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

 

July 1990; page 2; Volume 1, No. 7
Polemicist

Robert Jeffrey,
Dean, Communications

In April, Dean Jeffrey assailed the academic freedom of journalism department chair Max McCombs by threatening to strip McCombs of his chairmanship if he testified against a major Communications-school donor. Recently, Jeffrey's attacks on academic freedom have extended to journalism assistant professor Mercedes de Uriarte and the students who produce Tejas.

Dean Jeffrey announced on Friday June 22 that as long as Tejas receives UT funding, it can no longer distribute outside the College of Communications complex. Tejas, which is funded by the Mexican-American Studies Center, had drawn the ire of campus right-wingers with a cuttingly accurate critique of outgoing associate liberal-arts dean Joe Horn, a man who tortures rats to "prove" race-based differences in intelligence. In response, a band of Horn groupies known as Students Advocating a Valid Education - a spinoff of the Young Conservatives of Texas - attempted to use a Texas law intended to keep state-funded organs from endorsing political candidates to strip Tejas of its funding.

Dean Jeffrey initially backed Tejas in the dispute, telling The Daily Texan on June 4 that "I don't think Tejas is in violation of that law at all."

By June 7, however, his attitude toward the magazine had hardened drastically. Discussing a UT policy that any publication receiving UT funding must fall under UT control, he told The Texan that "Without this policy, any professor on campus with a political interest could gather students, offer them an independent study course and produce a paper expressing his views ... Obviously, we can't have 100 papers like that on campus without any University control."

First, the magazine is under UT control - as de Uriarte has pointed out, it's "produced in collaboration with the Mexican-American Studies Department and the Journalism department," and it's responsible to a UT professor.

Next, de Uriarte didn't "gather students" - students approached her to create the magazine. If she had refused, they would have found another way to do it. Jeffrey's statement amounts to an attack on the right of those students to work with the professor of their choice, and to research and publish what they want.

And finally, why is it "obvious" that "we can't have 100 papers like that on campus without any University control"? Does the dean want to place Polemicist under UT control? Look what that control has done to The Texan.

By limiting the area in which Tejas can distribute, Jeffrey imposes a physical, spatial limitation on these students' free speech rights. Last semester Jeffrey suspended the speech rights of the Journalism Department chair to protect the economic interests of a major donor. This summer he's suspending speech rights for students in deference to a right wing dean and his student boosters.

We would hope that the dean of Communications would use his position to open up the University's restrictive speech policies. This dean, however, acts shamefully to apologize for them or even tighten them. We don't know who forced Dean Jeffrey to change his stance. But we do know that his position assaults the very foundations of academic freedom.

The Institute for Advanced Technology

After spending over $120 million in the eighties to upgrade the Balcones Research Center, the University finally earned the honor of housing the U.S. Army's newest national weapons laboratory. Despite these massive expenditures, however - which have come at the expense of hiring more teachers and building teaching facilities - the University must still fund the construction and staffing costs of the national lab.

The lab will build on UT's Star Wars research - it will refine the UT-developed "rail gun," the first substantive advance in gun technology since the invention of gunpowder. Developers of the new gun like Center for Electromechanics director William Weldon say the gun theoretically could fire projectiles at 30 miles per second, and accurately bomb targets on the moon. Researchers have never explained why we would want to bomb targets on the moon.

Not surprisingly, President Bill Cunningham, Provost Gerhard Fonken and Chancellor Hans Mark all lobbied actively for three years for the privilege of subsidizing the Army with UT tax and tuition dollars to develop this technology, all the while telling students and faculty that there just isn't enough money to support teaching.

With the Cold War in collapse, even the federal government plans to cut back expenditures to the Army. Whether from ideology or vested interest, though, UT administrators still pump millions into military projects, even as the teaching atmosphere at the University suffers from lack of funds.

Susan Hays
Co-Director, Texas Student Lobby

While declaring herself "suspicious" of how UT spends its money, UT students' only liaison to the state legislature announced in the June 20 Texan that she would support tuition hikes to fund financial aid and faculty hiring. First, let's confirm a few of Hays' suspicions.

In 1983 the University committed $50 million to lure the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Center to the Balcones Research Center (BRC). That same year the regents approved $62 million to build seven new R&D buildings at the BRC.

In 1985 it spent $20 million to purchase a Cray supercomputer. In 1987 UT began a $43 million project to build three high-tech research facilities at BRC, including a $22 million "clean room" whose sole purpose is to develop new products and processes for the chip industry. In 1988 the UT-System spent $12.3 million to lure Sematech to Austin, and pawned off $18 million more in bond debt to state taxpayers.

UT recently announced its plans to spend $75 million over seven years to fund a Molecular Biology program. And as noted above, UT will pay for the facilities for the new Army weapons lab. In addition, the April 1989 Development Plan for the Balcones Research Center lists $116 million more in planned expenditures at BRC over the next ten years.

None of these figures include the cost of hiring faculty to staff these facilities, which comes straight out of budgeted funds for faculty. All told, the annual UT-Austin budget more than doubled over the eighties, from $149 million in 1979 to $328 million in 1989. Adjusted for inflation, that's a 63 percent increase. Do these numbers confirm Hays' suspicions?

As a bargaining position, it's bad politics for our chief legislative liaison to concede a tuition hike before the battle has even started. But in the face of these staggering expenditures, it's insane to call on students to compensate for their administrator's extravagant subsidies to industry and the military - especially when tuition increased ten-fold in ten years. UT's funding doesn't need to be increased, just dramatically reprioritized.

President Cunningham and his deans, with their advocacy of doubling graduate student tuition, appear to be maneuvering for a hike in undergraduate tuition as well. It's disgraceful that the Texas Student Lobby has been coopted into their efforts.

Ben Crenshaw
Pro-golfer, Barton Creek developer

Ben Crenshaw has lent his name and credibility to the effort to develop Barton Creek - a development that would almost certainly destroy the creek forever. In an open letter to Mayor Lee Cooke published as an advertisement in the Austin-American Statesman, Crenshaw defended the "professionalism and integrity" of the developers, and declared that the development would take place "so that the area will maintain its beauty and also be environmentally sound so that people can live in concert with nature."

Crenshaw neglects to report to the mayor and the city his own vested interests in the deal. Crenshaw, along with UT President Cunningham and UT Special Assistant to the President and former football coach Darrell Royal, sits as a paid member of the Barton Creek Country Club Policy Committee, which has lobbied extensively for the deal. Crenshaw will also design the three new golf courses for the country club.

More damning, Crenshaw owns a turf company north of town that will supply the grass for the new golf courses.

In this light, Crenshaw's advocacy of this environmentally destructive development seems much more self-serving. He hails the "international credibility" of the two companies, but his own credibility should certainly be called into question. He lauds the jobs the development will supposedly create, and claims the project will promote "community involvement." But how involved can the "community" be when memberships to the country club cost over $18,000 up front, and the developers want to build homes in the "over $200,000 market"?

In a column printed in the Chamber of Commerce rag, The Austin Weekly, Crenshaw's friend and advocate Paul Pryor lamented that the Barton Creek flap might harm Crenshaw's performance at the U.S. Open. Confirming Pryor's fears, Crenshaw failed to make the cut. Perhaps he was thinking about all the money his turf company might lose if the project doesn't go through.