• Rare admissions decision a step towards transparency

    “I do not know this young man or anything about his qualifications, but I do know [his] parents and I know his grandparents very well.”

    That ringing endorsement from former regent and UT donor Tex Montcrief, released during the Kroll investigation into UT’s admission policies under former President Bill Powers and published recently by the Dallas Morning News, was one of 73 reported instances of the president’s office overriding rejections issued by the admissions department. The ensuing firestorm led the Board of Regents to revamp the University’s “rare admissions” policy, which now requires the UT System Chancellor to review any overturned admissions decisions and bars the President from admitting “unqualified” applicants.

    It’s unclear how many admissions decisions will be affected by the new policy. Even without oversight, rare admissions represented just over one percent of the 65,163 full-time freshmen who enrolled during Powers’ tenure, and it’s impossible to know how many of them fall under the Regents’ definition of “unqualified.”

    Still, the measure should boost accountability at the upper levels of UT’s administration without restricting the President’s discretion to pursue the University’s best interests. The fact that new President Greg Fenves would have to justify all of his overrides to Chancellor William McRaven should deter him from egregiously interfering with the admissions office. But as unjust as it may be to give applicants preferential treatments based solely on their last names and their family’s bank accounts, doing so can appease donors without harming other current or prospective UT students. That allows UT to provide more resources and opportunities to all of its students, privileged or otherwise. Keeping those trade-offs well-regulated and above the table can prevent abuses without destroying the system in its entirety.

    Shenhar is an associate editor. Follow him on Twitter @jshenhar.

  • Choosing where to sit on your first day of class is about embracing stereotypes

    Walking into class on the first day of school and choosing your seat is as much about embracing stereotypes as anything else. Heed this advice and embrace yours.

    Never sit in the front row if you’re not a first-row type. First-row types can be defined as those who idolize their professors, are in need of rec letter-writers or just can’t take it easy. Class for first-rowers is a symbiotic relationship. They provide professors with thought-provoking answers and attentive stares in return for glowing letters of recommendation to send to future employers.

    First-row types want to be seen and heard. By all means, sit in the first row if you fall under this category and try out for the Texan. We need overachieving, do-gooders.

    If you’re in a sorority or fraternity, you’re contractually required to sit next to other members of the Greek community. Keep your eyes peeled for extra-large, pastel frocket tees and Northface book bags. Greek groupings are frequently found in the middle-to-back sections of any lecture hall.

    These groups are ideal for classes that rely heavily on collaboration. You’ll develop ties with other sororities and fraternities that your social chair will love.

    Don’t overlook the back-row bums. More often than not, they’re smarter than you. These students will skip half of the semester but will show up on exam day and likely pass the final with an above average grade. When you sit in the back, try and avoid giving your number out. This will likely lead to annoying biweekly text that are some variation of “Did we learn anything in class the last two weeks?”  

    Let’s say you’re the average student, like most of us. You’re best bet is to coordinate with friends you know are taking the same class.

    You don’t know anyone? The last resort is just to sit wherever you want.

    Sampson is a journalism junior from Chevy Chase, Maryland. She is an associate editor. Follow her on Twitter @katclarksamp.

  • Television series about family dynamics still matter

    We are considered living in the new golden age of television. Shows such as “House of Cards,” “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “True Detective,” and others, have made television more exciting.

    Today’s television shows are transformative in captivating the audience’s imagination to gripping stories revolving around politics, drug-dealing, sex, violence, crime and even advertising.

    Why then this fascination with the family genre? In a time when television focuses so much on larger-than-life renditions of the human condition, why do family-focused shows continue to prevail?

    Truth is stranger than fiction. Television sitcom, the only genre that has not fully undergone a transformation,  still mainly revolves around family situations and dynamics. Some of the greatest television series of all time revolve around family issues: Shows such as “The Brady Bunch,” “The Cosby Show,” “All in the Family” and others were groundbreaking shows in capturing regular life and confronting difficult yet common problems.

    Real life is beautiful, and people are more attracted to stories that deal with everyday, relatable issues. This is why shows like “All in the Family” are still relatable in the current decade.  

    The definition of family has become fluid over the years, but television portrayals of family values remain the same. Television series such as “The Bernie Mac Show,” “The Sopranos,” “Black-ish,” “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Modern Family” presented issues and conversations on race, social class, sexuality and moral standards, and shaped the popular understanding of the modern family. But not much has changed in terms of communicating messages of loyalty, friendship, commitment and simply doing the right thing. These underlying family dynamic issues are the basis as to why family television series are so popular: It’s realistically relatable to our own lives and our own families.

    Television series about families still matter in our society today. Though the definition of family may have changed, the dynamic still stays the same. Family-themed television shows discuss the significance of themes relating to friendships, personal relationships, family bonds and marriage — issues that we can all relate to and comprehend. Television series relating to family still matter, because they discuss the issues that matter.

    Chen is an international relations and global studies senior from Galveston. Follow him on Twitter @ZhelunC.

  • Removal of Jefferson Davis statue is not enough for black community

    On August 13, President Gregory Fenves announced his decision to relocate the statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, from the UT Main Mall to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Additionally, Fenves announced he will relocate the statue of Woodrow Wilson, which sits adjacent to the Davis statue, for the sake of “symmetry.” If Fenves is to show his dedication to equality and diversity to the black student population, he must make plans to erect a new statue in Davis’s place — not only of someone who is a crucial part of Texan and University history, but is black as well.

    The demonstrations against the statue’s presence on campus, which include vandalism of the statue, public forums discussing its future and the appointment of a University task force to deliberate possible solutions, were not the first of their kind. Black students have been expressing their grievances against the multiple confederate monuments across campus since at least the ’60s. The charges against the statues cited they create a hostile environment, represent the legacy of racism rather than the legacy of black resistance and provide black students with a constant reminder of the hateful history of Texas and the Confederacy.

    Fenves’ decision is a compromise at best. While the remaining Confederate monuments do represent aspects of Texan history, they also represent white supremacy’s role in institutionalized oppression, past and present. There is only one statue on campus dedicated to a black Texan, although there have been countless contributions to the state by black individuals, many of whom have been underappreciated. One of the most notable, courageous and relevant individuals, not only to Texas and UT, but public education across the nation, is Heman Marion Sweatt — the first black student at UT.

    Sweatt endured a grueling and emotionally tolling legal battle with the University after being denied admission solely due to his blackness. His victory paved the way for reform of the racist educational system plaguing the country, although it is often overshadowed by the significantly more discussed Brown v. Board of Education, which took place four years later. Sweatt’s significance to the University is undeniable, but his legacy is not prioritized. There is a building named after the UT President that originally denied Sweatt’s admission because he was black. There is little to no established recognition devoted to Sweatt. Fenves has the power and ability to highlight Sweatt’s contributions to the state and the nation. If he is concerned about “symmetry,” erecting a statue of Sweatt is a viable solution that can be a small step to further establishing trust between the black UT community and the administration.

    Editor’s Note: A follow-up column containing further research into this issue will be published next week.

  • Jason Day's PGA Championship finish refreshing to golf fans

    Professional golfer Jason Day made history Sunday when he won the PGA Championship with the lowest score in major championship history. The first major win of Day’s career culminated in an emotional ending when the Australian sunk his last putt on the 18th green. After a round filled with Spieth fans yelling “choke,” Day slumped his shoulders and started crying.

    Seconds after his ball went in the cup, Day was embraced by his caddie, followed by his wife and kids. Families may storm the field after a Superbowl win or flood the court during NBA finals, but the solitary nature of golf makes a win on the 18th green such a satisfying spectacle. No other sport allows fans to witness such an intimate display between family members.

    During the press conference, the theme remained family-focused when he thanked his mother for the sacrifices she made. Day was only 12 years old when his father died, leaving his mother to fund his golfing academy. His life is reminiscent of the rags-to-riches tale worthy of Hollywood, making the reality of the situation that much sweeter.

    Athletes aren’t the always relatable. Emotional responses to wins are one of the few ways fans identify with these demigods. But Day was transparent: Nothing was being taken for granted.

    It hasn’t been a particularly good couple of years for golf ratings. In the wake of the infamous Tiger Woods controversy and a quick stint in rehab for Dustin Johnson, golfers have lost their reputation as the most reserved and conservative of professional athletes.

    Day’s emotional win reassured sports fans that wins aren’t handed to athletes. Wins are hard fought and often the result of a number of people’s time and energy. Day’s transparency about the help he received and his appreciative nature will give him a longevity more reserved or controversial athletes don’t get.

    It’s always refreshing to watch an athlete who we trust win a major sports event, especially when they have a story to tell. The combination of his humble nature and compelling story made Day’s first major championship a win not just for himself but for the sport of golf. If athletes want to be seen as trustworthy and adored by fans, it’s in their favor to show some emotion.

    Sampson is an Associate Editor. Follow her on Twitter @katclarksamp.