• Google Fiber coming to Austin, city officials confirm

    Officials from the city of Austin and Google announced Tuesday morning that Austin will be the next city to receive Google Fiber's ultra-fast gigabit Internet service.

    Mayor Lee Leffingwell made the official announcement, and said the city has continued to work toward receiving the service after applying to be the first city to receive it last year, ultimately losing to Kansas City, Kan. Leffingwell said city officials realized many Austinites worked hard to be heard during the original application.

    "We heard you," Leffingwell said. "It's a resource that can help make our city even more innovative. Google Fiber will change how we live and how we work in ways we don’t even know about yet."

    Milo Medin, vice president of access services at Google, said pricing rates for the service in Austin are still to be determined. The service will be implemented in several communities called "fiberhoods" around the city, and will provide free public service in educational areas such as libraries and schools.

    "We build where you want us to," Medin said. "Instead of us trying to figure out where we should construct the network, you – the citizens of Austin – will tell us. Austin and Texas as a whole has a legacy of inspiring other cities and states throughout America, and we know that you will use your creativity with this gigabit service."

    Austin City Council member Laura Morrison said the Internet service will be central in continuing to make Austin a hub of innovation. Google's dedication to providing free high-speed Internet service to public areas of the city is very much in line with Austin's goals for its citizens.

    "Our city is committed to digital inclusion for all of our residents, a goal we share with Google," Morrison said.

    Gov. Rick Perry said receiving the service was a group effort between the city and the state, and the service will go along perfectly with the continued innovation of the Austin area. 

    "Way to go, Austin – you are changing the world," Perry said. "Central Texas is a perfect fit for Google Fiber. The things that have been going on in Austin over the last few years have been nothing less than world-changing."

     

  • Regents call special meeting Thursday to discuss information requests, foundation investigation

    The UT System Board of Regents will be holding a specially called meeting Thursday to discuss several ongoing issues that have highlighted differences among the board itself.

    The board's agenda includes discussion about releasing information requested by members of the Texas Legislature, a recent vote to continue an external investigation of the relationship between the UT School of Law and the Law School Foundation and the constitutional and legal rights and responsibilities of the Board of Regents.

    The meeting was requested by four regents  Steven Hicks, Robert Stillwell, James Dannenbaum and Printice Gary  after it was discovered Friday that board Chairman Gene Powell had asked the Texas Attorney General's office for permission to withhold documents requested by legislators. Generally, meetings can be requested by the board chairman or by three of the other regents.

    System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said that the board’s three vice chairmen  Regents Paul Foster, Hicks and Dannenbaum  were informed in advance of Powell’s decision to write to the attorney general.

    Powell’s request to withhold information prompted sharp criticism from lawmakers. In a three-page statement, state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said she had heard Powell’s behavior compared to that of former President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal and called the chairman’s request an “outrageous” delay tactic.

    On his twitter account, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said, “Declining to provide vital information to [the Legislature] only deepens Higher Education suspicions.”

    The agenda for the meeting can be found here.

  • UT System Board of Regents asks to withhold information, prompts legislator to ask if board has "something to hide"

    In the middle of ongoing tensions between the UT System Board of Regents, the Texas Legislature and President William Powers Jr.,  board Chairman Gene Powell has asked the Texas Attorney General's office if the System is allowed to withhold information from legislators.

    Powell's request comes only weeks after the regents levelled claims of a "lack of transparency" against Powers regarding a controversy surrounding the UT Law School Foundation.

    The board's request to withhold information has sparked sharp criticism from lawmakers, including state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who in a statement referenced the behavior of President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.

    “My only conclusion is that [the Regents] have something to hide,” Zaffirini said Friday night in the statement.

    In a letter to state Attorney General Greg Abbott, Powell asked if the System could legally withhold certain information from the legislature, or if there was a specific time frame in which a governmental body must respond to an open records request.

    “With regard to legislative requests, we are presented with a unique set of circumstances not clearly addressed in the law,” Powell wrote.

    According to the Texas Public Information Act, governing bodies must handle all requests from private citizens in good faith and produce requested information “promptly.” If this cannot be done in 10 days, the governmental body must recognize this in writing and set a date and hour when the records will be available. Alternatively, if there is a desire to withhold information, the governing body  in this case, the UT System  has 10 days to write to the attorney general asking for a decision.

    The UT System has, by its own count, received four “expansive” requests for information from legislators, including one request by Zaffirini made as a private citizen. In this request, Zaffirini asked for any and all data relating to a number of categories, including “President Powers,” “Regent Wallace L. Hall Jr.” and “Regent Alex M. Cranberg,” among others.

    Zaffirini said she made her request as a private citizen because the System has no time limit on responses for legislative requests. Her request as a private citizen is likely what prompted the 10-day clock to start, spurring Powell to request withholding certain documents.

    In his letter addressed to Abbott, Powell said the information requests might be harmful to the System’s ability to do its job.

    “We recognize that the legislature has reserved for itself a special right of access to information in the hands of the executive branch, and yet these requests have proved potentially damaging to the ability of the System’s governing board to fulfill properly its statutory and fiduciary duties,” Powell said in the letter.

    Zaffirini called the move outrageous.

    “While the specific regents and personnel involved in this response process have employed countless delay tactics to date, this one is not only the most innovative, but also the most outrageous,” Zaffirini wrote. “Perhaps they do not understand the difference between ‘inconvenient’ and ‘confidential.'”

    Abbott has not yet ruled on whether or not the requested information will be granted to Zaffirini or to any of the other legislators.

    UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said Powell informed the board's three vice chairmen — Regents Paul Foster, Steve Hicks and James Dannenbaum — of his decision to write to the attorney general. Foster, whose term as a regent expired in February, was nominated by Gov. Rick Perry to serve another six-year term.

  • Full testimony of Texas Tech student regarding sexual assault on college campuses at House Higher Ed

    On Thursday, The Daily Texan ran a story about a bill — sponsored by Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin — in the Texas Legislature that would create a statewide task force to study how to better deal with sexual assaults on campus. The hearing included testimony from Allison Hawkins who spoke about how Texas Tech University handled a case of assault against her when she was a freshman. Her full testimony is below:

    I attended a frat party three days into my freshman year of college at Texas Tech University. I was trying to have the “full college experience” that everyone kept talking about. That night multiple girls had been drugged with GHB. Some, including myself, were overdosed. The fraternity had their new members take a girl back to their dorm and rape them as a part of their initiation. Of course to them, it wasn’t rape – it was just a joke. I was raped by one of the new members while his buddies stood outside the dorm, listening, recording everything that happened. I felt humiliated and ashamed and I hated myself for letting this happen. I had no idea what to do or where to go for help.  A good friend of mine suggested going to the school counseling office; I went there and met with a counselor who encouraged me to report the crime and go to the hospital. Later I felt that this was a big mistake.

    I was interviewed by a cop who wasn’t trained and kept getting the process  wrong, so I had to keep reliving my story over and over to this man who did not know what he was doing. I felt raped all over again. The only support I could find through all this was the Rape Crisis Center in Lubbock, and even that support was limited.

    After reporting my crime, I was put through two separate investigations: one through my school and one through local police. The police and the school investigated my case along with another girl who attended the same party as me.

    I was told repeatedly from both sides that her case had more evidence than mine. I was told from both sides that certain evidence made me look “unreliable.” There was security camera footage from my abuser’s dorm that showed me before and after the rape. Before the rape occurred, I was told I didn’t look “drunk enough” – that because I could walk on my own, I must not have been drugged or drunk and must have been able to consent. After the rape occurred, I was told the security camera showed me “not acting like a rape victim.” Because I wasn’t crying, because I was composed, they assumed I was lying, when really all I was wanting to do was get home.

    People in charge of investigating assault and violent crimes do not understand what rape is, and have no way of knowing how an individual acts unless previous precedents and policies are set in place. I constantly felt like I had to prove myself – I was even accused of lying. I was told that because of the time of night that it  had happened, they said that the only reason I would be in a guy’s dorm was for consenting sex and not rape. I was made to feel like this guy had more rights than I did. The school was more concerned about his rights being protected than the fact that he raped me. Eventually, after agonizing over two cases and retelling and reliving my rape, the guy was let free and the fraternity is still active on campus. I was not made aware of any arrests or any sort of consequence given. My rape means nothing to my college, and this group of guys are out there able to commit crimes against someone else’s daughter – even your daughters.

    I regret having reported my rape. My situation could have turned out so differently had there been somewhere to go, someone to stand up for me, and walk me through the process of reporting my rape and what to do afterwards. I believe this bill can give girls a place to go, and a louder and more prominent voice when it comes to reporting these types of crimes. Most of all, this bill would put someone in charge of watching over these universities, ensuring that they are adhering to these laws already set  in place when in comes to investigating a rape and helping the rape victim. Texas Tech, when investigating my crime, did not make me aware of my rights. It wasn’t until I contacted a non-profit group on my own that I was made aware of my rights as a victim.

    My case was treated like any other violation, and that is not right. Sexual assault and other violent crimes are not like any other violation. They not only affect the individual for a short period of time, they affect every aspect of and indvidual’s life for the rest of their life, including friends and family members. My mother doesn’t know how to deal with my rape; she blames herself. She feels that it was her fault for not protecting me. She has to see a counselor just to understand what happened to me.

    For me personally, I don’t feel safe on my own campus. Because of the lack of support from Texas Tech University, I do not feel safe and I do not know how to change that. I still see these guys every day walking around campus, smiling, free to rape another girl and turn the life of a family upside-down. This bill will give girls who have been raped or the victim of violent crime a little hope in a hopeless situation. Even better, it can potentially prevent these crimes altogether and save lives. I need you to hear me. I need you to feel the urgency and importance of this bill. This crime is important, and it’s happening on every college campus whether you choose to acknowledge it. Please try to acknowledge it. Please make this bill a priority, because I will be damned if this happens to any of my friends. 

  • Regent Stillwell says fellow regents "beating a dead horse" in investigation of Law School Foundation

    In what appears to be the next development in the ongoing conflicts surrounding the UT System Board of Regents, the Texas Legislature and President William Powers Jr., individual regents have begun speaking with increased candor about the Board’s decision to seek an external review of the already-investigated UT Law School Foundation.

    UT Regent Bobby Stillwell told the Texas Tribune his colleague Alex Cranberg was “splitting hairs” in defending the external review, while Cranberg made references to a potential “cover up” on the part of outgoing System general counsel Barry Burgdorf.

    According to the Tribune, Stillwell said the Board should move on from its investigation of the relationship between the UT School of Law and the Law School Foundation.

    “There’s no useful purpose to be served by continuing to beat this dead horse,” Stillwell said.

    Stillwell also appeared to criticize his colleague’s insistence that an insufficient number of reviews have been conducted. In March, 18 state senators signed a letter to the Board saying that the Board-approved review would be “the fourth review of this matter,” which Cranburg said reflected a misunderstanding of how many reviews have actually been conducted.

    “I think whether we’re in round four of one investigation or on the fourth investigation is just semantics,” Stillwell told the Tribune. “The fact is, it’s been going on for the better part of a year.”

    In an email to the Tribune on Wednesday, Cranberg maintained that the initial investigation, conducted by Burgdorf, did not adequately address the regents’ concerns about the UT Law School Foundation.

    “[The investigation] was so inadequate that I have heard complaints of it being a cover up,” Cranberg wrote in an email to the Tribune.

    Burgdorf announced his resignation in March.

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