The Attack on Diverse Press
By Scott Henson and Tom Philpott
September 1990; page 5; Volume 2, No. 1
The postponement of E306 wasn't the first victory this summer for the organized right on campus. Responding in late June to the complaints of "Students Advocating a Valid Education" (SAVE) - a right-wing student group under the tutelage of TAS president Joe Horn - the College of Communications tightly restricted the distribution of
Tejas, a magazine funded by the Mexican-American Studies Center and published through a class in the journalism department.
Tejas, which began in the spring of 1989, covers the campus and writes about culture from a Mexican-American perspective. Its major subjects have included the UT administration's attempts to sugar-coat its ineffective, underfunded minority-recruitment and retention programs, the dearth of minority faculty, and The Daily Texan's failure to seriously cover UT's minority community.
By mid-spring of 1990, such stances had already captured the attention of campus conservatives. SAVE was formed, according to The Daily Texan, by members of the Young Conservatives of Texas and the College Republicans. It was launched in the spring explicitly to oppose the student demands for curriculum reform, including the Black Student Alliances's PRIDE proposal and the Mexican-Americn group Todos Unidos' "Manifesto" proposal.
According to the list of registered student organizations in the Campus Activities office, Geoff Henley serves as president of SAVE and YCT chairman Scott Gaille is listed as Vice-President in charges of "Issues." Henley had already made headlines the previous fall by counterdemonstrating at a Gay/Lesbian Rights rally, where he was photographed by The Texan holding up a sign advocating "Gays are criminals, put them in jail." Another counter-demonstrator on the same day held up a sign declaring "Hooray for the Earthquake," days after the deadly '89 San Francisco earthquake, presumably because of the strong gay community in San Francisco.
According to the Aug. 1 Chronicle of Higher Education, several SAVE members attempted to infiltrate Tejas by signing up for the class during spring pre-registration. The ploy failed when the resulting overload of students caused registration for the course to be delayed.
Then associate liberal arts dean Joe Horn addressed SAVE's first meeting in April and declared, "I'm opposed to indoctrinating white students with affirmative action and preferential treatment of minorities." He called the Black Student Alliance's proposals for curriculum reform "exclusionary" and called on students to "work through sympathetic faculty to prevent such [multicultural] classes from happening again."
But soon after, Tejas really succeeded in drawing SAVE's ire - in its May issue, it published
a sharp critique of Dean Horn. The article presented a detailed account of Horn's talk to SAVE, and lambasted his scholarship, in which he attributes racial disparities in standardized test scores not to cultural bias but to racial differences in intelligence. An editorial related to the article concluded that while Horn had a right to his opinions, they are in direct contradiction to stated Liberal Arts College policy and that he should therefore resign as dean.
Horn has been a prominent figure in right-wing campus politics at both the student and faculty levels, especially in the last year. He served as faculty advisor for the Campus Coalition for Free Speech, formed in Fall '89 to combat the implementation of a campus racial harassment policy. Horn acts as president of the Texas Association of Scholars, which became prominent in the E 306 controversy this summer (see accompanying article). Currently Horn serves as faculty advisor for the University Review, a right-wing UT newspaper funded by the Institute for Educational Affairs (see chastisements page).
SAVE responded to the Horn articles with an attack on Tejas's funding source. The June 4 Daily Texan reported that Geoff Henly wrote a letter to the office of the vice provost charging that Tejas's support from the Mexican-American Studies Center violates state law. Henley argued in his letter that Texas appropriations code prohibits state agencies from using state funds to publicize or direct attention to public officials or employees of state agencies.
The letter set Tejas on a collision course with Provost Gerhard Fonken's office and the College of Communications. Patricia Ohlendorf, associate vice president in the office of the provost, handled the case for the administration. She works under Fonken, who has played a regressive role in racial issues in the past: He helped shut down the revised E306 (see accompanying article), and hindered the English department's attempts to hire African-American faculty last year (see "Racism or Incompentence?" November 1989 Polemicist).
Curiously, even though Ohlendorf disagreed with SAVE that Tejas published in violation of state law, she still acted in service of their agenda. She found a UT rule banning publications the University funds, but doesn't control, and claimed Tejas violated it. On July 6, Ohlendorf, along with Communications College Dean Robert Jeffrey, announced that Tejas would be cut from access to Mexican-American Studies Center funding. Jeffrey defended the decision in the July 7 Texan, saying that "Without this policy, any professor on campus with a political interest could gather students, offer them an independent study course, and produce a newspaper expressing his political views."
But then, after a barrage of publicity - including an article in the New York Times and a Texas Senate resolution calling on the UT System Board of Regents to "amend all rules necessary" to allow publication of the paper - Ohlendorf and Jeffrey backtracked a bit. Instead of banning Tejas outright, Jeffrey announced in the July 25 Texan, he would limit its distribution to members of the class and to members of the journalism department faculty. Funds for any broader circulation would have to be generated privately. Working with Ohlendord, Jeffrey had ruled that the "educational" purpose of Tejas lay out in the actual production of it, and not in its dissemination. In other words, Ohlendorf and Jeffrey were saying that Tejas offers no educational value to its readers.
Despite their partial victory, SAVE members expressed disappointment that Tejas's funding source wasn't eliminated outright. "I was hoping they weren't going to receive any kind of legitimacy," Henley told The Texan. "If they were really sincere about being a [journalism class] newspaper, they would not try to distribute [outside of the college of Communications]."
Still, Henley and his SAVE cohorts had succeeded in punishing a publication that had attacked their mentor, Horn, and in preserving white male hegemony in the academy. That same agenda would be served later in the summer by the Texas Association of Scholars - again with a little help from Fonken's office.