• University erred in handling bomb threat

    The Austin Police Bomb Squad investigates a bomb threat at Shawarma Republique food trailer on 24th Street. A man being treated for psychiatric disorder called in two bomb threats in the West Campus area Tuesday morning.
    The Austin Police Bomb Squad investigates a bomb threat at Shawarma Republique food trailer on 24th Street. A man being treated for psychiatric disorder called in two bomb threats in the West Campus area Tuesday morning.

    Remember the bomb threat that happened two days ago? Yeah --neither do I. It's because University students weren't notified of it via email or text, as is the case in most emergency situations. There were murmurings of it here and there, but without an official statement by UT officials on the subject, many students remained in the dark. (Pun intended.)  

    University administrators waited more than three hours to notify students of two bomb threats reported in West Campus. When students finally did hear about it, word was sent through a single tweet sent from the University’s official Twitter account. Students never received a campus-wide email or text alert about the bomb threats. 

    This, to me, is inexcusable. Forget the argument about whose jurisdiction the threat fell under (Austin Police Department or UTPD) or whether the threat was on campus or not. When something happens that endangers the lives of other people, especially in a student-dense area like West Campus, the general public deserves to know. Surely, sending out a text message or email can't be that difficult.  

    Two years ago, in 2012, this same thing happened. A bomb threat was called in and UT officials neglected to alert students. Now, this past Tuesday, history has repeated itself, and that does not bode well for the future of UTPD's relationship with its public.  

    UTPD needs to make more of an effort to keep UT students, staff and faculty updated about any and all possible dangers, regardless of what APD says. There is an undeniable obligation that UTPD has to the public it protects. Keeping a line of communication open is the only way that trust can be built and we can all feel safer. 

  • Despite attack site, state Sen. Robert Nichols maintains moral high ground

    As the Texas Observer reported on Tuesday, an attack site has been launched against state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, that derides his supposed liberalism. This despite any upcoming election battle for Nichols in the next three years. According to the Observer's Christopher Hooks, "It seems likely that the site comes from the Tim Dunn/Michael Quinn Sullivan messaging network."

    On the website, RobertNicholsRecord.com, Nichols is slammed for supporting a so-called "dark money bill" last session, which would have forced political nonprofits, like Sullivan's pet projects, to disclose their donors. Nichols is also castigated for supporting a bill from last session, authored by Senate Higher Education Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, which would have clarified that regents do not have the power to fire university presidents over the objections of pertinent chancellors. That bill, of course, was filed in response to the spats between UT Regent Wallace Hall and President William Powers Jr. Sullivan, unsurprisingly, firmly took the side of the former.  

    The Observer article notes that Nichols is no liberal Republican, no matter what the crazies from the fringe of his party may have you believe. It points to a recent post-session analysis by Rice University Professor Mark P. Jones that ranked him as the sixth most conservative member of the upper house. 

    Of course, if Hooks is right, this would not be Sullivan's first attempt to defeat Republicans against whom he has a personal vendetta, under the cloak of partisan purity. He largely spearheaded the defeat of former state Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, for similar reasons in last year's primary. 

    However, Sullivan has his limits when it comes to deposing otherwise popular but pragmatic representatives. As I noted last year in a Texan column, Sullivan previously set his sights on two House members who are vocal allies of Speaker Joe Straus: Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, and Jim Effer, R-Eastland. At the time, it remained to be seen how successful his guerilla tactics would be against this vaunted incumbents.  

    The month after that column was published, both Cook and Keffer demolished their respective Sullivan-backed opponents in the Republican primary, going to show that, no matter how much dark money you have at your disposal, sometimes a popular incumbent is just too popular. 

    All signs point to Nichols indeed being so popular. As the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, he is respected by both parties for working diligently to solve our growing state's issues with gridlock. As a representative for a rural district consisting of 19 counties, he is also a fighter for his constituents.  

    What he is not a fighter for, though, are shady zealots. It has earned him some enemies, but I bet when the next election rolls around, it will earn him some friends, too.  

    Horwitz is senior associate editor. 

  • The lay of the land

  • U.S. must set example in fight against ISIS

    In his most recent column, Jeremi Suri condemns the brazen brutality of the Islamic State, calling for an affirmation that the purpose of our fight against ISIS is to uphold the standards of international law and limits on human brutality. ISIS has beheaded, killed, captured, burned and tortured its victims. It has sparked an international human rights outcry and expanded our conceptions of the limits of human cruelty and operational violence. 

    Over the last year, Russia has demonstrated “little respect for its human rights obligations,” according to Human Rights Watch, and has left Eastern Ukraine "in tatters." These experiences demand international attention and response. To restrain these abuses, Suri reflects, we, as a world, must uphold our global human rights declarations and charters.

     Law is the language of power. Suri emphasizes the power of international consensus on the limits of violence; it creates expectations, routines, respect and, in some cases, deters reprehensible acts of war. However, in order to be of value, international law must be respected.

    The United States has been instrumental over the past century in structuring and fortifying a series of international agreements regarding the nexus of human rights and national defense and security. It has encouraged the most influential players on the world stage to disavow practices of war and violence as a result of World War II. 

    However, on several occasions, the United States has been scrutinized by international courts for violating the conventions of war, selectively applying the Geneva conventions and drafting certain charters only to neglect to ratify them. Perhaps the most popular example of this was the report released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding C.I.A. torture practices that shocked the American conscience. The C.I.A. interrogation program was not adequately overseen and the report even included other countries that served as hosts for the torture practices: Lithuania, Poland and Romania, all members of the European Court of Human Rights. The program degraded accountability prospects for human rights in other countries. The United States is the global leader in human rights preservation, and when it falters on its international humanitarian principles and policies, its security and well-being are threatened.

    Suri emphasizes that declarations of universal human rights are susceptible to the “prerogative of dominant states.” The nations that are powerful enough to structure and command respect for these declarations have disproportionate power to evade and incorporate them selectively. The United States must recognize that as a position of privilege.

    In order to affirm our value in the world of law, we must lead by example. A more concentrated approach to transparency in this administration will reinforce global standards of violence. The atrocities committed by ISIS warrant reprisal, and greater transparency regarding torture and the American preservation of equally applied human rights should complement this. We must uphold our own values and “civility” to set an example.

    Shah is a business and government sophomore from Temple.

  • Abigail Fisher needs to get over it

    Abigail Fisher, a rejected undergraduate UT applicant, filed a petition Tuesday for her case, Fisher v. University of Texas, to be heard by the Supreme Court for a second time.
    Abigail Fisher, a rejected undergraduate UT applicant, filed a petition Tuesday for her case, Fisher v. University of Texas, to be heard by the Supreme Court for a second time.

    Abigail Fisher and her lawyers are bringing her case to the US Supreme Court for a second time. Abigail Fisher and her lawyers need to move on. 

    Fisher is painted by her legal team as a victim of being white in a world that favors minorities. It's ridiculous. A successful and valuable University seeks diversity in order to enhance the overall quality of education for its students. Imagine going to a school where everyone was white, served as president of NHS and played cello in their high school orchestra. It would be unbearable. The stock of college applicants that fit this demographic is high. Distinguishing factors are necessary, but sadly not everyone has them. 

    Many college applicants are under the false impression that being involved in many extracurriculars and striving for high standardized testing scores are these distinguishing factors and their ticket to a good university, but they're wrong. 

    Suzy Lee Weiss wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in 2013 criticizing the competitive colleges that rejected her. Weiss ponders the ways she could have solved her lack of diversity in her applications — "Show me to any closet, and I would've happily come out of it... I also probably should have started a fake charity. Providing veterinary services for homeless people's pets. Collecting donations for the underprivileged chimpanzees of the Congo. " 

    Weiss' poor attitude represents the problem I have with Abigail Fisher's case and the formulaic college application mindset: They share an assumption that anyone who is passionate enough about a cause to start their own charity, anyone who came to terms with their sexuality or anyone who showed an honest and true passion in a specific field did so only to aid their chances of getting into their school of choice. I would hope admissions counselors would accept someone who has made an effort to better the world over a senior class president if it came down to it. 

    A formula for a guaranteed college acceptance does not exist. A proven passion in a specialized area is preferable to serving a leadership position for the sake of upping a resume. Abigail Fisher attended and graduated from Louisiana State University, rejecting an offer of attending a satellite UT campus with the option of transferring later. Why she chose to obsess over her semi-rejection from a competitive University enough to take a faulty case to the Supreme Court not once, but twice, is lost on me.