on abortion and contraceptives, but supported Roe v. Wade and repeatedly voted against efforts to prohibit the practice altogether. In a 1993 Senate debate, she argued for restricted but legal abortions up to the third trimester, saying, “I’m not for abortion … The question is, should I make that decision for you, and that’s where I come down on the other side.” In 2003, she told the Dallas Morning News, “I’ve always said that I think that women should have the ability to make that decision, even if I disagree with it.”

The most striking departure from others in her party, however, was her openness toward government spending. In contrast to the Republican holy war on earmarked funds, a major talking point for some Republicans, Hutchison unabashedly sought a great deal of pork barrel government money for her home state. In 2008 and 2009 alone, she claimed almost half a billion dollars in earmarks for spending in Texas and was outspoken in her support of the practice. “I’m proud of being able to garner Texans’ fair share of their tax dollars,” she said in 2009.
Hutchison has also enthusiastically supported federal funding for higher education in Texas. Her website proudly proclaims that  she “has worked to move Texas from sixth in the nation in federal research funding to third.”

That friendly view toward government spending combined with her relatively moderate stance on abortion crippled Hutchison in a 2010 run for Texas governor. Although she was the early frontrunner by a large margin, incumbent governor Rick Perry succeeded in portraying her as a pro-choice, liberal spender and himself as a fiscally and socially conservative alternative to retain the governor’s office for another term. Hutchison had difficulty adapting to an electorate that had turned from predominantly moderate “country club Republicans” to right-wing ideologues, and she lost big. That defeat was more or less the end of her career on the national stage.

Two years later, Hutchison has confirmed her long-rumored retirement and opened up her seat for the next generation. Tea Party Republican Ted Cruz is the overwhelming favorite after his defeat of the GOP establishment’s preferred candidate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in the Republican primary. Cruz, by finding room to the right of the Republican leadership in one of the reddest states in the country, represents a new breed of conservative. Unlike Hutchison, he supports a repeal of Roe v. Wade, calling it a “shameful decision,” and opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. He also proposes the complete elimination of the Department of Education, which would end federal financial aid for college students. Furthermore, Texas can kiss the gravy train of government spending it enjoyed under Hutchison goodbye. In a recent interview with Texas Monthly, Cruz said, “I am absolutely opposed to earmarks. When 435 members of Congress and all 100 members of the Senate go to Washington and view their jobs as feeding at the public trough, that’s how we bankrupt our country, and I don’t think Texans want their senator to be part of that.”

Being a fiscal conservative is one thing, and earmarked spending can certainly be taken too far, but completely cutting off federal support for states and students in a weak economy makes no sense.

It’s a shame that Hutchison is retiring, because she’s the kind of senator Texas needs right now. As she rides into the sunset, a less open-minded generation of Republicans takes her place. That means all the federal spending that brought jobs and growth to Texas, and much-needed help to students, will soon be a thing of the past. That should be cause for concern.

Texas Tribune CEO and editor-in-chief Evan Smith speaks with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library Monday evening. Hutchison, a senior Republican senator and a UT alumna, stated her desire to see higher education improve in Texas in the next few years without cutting the funds for academic research.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

As her 19 years in the United States Senate come to a close, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison reflected on a career of public service and offered her take on higher education at the LBJ Presidential Library on Monday evening.

Hutchison, the senior Republican senator from Texas and a UT alumna, participated in a discussion with Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune. On several occasions Hutchison said quality higher education is necessary for Texas to compete in the global economy. An official said 450 people attended the event.

“For Texas, I want our state to be known and respected as a high-quality academic higher education-providing state,” Hutchison said. “I think the number of major companies that move here want an educated workforce. They want the research capabilities to do public-private partnerships and have great research, and they want students who have been around great research and great programs.”

Last year, Gov. Rick Perry challenged colleges and universities to develop degrees that cost no more than $10,000. Proponents of the $10,000 degree, including the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a nonprofit conservative think tank with ties to Perry, have also questioned the efficiency of research in higher education.

At the event, Hutchison said research plays a necessary and valuable role at major universities in Texas.

“I think that any talk of devaluing research is not productive and it is hurting our image,” Hutchison said. “We need to say, ‘Look, I’m not against experimenting with 4-year, $10,000 degrees, but you don’t do it at flagships.’”

Hutchison was first elected in 1993, making her the first woman to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate. After three consecutive re-elections, Hutchison announced in 2011 that she would not seek another term. Republican candidate Ted Cruz and Democratic candidate Paul Sadler are currently running to fill Hutchison’s seat.

History junior Taylor Guerrero said she hopes Hutchison’s successor will learn from her willingness to work across party lines.

“I think the next senator should be able to work in a bipartisan manner and to represent Texas the best that they can instead of just representing a certain percentage of Texans,” Guerrero said.

Hutchison said she has no plans to seek public office again but will continue to advocate the issues that matter most to her and to the state of Texas. Hutchison said one of those issues is seeing more universities in Texas gain Tier One status, which identifies schools with significant research programs but has no concrete definition.

“California has nine, New York has seven and we have three,” Hutchison said. “That’s not enough. We need to have three more, and we need to put the money into three more.”

Texas’ current Tier One schools are UT-Austin, A&M University and Rice University.

The crowd at the event included those not politically aligned with Hutchison.

“I decided to come out because of my interest in politics,” government senior Justin Perez said. “Even though I’m a Democrat, I think it’s important to hear what others have to say.”

Printed on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 as: Sen. set on education

 When meandering through the West Mall, one is certain to catch a glimpse of dozens of vibrant student organizations fundraising, informing and advocating for a variety of causes. While these student organizations excel at spreading their messages, many groups are forgetting to use our city’s most important asset to cause the change they wish to see. At an impressive 308 feet, the Texas Capitol puts the Washington, D.C. capitol building to shame. The 150 state representatives and 31 state senators are not simply in office to pass questionable legislation; they are here for our use, too.

On the weekend of Oct. 22, alongside a number of students from around the country, I lobbied at the D.C. offices of U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison to co-sponsor the Syria Sanctions Act of 2011. Though the senators receive lobbyists often, they rarely encounter lobbyists from Texas. While I was fortunate to experience lobbying in our nation’s capital, I still have access to an entire network of influential politicians in Austin, as do the rest of us. UT students need to place a greater importance on lobbying our representatives and senators to achieve the changes we often discuss and rally behind.

Voting is the main mechanism Americans use to select their representatives and have their voices heard. However, after the results of the election are published and many of our chosen politicians lose, apathy begins to invade our system. Americans aged 18 to 24 are generally considered politically apathetic. This stereotype often proves true, as the Economist cites that only 24 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted in the 2010 midterm. As a result, politicians do little to cater to this demographic, and many of the political issues we find important, including higher education reform and the international crises and efforts that so many of us advocate in West Mall, are not priorities. Increased voting and campaign participation may demonstrate the youth’s interests in politics, but a more influential demonstration is lobbying. Entering a politician’s office and demanding that our voices be heard is the most powerful message we can transmit.

Lobbying seems a daunting task, involving business-casual dress, concrete facts about current and previous legislation and, the most intimidating of all, interacting with members of the governing elite. However, normal citizens interacting with these elites is vital to the democratic process. While the lure of continued reelection is a powerful motivator to ensure that our elected officials represent our viewpoints, decisions on which pieces of legislation to create or support falls to these representatives. Furthermore, if one’s elected officials’ political views fail to align with one’s own views, important issues will remain unresolved, ignored or mishandled.

Lobbying gives the average citizen an opportunity to communicate which issues are of importance and to educate our elected officials, who often are ill-informed. In D.C., my colleagues and I made our appeals to one of Hutchison’s staffers and one of Cornyn’s staffers. The senators use these employees to research legislation, investigate domestic and international conflicts and inform policy choices. As many of the staffers are recent college graduates, lobbyists who procide information about complicated, convoluted issues can immensely benefit policy decisions.

While lobbying itself is a powerful action, what you do while lobbying also influences policy makers. Bringing along petitions with hundreds of signatures or dozens of hand-written letters urging representatives to take action or delivering a giant, hand-painted banner, as we did in D.C., further demonstrates one’s commitment to an issue. The trick of this political game is to raise your voice loud enough so the representatives have no choice but to listen.

The results of my lobbying experience were fruitful, as we better educated the staffers on the situation in Syria, argued persuasive points as to why the senators should co-sponsor the legislation and warned of repeated follow-ups until our demands were met. Both staffers responded positively, and our cause has now advanced. If student activists at UT realize the importance of lobbying our policy makers and take their protests from West Mall to the Capitol, they may begin to effect change.

Waliany is a Plan II and government senior.

News Briefly

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will receive the Inaugural Annette Strauss Texas Leadership Award on Feb. 22.

The Annette Strauss Texas Leadership Award reflects the standards of civil service established by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation. The group chose to honor Hutchison for her civic contributions, according to the Institute.

“She was a person who knew Mayor Strauss and worked with her in Dallas. And when we started the institution 10 years ago, even though they were of opposite political affiliations, she was gracious enough to endorse us,” said College of Communications Dean Roderick Hart, who chairs the Annette Strauss Institute.

The award ceremony coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the nonpartisan organization.

“This an attempt to dramatize the importance of civic engagement,” Hart said.

The proceeds of the ceremony will go to the organization’s education fund, which promotes scholastic outreach to secondary and collegiate learning.

The selection process for the award is entirely nonpartisan, Hart said.

The fourth-term senator will receive the award upon the premise of her civic commitment to the public and her demonstration of leadership within her community. Hutchison announced in January that she will not seek another term in 2012.

The presidents of UT’s three student governance organizations selected U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison as the commencement speaker for the May 21 event on the Main Mall. The senator will speak at a UT graduation ceremony for the second time. Hutchison also addressed the graduating class of 1998. As an alumna of the class of 1962, law school graduate and former cheerleader, Hutchison agreed to speak to the University at no charge. “It is particularly gratifying to be able to speak to the graduates of my alma mater,” Hutchison said, in a statement. “Like so many generations of UT graduates, life’s challenges and potential awaits them.” Student Government President Scott Parks, Graduate Student Assembly President Manny Gonzalez and Senate of College Councils President Chelsea Adler decided that Hutchison should speak at the ceremony because of her UT background and her career. Adler said the trio attended meetings in President William Powers’s office starting last summer to come to a decision. “It was an informal consensus,” Adler said. “Hutchison was on the list from the beginning.” While Parks, Adler and Gonzalez had the final say, Adler said the bodies of students that each president led suggested other potential commencement speakers. Powers also had oversight of the decision. Adler said Powers met Hutchison and said he was sure that there was no chance of the senator turning the opportunity into a political situation. “We see her as a Longhorn first and a Republican second,” Adler said. “She’s not quite as polarizing as other politicians.” Notable speakers from past commencements include President Lyndon B. Johnson and computer pioneer Michael Dell. Actress Marcia Gay Harden spoke last year. College Republicans President Justin May said he thinks Hutchison is the best choice for speaker in his four years at UT. May said he thinks Hutchison is one of the more bipartisan politicians. University Democrats President Billy Calve said he looks forward to hearing Hutchison’s remarks. “Commencement is a time to celebrate the achievements of UT graduates and put partisan politics aside,” Calve said.

Eight UT students will join a statewide hunger strike in support of the DREAM Act. Their primary aim for the strike is to urge Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, to support the legislation, they said. The DREAM Act would guarantee a pathway to permanent legal residency for undocumented students who came to the U.S. before the age of 16, have no criminal record and spend two years in college or the military. A group of UT-San Antonio students have been on a hunger strike since Nov. 10. “The DREAM Act is not an amnesty bill; it will only benefit those that will contribute back to this country,” said chemistry freshman Adrian Reyna, a member of undocumented student and allies group University Leadership Initiative. “We will strike until we have a response — a response in favor not of us, but in favor of this country.” U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced last week that he would push for the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill in hopes of passing it during the lame-duck session. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., set it to appear before the House on Nov. 29. Although Hutchison has expressed support for the DREAM Act in the past, she said that she will not vote for it in its current form, claiming it is too far-reaching and may benefit those who do not actually graduate from U.S. high schools. The hunger strikes will not affect her position on the legislation, said Hutchison spokeswoman Courtney Sanders. “The senator’s position on the current legislation remains the same, but she has expressed her concern for the safety and welfare of the students who are pursuing the hunger strike,” Sanders said in a statement. “The senator appreciates their passion but strongly believes that they should pursue safer and more constructive methods of promoting their cause.” The UT students who are participating in the hunger strike said they will continue their strike indefinitely until Hutchison agrees to support the legislation or until the U.S. Senate takes a vote. “We feel like we have done pretty much everything else — letter writing, phone banking, rallies, press conferences,” said civil engineering senior Loren Campos, ULI president and an undocumented student. “We hope the hunger strike will create the urgency necessary to let Hutchison know that there is a support base of Texans here and across the state that want her to vote for the DREAM Act as it is.”