Off the Desk:
John Sharp says Rick Perry is soft on crime. Paul Hobby is attacking Carole Keeton Rylander for her addiction to job-switching. Jim Mattox is attacking John Cornyn for taking money from lawyers with cases before his court. Cornyn is attacking Mattox because he called Ann Richards a "cocaine addict." Loy Sneary is attacking Ron Paul for, well, for being Ron Paul. The only statewide candidate not on the verbal offensive in the final days of the fall campaign season is Gov. George W. Bush, who is so far ahead he doesn't need to slam his opponent, Garry Mauro. And speaking of Mauro, is he running any TV ads? Oh, one last thing: Has anyone noticed how clean and well-lit the jail is where Rick Perry filmed his anti-crime ad? And the jail has another strange feature: a big picture window in the back. As for Rylander, the former mayor of Austin who switches political jobs as often as she changes her clothes: She isn't doing well with the editorial boards. Last Sunday, The Dallas Morning News, a stronghold of Republicanism, endorsed only one Democrat for statewide office: Hobby. -- R.B.
Sierra Blanca Stand-Off
The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission will vote today, Thursday, Oct. 22, on the license for the controversial nuclear waste dump site in Sierra Blanca. The hearing, which starts at 9am in Building E, Room 201S at the TNRCC headquarters, 12100 N. I-35, will determine if -- or when -- low-level nuclear waste can be buried at the site, located five miles southeast of the tiny Hudspeth Co. town and 16 miles from the Mexican border.
Opposition to the waste project has been vocal for several years, but in recent months a large contingent of Mexican officials have stepped up their efforts to get the attention of Gov. George W. Bush. Since Sunday afternoon, a group of Mexican congressmen and other elected officials have been camping in mobile homes at the corner of Colorado and 11th streets. A handful of them are refusing to eat until the decision on the waste site is made.
One of the fasters is Carlos Camacho, a burly, mustachioed member of Mexico's PAN party. On Monday night, Camacho, along with MariaTeresa Zorrilla, a physician and PAN member who sits on the Juárez City Council, and Miguel Angel Garza Vasquez, a Green Party member of Mexico's Congress, sat in a darkened mobile home across the street from the governor's mansion and discussed their opposition to the project. "Even if it's a low-level risk, why are they burying all this material so close to the border?" asked Camacho. "West Texas is going to turn into the trash dump of theworld and we consider that racial discrimination."
Camacho, who represents Ciudad Juárez in the Camara de Diputados, said he and several other Mexican leaders met with Secretary of State Albert Gonzales and formally asked for a meeting with Bush. Bush refused. Linda Edwards, a spokesperson for Bush, said that over the past four years, the governor has "met with all of the border governors, and discussed Sierra Blanca with them among other issues of common concern." The governor's office issued a statement explaining that the matter is in the TNRCC's hands and that Bush did not feel it was appropriate for him to intervene.
While Bush takes the hands-off approach, more Mexican officials were expected in Austin to participate in an opposition march and an all-night candlelight vigil yesterday. Camacho predicts that at least 50 members of Mexico's Congress will be at the TNRCC hearing today. And if the agency gives a license to the dump, Camacho says, "We will have to go to harder actions." Recalling that protesters have closed bridges across the Rio Grande to protest the Sierra Blanca waste site, he said, "We can close the bridges again." -- R.B.
What, exactly, makes one a student of the University of Texas? That question caused a minor scandal this week at The Daily Texan, UT's student newspaper.
Monday morning, an e-mail was sent to various UT addresses, plus The Austin Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman, by law student Ken Emanuelson charging that Texan editor Michael Mulcahy was, in fact, not enrolled at UT. The e-mail was officially addressed to Kathy Lawrence, the general manager of Texas Student Publications (TSP, the publisher of the Texan), and copied to UT President Larry Faulkner, Vice-President for Student Affairs James Vick, and Dean of Students Sharon Justice. The letter also charged that Mulcahy didn't meet other minimum academic requirements for the editorship; however, TSP often waives those requirements in order to draw more candidates for the editorship, which is elected by the student body.
Mulcahy fired back that the letter, as well as an investigation by the UT ombudsman's office, were politically motivated.
Asked if the charge is true, Mulcahy told the Chronicle, "Not any more. Today I added an additional class." Mulcahy said that the problem was the result of a misunderstanding as to what defines a student. "I am enrolled in a UT correspondence course," Mulcahy says. "At the beginning of the semester I was told this was okay" by TSP officials (which Lawrence confirmed). However, students in correspondence courses do not show up on the registrar's records, so Mulcahy was officially not a student. Mulcahy says that UT administrators then told him that he needed to be enrolled in more than the correspondence course.
Mulcahy alleged that the questions into his academic status were raised by some people with motive to attack the Texan, including athletic director DeLoss Dodds and assistant ombudsman Parag Mehta, who also sits on the board of directors of the Texas Union. The Texan has editorialized against student seats at Royal-Memorial Stadium being moved to the upper deck, and against certain policy decisionsat the Union. Mulcahy claims he was the subject of a conversation in one of the luxury skyboxes at the stadium between Justice, Dodds, and some UT student leaders during the Rice game.
However, Justice's response was, "Oh, puh-leeze! No. That never occurred. Whether Michael is enrolled at UT is public information. You can call the registrar's office and check."
Dodds said UT student government president Annie Holand had mentioned Mulcahy in a conversation at the game, but, "That's all I'm aware of. I have no interest in that. I'm not even familiar with all of the issues involved." Holand refused to comment on the conversation.
When contacted by the Chronicle, Emanuelson said, "There seems to be some hypocrisy with the TSP board being interested in Colby [Black, the previous Texan editor]."
Last year, the conservative Black was reprimanded by the board for racially inflammatory material printed on the paper's editorial page. Mulcahy is liberal and pro-affirmative action.
If a similar situation had arisen with Black, Emanuelson believes the more conservative editor would have been promptly removed. "I think last year there wouldn't have been much discussion," Emanuelson said.
Calls to Mehta were not returned.
Now Mulcahy will indeed be busy with school work -- in addition to the correspondence course, his new class is an independent study course with a journalism professor, which will require a 40-50 page paper at the end of the semester. Also, Mulcahy says he has to make up two incomplete courses from the previous semester, which also require lengthy papers. -- L.N.
Hopwood's Price Tag
A state-appointed commission studying minority enrollment at Texas colleges and universities in the post-Hopwood era released a report last Thursday calling for $600 million in additional state funding for financial aid, retention, and recruitment programs for underrepresented students. The Texas Commission on a Representative Body, comprised of 25 prominent Texas citizens, educators, and business leaders, has been meeting since January to examine and make recommendations on how Texas colleges and universities can attract and retain minority students within the current law that prohibits the use of racial preferences in higher education.
Some state legislators, upon hearing of the TCRSB recommendations last week, cautioned that the funding allocations the commission recommends are unrealistic.
In the landmark Hopwood vs. Texas case in March 1996, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District ruled that race may not be taken into consideration in admission and financial aid programs in state-funded colleges and universities. As a result, minority enrollment across the state -- but especially at UT Austin and Texas A&M -- dropped significantly.
The TCRSB recommended that the Texas Legislature appropriate an extra $500 million per biennium for increased need-based financial aid programs, as well as giving automatic grants to poor students who enroll in any state institution of higher education, including technical colleges. It also recommended the state encourage the private business and industry sector to provide additional funding through partnerships with Texas colleges.
According to the commission study, students whose families earn more than $75,000 per year have an 86% chance of entering college before they're 24 years old. Students whose families earn less than $10,000 have a 38% chance. The commission also reported that nationwide, only 57% of all students who enter a college or university graduate with a bachelor's degree. Therefore, the commission recommended that the Legislature increase funding for retention, tutoring, and mentor programs. It also called for additional funding to allow professional faculty (tenured and tenure-track professors) to teach more introductory courses, which at large institutions such as UT are taught mostly by graduate students.
The commission also called for an aggressive market-research initiative that would include an attempt to encourage investment from state businesses and industries. Austin advertising firm GDS&M reported to the commission that the overall cost of such a plan would be about $18 million.
"All of this has forced people to really look at the situation closely," said Cathy Celestino, TCRSB staff director. "What we're trying to do is make conservative and creative efforts to bring more people into higher education." For the full report, see http://www.uhsa.uh.edu/TCRSB. -- B.M.