Despite attack site, state Sen. Robert Nichols maintains moral high ground

As the Texas Observer reported on Tuesday, an attack site has been launched against state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, that derides his supposed liberalism. This despite any upcoming election battle for Nichols in the next three years. According to the Observer's Christopher Hooks, "It seems likely that the site comes from the Tim Dunn/Michael Quinn Sullivan messaging network."

On the website,, Nichols is slammed for supporting a so-called "dark money bill" last session, which would have forced political nonprofits, like Sullivan's pet projects, to disclose their donors. Nichols is also castigated for supporting a bill from last session, authored by Senate Higher Education Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, which would have clarified that regents do not have the power to fire university presidents over the objections of pertinent chancellors. That bill, of course, was filed in response to the spats between UT Regent Wallace Hall and President William Powers Jr. Sullivan, unsurprisingly, firmly took the side of the former.  

The Observer article notes that Nichols is no liberal Republican, no matter what the crazies from the fringe of his party may have you believe. It points to a recent post-session analysis by Rice University Professor Mark P. Jones that ranked him as the sixth most conservative member of the upper house. 

Of course, if Hooks is right, this would not be Sullivan's first attempt to defeat Republicans against whom he has a personal vendetta, under the cloak of partisan purity. He largely spearheaded the defeat of former state Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, for similar reasons in last year's primary. 

However, Sullivan has his limits when it comes to deposing otherwise popular but pragmatic representatives. As I noted last year in a Texan column, Sullivan previously set his sights on two House members who are vocal allies of Speaker Joe Straus: Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, and Jim Effer, R-Eastland. At the time, it remained to be seen how successful his guerilla tactics would be against this vaunted incumbents.  

The month after that column was published, both Cook and Keffer demolished their respective Sullivan-backed opponents in the Republican primary, going to show that, no matter how much dark money you have at your disposal, sometimes a popular incumbent is just too popular. 

All signs point to Nichols indeed being so popular. As the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, he is respected by both parties for working diligently to solve our growing state's issues with gridlock. As a representative for a rural district consisting of 19 counties, he is also a fighter for his constituents.  

What he is not a fighter for, though, are shady zealots. It has earned him some enemies, but I bet when the next election rolls around, it will earn him some friends, too.  

Horwitz is senior associate editor. 

Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, speaks with the press after a regular board meeting on April 30. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Paul Foster, UT System Board of Regents chairman, and Regent Jeffery Hildebrand said they "strongly disagreed" with Moody's Investor Services determining recent tensions in the System were “credit negative” in a recent analysis.

"It is important to point out that the UT System not only holds an Aaa rating – the highest possible rating from Moody’s – but also AAA ratings from Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor’s Corporation," Foster and Hildebrand said in a joint statement.

Released on Monday, Moody's analysis determined recent conflicts within the System, such a house committee's recent censure of Regent Wallace Hall in August, warranted the “credit negative” since they could affect the System’s financial position and the ability of the University to attract top-level candidates to replace President William Powers Jr. 

The System announced in July that Powers had reached an agreement with Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to step down from his position in June 2015. The deal was made after Cigarroa originally asked Powers to resign in October.

In their statement, Foster and Hildebrand said a search committee will soon be announced to find “distinguished and capable” candidates for University president and cited the regents' selection of Naval Adm. William McRaven as sole finalist to replace Cigarroa. In December, Cigarroa will step down to return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The board is expected to officialy name McRaven as the System's next chancellor at its meeting on Thursday.

House transparency committee co-chairs and state Reps. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and Dan Flynn, R-Canton, address the media after a meeting on May 12. The committee determined by a 7-1 vote that there are sufficient grounds for UT System Regent Wallace Hall's impeachment. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations co-chairs sent a letter on Monday to Paul Foster, UT System Board of Regents chairman, asking the board not to make any employment decisions with witnesses in its investigation into Regent Wallace Hall.

The letter – written by state Reps. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and Dan Flynn, R-Canton – comes in response to media reports over the weekend that Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa asked President William Powers Jr. on July 2 to either resign or be removed from his position by the Board of Regents. In a letter to Cigarroa, Powers said he wanted to resign after the 2015 legislative session.

Powers testified before the transparency committee in December 2013. On July 4, UT spokesman Gary Susswein declined to comment on Powers' potential removal.

Cigarroa’s decision comes weeks after he decided the System will hire an outside firm to conduct a new investigation into the University’s admissions process. In May, a limited inquiry conducted by two System officials into legislative influence on admissions found no structured system of wrongdoing but found instances in which letters of recommendation sent directly to Powers or a dean likely influenced admissions decisions.

In an interview with The Daily Texan in June, Flynn said he supported the new investigation.

According to the regents’ agenda for their upcoming meeting on Thursday, they will discuss Powers’ employment in executive session and will take action on a report on admissions from Cigarroa.

While Cigarroa has not yet publically cited a reason for asking Powers to resign, the committee co-chairs said no witnesses should not be removed “absent compelling justification.”

Citing that future testimony may be needed, the co-chairs said the regents should take no action because it could “affect the availability of witnesses.”

The transparency committee has been investigating Hall since June 2013 after state legislators accused him of overstepping his authority through large records request to the University and working with other regents to remove Powers from his position. The committee determined grounds for Hall’s impeachment exist in May and is in the process of developing specific impeachment articles.

Other state legislators have come to Powers’ defense. In an email to the Texan, state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said Cigarroa and the regents should reconsider any decision to remove Powers.

“As president, [Powers] has enhanced UT's national stature, reformed the undergraduate curriculum, prioritized diversity, and emphasized excellence in research and teaching,” Zaffirini, who has long been a supporter of Powers, said. “Despite this stellar record of accomplishment – or perhaps because of it – persons advancing an ideological, anti-higher education agenda want nothing more than to see Powers fired.”


Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Update (May 20, 12:32 p.m.): In the letter, released on Tuesday by attorney Allan Van Fleet, Hall crticized Chairman Paul Foster's handling of the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations investigation and the decision to ask for his resignation.

"The result is that you have used your position to participate in a campaign that is intended to impugn my reputation," Hall said.  "You have also allowed a small group of legislators to interfere in the Board's official opperations."

Citing letters sent to the transparency committee by System outside counsel Phillip Hilder and Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa in early 2014, Hall said the committee has found no evidence of wrongdoing on his part. A report released in April by Rusty Hardin, special counsel to the transparency committee, determine Hall had likely committed impeachable offenses.

After Tuesday's UT System Board of Regents meeting, Foster said he read the letter and will not pursue the issue any further.

"I pledge to work closely with him, as I have in the past," Foster said. "As far as I'm concerned, that's history."

Original story (May 19): UT System Regent Wallace Hall said he will not resign in a letter to Paul Foster, Board of Regents chairman, according to Hall’s attorney Allan Van Fleet.

Foster publicly asked Hall to resign at a regents meeting on Thursday. A few days before on May 12, the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations determined grounds for Hall’s impeachment exist in a 7-1 vote. The committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday and Thursday to develop specific articles of impeachment.

In a statement, Hall said he has been working to point out wrongdoing at System's institutions.

"Will the public ever know the truth about problems in our institutions if legislators are allowed to impeach Board members who reveal them?" Hall said.

The committee began investigating Hall in June 2013 after state legislators accused him of overstepping his authority as a regent and seeking the removal of President William Powers Jr. from his position.

According to System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, Foster has not yet received the letter. The regents are schedule to meet via teleconference on Tuesday.

Editor’s Note: Rizvi is an active member of all seven Muslim student organizations on campus, serving as an officer for United Muslims Relief and as founder and chairman of Texas Muslim Council.

Three weeks ago, the New York City Police Department curtailed its surveillance program that devoted a special task force to surveil Muslims and their communities. This program was criticized for its indiscriminate surveillance of Muslims. The news of NYPD’s decision to curtail its surveillance program was commended by the general public; however, the Muslim community has little reason to celebrate since the police will continue the use of “undercover informants” to gather intelligence on Muslims deemed worthy of investigation. This breach of privacy in spaces including mosques, an intimate place of prayer for Muslims, is just another example of why fear has become commonplace in the Muslim community, including the community here at UT.

I am a Muslim third-year at the UT, and through my time here and active engagement with the Muslim community I have learned that there is an undeniable fear of being politically active. Speaking from my own experience, my father has on several occasions advised me to abstain from raising legitimate political concerns. While my father urges me against such activism, I am lucky that he does not stop me  probably because he does not have the heart to stop something he believes in as well. My experience reflects what I understand as the norm for the Muslim community. The heart of this fear is the breach of privacy in our community.

The importance of privacy is articulated through Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs where Maslow puts safety and security as one of the basic needs. Safety and security are undermined when privacy is violated  ironic given that increased surveillance is supposed to increase them both. Because of that, privacy has become a popular topic of discussion for all Americans, especially considering the recent leaks of the once-secret NSA surveillance program dubbed PRISM. In fact, according to Gallup, 53 percent of adults disapprove of the government’s surveillance program and only 10 percent have no opinion. However, the popular discourse tends to leave out the discriminatory targeting of Muslim Americans. It is this specific targeting of the Muslim community that has introduced fear into the community.

In March, Edward Snowden spoke via webcam at the annual South By Southwest Festival hosted here in Austin. His talk highlighted the issue of privacy and PRISM, but it did not address the Muslim community’s marginalization in these breaches of privacy. Shortly after 9/11, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the federal government’s power to surveil suspected terrorists. What followed were policies and legislation that target Arab and Muslim citizens. In response, writes Arun Kundnani in “The Muslims Are Coming,” national Muslim organizations had to decide whether to assimilate or to take on the “movement-building tradition of black civil rights” in order to protest the violations of their rights. They chose to follow the “strategy of declaring one’s loyalty to America and presenting Muslims as model citizens.” Again, fear was the major barrier.

Like those Muslim organizations, Muslims here at UT are afraid to speak out. According to Veneza Bremner, senior police officer of the Public Information Office, the Austin Police Department does not have a surveillance program that specifically targets any one community. There may be surveillance programs based on investigative interests, but those details cannot divulged. This does not quell the fears of Muslims, however, especially when U.S. Representative Peter King (R-NY), former Chairman and current member of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, and people like him say that surveillance of Muslims should increase. Muslims’ fears are further validated when our own community here in Austin reinforces such racism. For example, two years ago when a bomb threat was issued for the UT campus, the caller was described as having a “Middle Eastern” accent. This turned out to be false. Furthermore, such a characterization is impossible considering that there is no one set accent for the Middle East, a region of many languages.

We should note that fear has become a vicious cycle. Terrorists sought to instill fear in the hearts and minds of Americans on 9/11. In the wake of that horrific day, Americans passed and instituted a complicated system of surveillance and discrimination, thereby introducing fear into the Muslim community. In short, fear has given into fear; which is why as Longhorns, staying true to the motto “What Starts Here Changes The World,” we have an obligation and responsibility to break this cycle.

With this call to action, it is imperative to recognize that the gravity of this situation, the continued discrimination and surveillance programs, urges haste, but we can also find hope in what we have accomplished thus far. Students here at UT are starting to engage with issues that matter, and the Muslim Community is making strides in advancing UT and, more generally, America. During Islam Awareness Week at UT, Muslim organizations on campus held events to combat ignorance, one of the root causes of fear. The event on Sharia Law, or Islamic Law, aimed to clarify one of the religion's most misunderstood concepts. Nationally, the Council on American-Islamic Relations continues to work with law enforcement and legislatures on mutual understanding. These are just a few examples which show that by working together, Muslims and non-Muslims can break down the barriers of fear between them and establish in their place a new relationship built on trust. 

Correction: An earlier version of this column's headline was misleading about the connection between surveillance programs and the UT Muslim community. The surveillance program mentioned is a project of the New York City Police Department, not the Austin Police Department.

Civil Rights Summit

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

On May 4, 1961, a few months before President Barack Obama was born, John Lewis and the rest of Freedom Riders were prepared to die as they rode public buses through the deep South to protest segregation.

“Some of us signed notes and wills that, if it took our death — as Dr. King said — to redeem the soul of America, I think that some of us were prepared,” Lewis, who is now a Democratic U.S. representative from Georgia, said at a Civil Rights Summit panel on Wednesday. “I thought I was going to die on that bridge [during the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965]. I thought I saw death, but I was not afraid.”

Lewis, former NAACP chairman Julian Bond and Andrew Young, former U.S. congressman and U.N. ambassador, reminisced about their experiences in the movement and discussed issues not often addressed in the movement’s history, including the gender discrimination that persisted within civil rights groups.

Bond said even though the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had more gender equality than other civil rights organizations, there was still conflict between men and women.

“There were enormous tensions over the role each would play,” Bond said. “Had it not been for women, there would not have been a movement.”

Young said despite women playing a key role in advancing the movement, gender discrimination persisted.

“The sin of the movement to me was that [civil rights and women’s rights activist] Dorothy Height didn’t get to speak at the March on Washington,” Young said.

Lewis said people who participated in sit-ins and marches were often predominantly women, and he thinks male chauvinism was a contributing factor.

“There were men who said they couldn’t be nonviolent,” Lewis said. “You can be nonviolent. You can stand in line and keep the peace.”

Bond said he avoided taking an official position on same-sex marriage while he was NAACP chairman because he did not think the organization would support it.

“One day after I was not chairman anymore … somebody sat down there and said, ‘I move that we support same-sex marriage,’” Bond said. “I’m thinking no, no, no, this is not the time.”

Bond, who said he personally supports same-sex marriage, said he was surprised when 60 out of 64 NAACP board members voted to support same-sex marriage in 2012.

Lewis said there is still a lot of work to do, and encouraged younger generations to increase their civic and political participation to advance civil rights, especially regarding immigration policy. 

“We need to set people on the path to citizenship,” Lewis said. “I don’t accept this idea that individuals are illegal. There’s no such thing as an illegal human being.”

Young said younger generations play a key role in creating a truly multicultural and multiracial democratic society.

“We’ve got to mobilize and organize,” Young said. “There are still forces in America that want to make it harder for people to participate.”

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Read recaps of Wednesday's events by scrolling down here. Click here for the liveblog of Thursday's events, which include addresses by President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush.

Updated (8:55 p.m.): For a full recap of Clinton's speech, click here.

Updated (7:22 p.m.): Former President Bill Clinton said voting in the U.S., because of voter ID laws and other restrictions, does not reflect the goals of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Here in Texas, the concealed carry permit counts, but there’s one photo ID that doesn't count,” Clinton said.  “One from a Texas institution of higher education.”

Clinton also said the economy is a factor in preventing the country from fulfilling the goals of the Civil Rights Act.

“It’s all the more difficult today because of the economic conditions in which we find ourselves,” Clinton said. “The statistics show economic growth, but almost all of it is going to the top 10 percent.”

Check back soon for a full recap of the event.

—Julia Brouillette

Updated (6:10 p.m.): During the Clinton administration, there were students on campus calling for greater recognition of LGBTQ and black students' rights. Read that story here.

Updated (5:50 p.m.): Planning a Civil Rights Summit watch party? Click here for a guide on how to do that.

UT Law School hosted a watch party for former President Jimmy Carter's speech Tuesday evening. Photo by Pu Ying Huang / Daily Texan Staff

Updated (4:50 p.m.): As several civil rights leaders spoke about their contributions to the movement, they recognized that the movement was guilty of certain prejudices as well.

Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, speaks at the "Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement: Views from the Front Line" on Wednesday. Photo by Shelby Tauber / Daily Texan Staff

Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, said even within the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which had more gender equality than other civil rights organizations, there were still tensions between men and women.

“There were enormous tensions over the role each would play,” Bond said. “Had it not been for women, there would not have been a movement.”

Read the full story here.

—Alyssa Mahoney

Updated (3:35 p.m.): The University Leadership Initiative held a rally in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue on campus to show support for immigrants who have been deported.

Students involved in the rally held a number of signs, one of which said “we have a dream 2,” and chained themselves to the MLK statue, as representatives said the ideals of the Civil Rights Summit did not align with current U.S. policy towards undocumented immigrants.

Juan Belman, a second year engineering major who said his father is at risk of deportation, said that Austin needs to show support for families who have to deal with deportation.

“If we are a progressive community here in Austin, we need to show that,” Belmot said. “We need to show Texas how to move forward.”

— Adam Hamze

Updated (3:30 p.m.): For a full recap of "LBJ and MLK: Fulfilling a Promise, Realizing a Dream," click here.

Updated (3:02 p.m.): At a press conference at Fort Hood army base Wednesday afternoon, President Barack Obama spoke about the recent shooting that left four dead and more than a dozen injured, and called for increased support for Americans suffering from mental health issues.

"Part of what makes this so painful is we've been here before," Obama said. "We cannot ever eliminate every risk, but as a nation we can do more to counsel those with mental health issues, and to keep firearms out of the hands of those having such difficulties."

Obama also offered words of support for the soldiers' families.

"We hold each other up, we carry on, and with God's amazing grace we somehow bear the things unbearable," Obama said. "...This army and this nation stand with you for all these days to come."

— Julia Brouillette

Updated (2:50 p.m.): In their early 20’s, at the same age that many of today’s college students learn about the impact the two activists had, Bill Russell and Jim Brown were already utilizing their status as high profile athletes to strengthen the civil rights movement.

(From left): Former NFL running back Jim Brown, former NBA center and head coach Bill Russell and Harry Edwards, sociology professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley speak at the Sports: Leveling the Playing Field panel Wednesday. Photo by Shelby Tauber / Daily Texan Staff

At the Civil Rights Summit on Wednesday, Russell, Brown and Harry Edwards, a former sociology professor at the University of California, noted that their opportunity to contribute to the civil rights movement at such a young age came as a result of their strong upbringing.

“[Many of the people] around me at a young age were impeccable at stressing the importance of education,” Brown said. “Because I was helped at a young age, I knew my life’s work would be to help others.”

Read the full story of the Sports: Leveling the Playing Field panel by clicking here.

— Stefan Scrafield

Updated (2:12 p.m.): According to Andrew Young, former congressman and former mayor of Atlanta, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Lyndon B. Johnson had a very amicable relationship, even as King and others pressured Johnson to introduce new civil rights legislation. Young spoke about the relationship between King and Johnson at "LBJ and MLK: Fulfilling a Promise, Realizing a Dream," the first summit panel on Wednesday.

“[Johnson originally] said, ‘I just don’t have the power,’” Young said. “I thought it was arrogant for him to say that… [but] we went to Selma on the second of January, and by the end of March the president had all the power he needed to get that civil rights act introduced.”

Andrew Young, former congressman and United Nations Ambassador, speaks at the "LBJ and MLK: Fulfilling a Promise, Realizing a Dream" panel at the Civil Rights Summit on Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Lauren Ussery / Daily Texan Staff

Young said Johnson and King were both adept politicians and said he overheard phone calls between the two men which suggested they had a close relationship.

“I heard them on the phone talking like brothers, like pastor and member,” Young said.

According to historian Taylor Branch, there was some disagreement about what Johnson’s views about race were—whether he changed his views over time, or if he consistently supported the enfranchisement of African Americans.

“I think Johnson had an empathy his whole lifetime,” Branch said. “I think those were his sincere views, and my guess is that they were formed long before it was popular to believe they were there.” 

Check back soon for a full recap of the event.

— Alyssa Mahoney

Updated (12:32 p.m.): UT President William Powers Jr. said that although the University has made great strides in advancing civil rights, historically, UT has been on the “wrong side” of the argument.

UT President William Powers Jr. speaks about the University's role in civil rights, and how sometimes it has been on the wrong side of the argument. Photo by Jonathan Garza / Daily Texan Staff

"The University of Texas has had a special role in the history of civil rights — first, of course, on the wrong side of those issues as a segregated school, and in Sweatt v. Painter on the wrong side of that case," Powers said in an address at the Civil Rights Summit Wednesday. 

To read more about Powers' remarks, click here.

— Madlin Mekelburg

Updated (12:03 p.m.): After students reported low attendance at several panels during the first day of the summit, event coordinators announced the creation of a stand-by line for admission to the remaining panels on Wednesday and Thursday. The line, which will begin on the east side of Sid Richardson Hall,  will be available to anyone with a UT identification card.

No stand-by lines have been announced for the remaining presidential addresses. To read more about yesterday's seating vacancies, click here

— Nicole Cobler

Updated (11:57 a.m.): The Google Cultural Institute, an online collection of historical archives, partnered with the National Archives and released various archives relating to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in light of the civil rights movement.

The “Historic Moments” exhibit features documents, images and videos of the development of the civil rights movement and the legislative process leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Google creates platforms and tools like this, such as the National Archives, to tell the story of diverse cultural heritage and share these archives worldwide,” Gerardo Interiano, public affairs manager for Google, said.

Gerardo Interiano, public affairs manager for Google, talks about the Google Cultural Institute, an online collection of historical archives. Photo by Jonathan Garza / Daily Texan Staff

Google is a sponsor of the Civil Rights Summit and is hosting “G+ Hangouts” with various summit speakers. Today’s “hangout” will feature playwright Robert Schenkkan at 2 p.m. To watch the livestream of the hangout, click here. 

— Madlin Mekelburg

Updated (11:53 a.m.): UT Parking and Transportation Services announced additional road closures on the east side of campus during the ongoing Civil Rights Summit in an email sent to students on Wednesday morning.

Robert Dedman Drive between Dean Keeton and 23rd streets will be closed on Thursday from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. In addition, Trinity Street between Robert Dedman and 23rd streets will be closed sporadically between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. President Barack Obama’s keynote address to the summit is scheduled for Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

As a result of the closures, the PTS email said UT shuttles that regularly stop on 23rd Street will now do so on Winship Circle next to the Winship Drama Building.

Last week, PTS announced Clyde Littlefield Drive would be closed during the summit.

— Jacob Kerr

Updated (11:42 a.m.): According to psychology graduate student Christa Vassillieri, the Forty Acres Bus, which circles campus and has a stop across from the LBJ Library, has been more crowded since the Civil Rights Summit began Tuesday.

Vassillieri said she had forgotten the summit was happening, but did notice that the bus had more patrons than usual. Although Vassillieri said she heard promotions for the summit over the radio, she did not believe four presidents would have reason to speak in Austin.

“That’s what I thought I heard, but I was like, this can’t be,” Vassillieri said.

— Nicole Cobler

Updated (11:23 a.m.): Although former President Bill Clinton was originally supposed to tour the “Cornerstones of Civil Rights” exhibit at the LBJ Library before his address this evening, he will be arriving too late to take the tour as scheduled, according to Elizabeth Christian, president of the LBJ Foundation.

The exhibit, which opened  on April 1 and will remain open until April 30, features a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by former President Abraham Lincoln and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, both signed by former President Lyndon B. Johnson.

— Madlin Mekelburg

Updated (10:40 a.m.): Ben Barnes, former Speaker of the Texas House and Lieutenant Governor, said President Lyndon B. Johnson would be concerned about the rising influence of the Tea Party in Texas and the increasing divide between political parties nationally.

Ben Barnes, former Texas lieutenant governor and former chairman of the LBJ Foundation, speaks to media Wednesday. Barnes said he thinks President Johnson would be concerned by the polarization of the country's two major political parties. Photo by Jonathan Garza / Daily Texan Staff

Barnes, a UT alumni, was the youngest Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives at 26, and served from 1965 to 1969, while Johnson was president. Following Barnes’ tenure as Speaker, he served as the Lieutenant Governor of Texas. In 1995, Barnes received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Texas Exes, the University’s alumni organization.

“As happy as President Johnson would be about what these four days are going to mean, he’d still be very concerned about the bigotry and the prejudice that are two of the important components going into the very divisive government we have today,” Barnes said.

Barnes said he was especially concerned by the state-wide prominence of the Tea Party.

“I read a column by a Washington writer last week where he said Texas is in a situation where the Tea Party is going to be stronger in Texas than in any other state, as far as state elected officials — I’m not proud of that,” Barnes said. “I’m not proud of where they want to take Texas and I think it’s a very, very grave time in our state and I think President Johnson would share that disdain.”

According to Barnes, Johnson — who signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law and increased the United State’s involvement in the Vietnam War — will be remembered for his impact on the functions of today’s government.

“As time goes by and there’s more public forums like this and people really understand Johnson and what he accomplished, people are going to remember Lyndon Johnson for what his domestic policy was,” Barnes said. “He really passed the legislation that is the framework and foundation of our government today — you can’t erase that.”

— Madlin Mekelburg

Updated (7:45 a.m.): While all available tickets were distributed for the first day of the summit, attendees reported a lower turnout. Check out this story by Madlin Mekelburg to read more about it.

Updated (7:26 a.m.): The timing of the summit is meant to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July of that year. This video by Dan Resler explains the history of the landmark legislation.

Updated (7:00 a.m.): The first day of the Civil Rights Summit featured a conversation with former President Jimmy Carter, who said civil rights as they relate to racial minorities and women still need to be addressed, ranging from modern-day slavery to sexual abuse at college campuses in the U.S. 

Tuesday's panels also included:

1) A discussion about whether gay marriage is a civil right featuring attorneys David Boies and Theodore Olson, who teamed up in 2010 to challenge Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment in California that banned same-sex marriages. 

2) San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour talked about immigration laws and border security.

3) Musicians Mavis Staples and Graham Nash performed Tuesday night and spoke about their experiences and what influences their music.

Other highlights from the day can be found on our Civil Rights Summit, Day 1 Liveblog.

Photo Credit: Zoe Davis | Daily Texan Staff

In a talk at the John B. Connally Center for Justice on Monday, Allan Gerson, chairman of AG International Law, PLLC discussed the deportation of Nazi collaborators in the 1970s, lawsuits against Libya for the Pan American Flight 103 bombing and a lawsuit against Yale University for a valuable painting allegedly acquired unlawfully. 

“There are difficulties between navigating international law, international affairs and the uses of American law as practice in different quadrants,” Gerson said.

He talked about his experiences with international law in three different areas: individual accountability for war crimes, state accountability for the equivalent of war crimes and state accountability in U.S. quadrants, such as in the case of the lawsuit against Yale University.

“The questions about how this painting ever was sold to the United States dealt with actions taken by a foreign government, mainly Russia,” Gerson said. “Yale invoked the Act of State Doctrine to prevent a U.S. court from looking at the circumstances involving the taking and the sale of the painting, even though there was no objection from Russia itself.”

Austin resident Harvey Burg said finding where accountability lies can only be approached on a case-by-case basis.

“I think the speaker’s point was that, by immediately demanding accountability, you draw rigged lines, and, if your objective is to gain international cooperation and you accuse [a country] as being an aggressor [against another country], then you may create a situation in which there is no flexibility to negotiate results,” Burg said. “I would argue that in some instances that works, but, in other instances, it is fair to ask whether the failure to demand accountability permits unlawful aggressive behavior to continue.”

Gerson’s talk was presented by The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law. Gerson said Strauss, who died Wednesday at the age of 95, successfully bridged together law and international relations. During her introduction of Gerson, Ashley Moran, associate at the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs, said she believed Strauss was a great public servant and a Texas legend.

“The legacy he leaves behind gives us all something to emulate,” she said. “His life and legacy really embodied all of those fields in private sector, public service and academia and something we strive to live up to at the Strauss Center.”

In this week's podcast, Jacob Kerr, Amanda Voeller and guests Alyssa Mahoney and Madlin Mekelburg talk about Austin City Council voting to reduce the occupancy limit for unrelated adults in single family houses from six to four. They also discuss a recent email from UT System Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster to Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa suggesting Regent Wallace Hall criticized Cigarroa's job performance weeks before the chancellor's resignation and possible revisions to the student leaders' tuition proposal, at the request of the regents.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

In an email to UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, Paul Foster, chairman of the UT System Board of Regents, suggested Regent Wallace Hall accused Cigarroa of not doing his job weeks before Cigarroa announced his resignation. 

Foster praised Cigarroa in the email, which was originally obtained by The Dallas Morning News, and said “virtually all” of the regents appreciated the work he did as chancellor. 

“I absolutely do not agree with [Hall’s] tactics in trying to pressure you into taking an action that you do not feel is in the best interests of UT-Austin or of the UT System,” Foster said in the email. “It is clear what he hopes to accomplish, but to disparage your reputation in the process is neither fair nor is it appropriate.”

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, a member of the legislative committee investigating Hall, submitted a letter Friday to State Reps. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, and Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, after he saw the email, asking them to reconvene to hear testimony from Cigarroa and Foster. 

Flynn and Alvarado are co-chairs of the House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, which is trying to determine whether Hall overstepped his duties as a regent and whether he should be recommended for impeachment. Hall filed open records requests with UT for more than 800,000 pages of information and has been accused of conducting a “witch hunt” to oust President William Powers Jr.

Martinez Fischer said Foster’s email raises questions about Cigarroa’s true motive for resigning, and testimony from Cigarroa and Foster could provide the committee with answers. In December 2013, Cigarroa testified in front of the committee and said Hall’s actions were disruptive to the System and caused a drop in morale.

Alvarado said the committee will consider Martinez Fischer’s request, but no decision has been reached about reconvening.  

“I have not talked to the other committee members or my co-chair about [the letter], but it’s something that I hope we will have discussions about,” Alvarado said. “We were hoping our report would be done soon, but, again, we have stressed all along that we are not in a rush. We want to make sure that we’re being thorough and that we don’t leave anything uncovered.” 

In February, Martinez Fischer sent a different letter to the committee co-chairs addressing his concerns about Cigarroa’s true motives for stepping down, especially in light of other System employees resigning — including Barry Burgdorf, who resigned as the System’s general counsel in March 2013.

“I am concerned that, without proper leadership and experienced staff, there will be continued communication and administrative issues between the Board of Regents and the component institutions of the System,” Martinez Fischer wrote in February.

In February, Cigarroa said he is resigning as Chancellor in order to pursue medicine full time. He said the existing tension between the board and Powers did not factor into his decision.

“As it relates to President Powers, this decision is completely separate from that,” Cigarroa said. “I will continue to do my work as chancellor every day until my last day, as I’ve always done, based on facts and performance. I support President Powers, and I will continue to evaluate all presidents every day.”