Friday Firing Lines: Information technology, Yik Yak, equal rights

We will be watching the Faculty Council at its April 14 meeting and how it answers the challenge President Powers presented to the council last September in his State of the University Address: to advise how the UT curriculum should change to take advantage of the ways new information technology permits teaching in interactive ways “pedagogically better” than “large passive lectures.” And how UT students can gain from using e-learning materials offered by others.

Powers is right in raising the use of information technology as a major issue in higher education. For the first time since Gutenberg, when movable type began to produce books more efficiently than did dictation and hand-copying, higher education has a chance to apply capital to reduce labor. E-learning materials can improve learning and reduce costs.

Using the new technology will greatly change universities. Many subjects taught by the traditional classroom-course-lecture method will be mastered by students who practice in simulated environments until proficiency is gained. Displaced lecturers may engage in more research or render hands-on assistance to students engaged in e-learning.

Before reaching its recommendations, the Faculty Council will want a clearer idea of exactly what is happening today with information technology. We might expect each department will be asked to designate a member of its faculty who will be granted the necessary time to gather facts to aid the council. This would include ascertaining: What technology-enhanced learning materials, no matter where developed, are now available for mastering a subject? Which of them are of a quality which meets UT standards? How are students led to these materials? How might success in learning by these means be acknowledged and accredited? What new forms of faculty assistance to online students and joint study by students using technology are evolving? How can a professor who wants to produce technology-enhanced learning materials do so, with what consequences on duties and intellectual property rights? What help should such a professor expect, from his/her department or from a centralized university technology office? How might UT’s future use of technology relate to what other universities are doing? President Powers, last September, expressed pleasure that the Faculty Council was establishing a committee to focus on these issues. But at the up-coming April meeting, seven months later, according to the Faculty Council secretary, we can only expect a report of an “ad hoc committee that was organized to propose the charge for the new committee and the principles for determining its membership.”     

Information technology and its relationship to higher education are moving at a faster pace. It will take recognition of that fact and the devotion of substantial resources to the work of the committee-to-be-formed, and to those in the departments designated to help, if UT is not to leave these issues to be addressed only by others.

Francis D. Fisher, senior research fellow, LBJ School of Public Affairs, submitted via email


It’s not an issue of comparing race to sexual orientation, but it’s about providing a safe space for the Longhorn community to express themselves and pursue their education while not facing discrimination.

— Online commenter Kent Kasischke in response to the Life & Arts article “Gay Liberation Front from 1970s paved way for UT gay rights groups”


People post crass, rude things to get a reaction. If nobody is reading the posts, nobody will react to them and the bullying will stop. Delete the app, y’all.

— Online commenter Madeline in response to the column “Yik Yak app encourages racism, sexism at UT” by Alexandra Triolo