Chastisements

Polemicist hereby chastises...

"If, when a man has fallen into habits of idleness, of daydreaming, and of sloth, putting off his most important duties continually til the morrow, another man were to awaken him one fine morning with the heavy blows of a whip, and were to whip him unmercifully, until he who was unable to work for pleasure now worked for fear - would not that man, the chastiser, indeed be his benefactor and truest friend?"

-Charles Baudelaire
 Intimate Journals

 

May 1990; page 2; Volume 1, No. 6
Polemicist

Robert Jeffrey
Dean, College of Communications

In a recent Firing Line letter attacking The Texan for critical reportage, Dean Jeffrey announced his commitment to the "ethics and responsibility of a free press." How ironic, then, that Jeffrey uses his position as dean in a manner that defies any rational definition of "ethics and responsibility." In response to pleas from the Belo Corp., the parent company of The Dallas Morning News, Jeffrey ordered journalism department chair Max McCombs not to testify as an expert witness in an anti-trust suit against The Morning News under threat of job termination. Belo Corp. recently donated $300,000 to the Communications College.

Although the story has been swept away in the press by the recent uprising of racism and activism at UT, Jeffrey must not be excused for this scandalous abuse of power. Jeffrey's only defense for his behavior reveals his and his college's propensity to serve corporate interests at the expense of journalism, truth and academic freedom. He declares: ''The journalism program is inherently linked to the journalism professional community ... We depend on them for scholarships and internships. We need support for all those purposes and testifying against a newspaper would not be in our best interests."

He explained to The Texan that his college has an unwritten understanding" that faculty would "avoid testimony as a plaintiff when a newspaper is a defendant." But former journalism chair Dwight Teeter disagrees. He testified in several court cases involving newspapers as defendants during Jeffrey's tenure as dean, "I never heard of such a policy," he told The Texan.

Jeffrey's brazen dismissal of academic freedom in the face of corporate interests demands punishment. His hypocrisy and deference to corporate prerogatives embodies all that's wrong at the University. President Cunningham, who's been known to bend to a corporate interest or two himself, would never fire him. And certainly he would never resign. But students in the Communications College should agitate for his dismissal, and pressure him to leave the University altogether. This man can't be allowed to serve as a role model for future journalists.

The Texas Union Board of Directors

Polemicist editors have been thrown out of the Texas Union for distributing our magazine with its much-feared "solicitation," i.e. three or four advertisements. The Board of Regents rules forbid any form of solicitation by outside businesses on campus. But the Union board of directors came to the April 27 board meeting prepared to vote in favor of "franchising" all Union Dining Services - a move that would displace hundreds of Union Dining Service workers, including many students, and allow multinational fast-food chains to solicit their goods in the Union. Only an angry mob of about 150 students and workers intimidated them into tabling the motion.

The board's, especially the student member's, attitudes were deplorable. Inquiring students were assured over and over that "it's the only way," despite the fact that Union employees had come up with an alternate plan that the board refused to address. Our student reps didn't care what students wanted, they were determined to do what's "best" for us. We could do without any favors from the board.

The incident points up fundamental problems in the union board's structure. All student board positions are appointed by the SA president - none are elected - and workers have no input into the process at all. It was clear that most workers were afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs. And at least one member of the board admitted that it had been "secretive" and avoided publicity concerning the important franchising proposal. Students, supposedly, sit on the board to watch out for student interests. But who's watching the board?

The masses of students can't spend all their time playing watchdog over nascent student bureaucrats, but workers have an on-going vested interest in how the Union is run. That's why in the coming year students must move to place elected Union workers on the board of directors, preferably with an a number of seats equal to faculty. Workers on the board would have given Union employees an avenue through which to submit their alternative plan ,and would have stopped any harebrained scheme like selling the Union out to McDonalds.

On Friday, May 4, at 3:00 the Union board will again raise the issue of franchisement, despite its promise to table the proposal til next fall. Students must react with the same diligence displayed at the last board meeting and confront the board over its disgraceful attempts to franchise the Union behind students' backs. Show up al the meeting and help reclaim the Union for the students.

Standish Meacham Dean, Liberal Arts

First we must declare our sympathy with Standish in dealing with UT's regressive faculty. The dean tried to implement a ban on hiring white men until each department hired women and people of color. He had to abandon the plan because of lack of support among faculty and department chairs. In particular the Classics department deserves rebuke - of two petitions, one condemning fraternity racism and one calling for progressive hiring, not one faculty member in the department signed either, and eventually the petitions were torn down. Government faculty even started a petition rebuking Standish for his petition condemning frats.

But the dean's newly found commitment to multiculturalism in the face of faculty opposition cannot excuse the position he's taken concerning grad-student tuition hikes. The University has been doubling graduate student tuition on a college-by-college basis, and Standish has dutifully followed its lead. Grad-student tuition hikes cannot go through without the dean's approval, which considering the dean's recent comments, bodes ill for liberal arts students. "In my own mind I believe it will probably happen," he told The Texan, "so it's best to decide how to apportion it."

We think that's fine. We just wish the tuition hikes would stay in his mind, and keep the hell off student fee bills. Standish must realize that all the multicultural programs in the world won't benefit society if minority students can't afford tuition. In particular, tuition hikes in grad school will lower the number of minority assistant instructors. According to the Dolouisio Committee's report, graduate students teach some 25 percent of all undergraduate liberal arts classes. Raising tuition amounts to institutional racism (see article, page 4) - the very malady Standish tries to address with his hiring mandate.

The liberal arts college must maintain low tuition to remain accessible for people of color. For all his good work, Standish's acquiescence on the tuition question threatens to undo any progress he may achieve.

Kevin McHargue, Texan editor-elect

Texan lameness should surprise no one, but the summer staff hirings of the new Texan editor demand rebuke. Traditionally, the single most offensive problem haunting The Texan has been its reliance on journalism-style "objectivity" in its reporting - that is, its deference to authority figures. Just when university reporter Greg Weiner began defying this ingrained practice, Kevin has kicked him and every other respectable Texan reporter upstairs to invisible, non-writing editor positions for the summer.

And in the key position of news editor, McHargue and Acton appointed a proven apologist named Ron Lubke. Lubke proved his adherence to the J-school reporting style when, as associate news editor last fall, he effectively neutered reporter Meredith McKittrick's story documenting the UT administration's lack of commitment to the retention of minority faculty. He ordered her to lead with a quote from vice president for administration Ed Sharpe, perhaps the most artfully misleading of the administration's apologists. Since the story was severely cut, Sharpe's predictable quotes appeared at the expense of much more relevant material.

We had hoped that our attacks on Kevin in the last issue would snap him out of his funk. But the summer hiring only confirms our fear that The Texan will continue its slide into irrelevancy with McHargue pushing it along.

Thomas Larralde
TSP Boardmember

In a rare opportunity to make a fundamental change at The Daily Texan, Thomas Larralde voted to maintain the status quo. At an April meeting, the Texas Student Publications board voted on whether to change the requirements to run for Texan editor. Currently students must earn credit in five journalism classes, four of which teach basic skills, to run for editor. (The TSP board, made up of six students, three faculty members, and two "professionals," can vote to waive four of the requirements). The proposal would allow students to substitute Texan experience for the class requirements - a move that would severely limit the journalism school's deadening hegemony over the paper.

In voting against the proposal - he was the only student who did - Larralde cast the deciding ballot in a 6 to 5 vote. He thus maintained control over the Texan's editorship for the money-grubbers and philistines who run the journalism department (see first Chastisement). He's since justified his vote by arguing that he wanted students who work in the alternative press - not just Texan staffers - to be able to substitute experience for class credit, too. That's understandable, Thomas, but take what you can get. Texan editors have run unopposed for two years in a row, mainly because most people with enough ambition to be editor refuse the mind-numbing atmosphere of the J-school.

How many more Karen Adams and Kevin McHargues must we endure before this disgrace ends?