EVENT: Mexico’s round one executive and technical sessions on areas and fields that will be tendered in 2015 for private companies to participate in hydrocarbon exploration and extraction projects, hosted by The University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences and the Greater Houston Partnership.
WHEN: 2 to 5:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 20.
WHERE: Four Seasons Ballroom (3rd Floor), Four Seasons Hotel Houston, 1300 Lamar St., Houston.
WHO MAY ATTEND: Registered members of the media are invited to attend the executive session from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in the third floor ballroom. Media may not attend the technical session.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Members of the media are invited to a press briefing from 1 to 1:30 p.m. in the Conroe Room on the second floor.
TO REGISTER: There are 25 spots reserved for members of the media. To register, please go to https://mexico-round-one.eventbrite.com
BACKGROUND: Mexico’s historic decision to deregulate the nation’s oil and gas industry will allow private companies to undertake projects in Mexico.
The University of Texas at Austin and the Greater Houston Partnership will be hosting Mexico’s round one executive and technical presentations on oil and gas areas and fields that will be tendered to private companies in 2015.
The round one tender will offer 169 exploration and production blocks and cover a total of 28,500 square kilometers with a potential of more than 18 billion barrels of oil equivalent in cumulative prospective resources, and proven and probable reserves.
Round one will offer foreign and private oil companies the rights to bid on acreage in the Perdido and south Gulf of Mexico deep water areas, onshore Chicontepec Basin, unconventional fields, shallow water and heavy oil fields.
AUSTIN, Texas — University of Texas at Austin History Professor Denise A. Spellberg has been named the $10,000 grand prize winner of the 2014 University Co-op Robert W. Hamilton Book Awards for her work “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders.”
The Hamilton Awards are among the highest honors of literary achievement given for UT Austin authors. This year’s winners were announced Wednesday, Oct. 15.
The awards are named for Professor Robert W. Hamilton, the Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair-Emeritus in Law, who served as chair of the board of the University Co-op from 1989 to 2001.
In “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders” (published by Alfred A. Knopf), Spellberg recounts how a handful of the country’s founders, Jefferson foremost among them, drew upon Enlightenment ideas about the tolerance of Muslims to fashion a practical foundation for governance in America.
Four other UT Austin professors received $3,000 runner-up prizes:
- Desmond F. Lawler — Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering, for his work “Water Quality Engineering: Physical/Chemical Treatment Processes,” co-authored with Mark Benjamin, University of Washington; Published by John Wiley & Sons
- Huaiyin Li — Department of History, for his work “Reinventing Modern China: Imagination and Authenticity in Chinese Historical Writing”; Published by University of Hawaii Press
- Allison E. Lowery — Department of Theatre and Dance, for her work
“Historical Wig Styling: Volumes 1 and 2”; Published by Focal Press/Taylor and Francis Group
- Mark Metzler — Department of Asian Studies, for his work “Capital as Will and Imagination: Schumpeter's Guide to the Postwar Japanese Miracle”; Published by Cornell University Press
The University Co-operative Society also announced winners for its research awards Wednesday.
Luis Caffarelli, professor of mathematics, was awarded the $10,000 Career Research Excellence Award for maintaining a long-term, superior research program. A National Academy of Sciences member, he works on nonlinear partial differential equations and has been honored with such awards as the Bocher Memorial Prize of the American Mathematical Society (A.M.S.) in 1984, the Rolf Schock Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 2005, the Leroy P. Steele Prizes of the A.M.S. for Lifetime Achievement in Mathematics in 2009 and for Seminal Contribution to Research in 2014, and the Wolf Prize in 2012.
Rachael Rawlins, professor in the School of Architecture, was awarded the $5,000 Best Research Paper Award for “Planning for Fracking on the Barnett Shale: Urban Air Pollution, Improving Health Based Regulation, and the Role of Local Governments,” Virginia Environmental Law Journal.
The article undertakes the most comprehensive review and analysis of air quality monitoring, regulation, and health effects assessment on the Barnett Shale and concludes the state may have been too quick to dismiss health concerns.
The Co-op also awarded two $5,000 Creative Research Awards for the first time, thanks to support from the Moody College of Communication, and the School of Architecture and the College of Fine Arts under the leadership of Dean Douglas Dempster.
The winners were Benjamin Ibarra-Sevilla of the School of Architecture and Kirk E. Lynn of the Department of Theatre and Dance, Ibarra-Sevilla was nominated for “Mixtec Stonecutting Artistry: 16th Century Ribbed Vaults in Mixteca, Mexico,” an exhibit that showcases three cathedral vaults using a 3-D laser point scanner and printer. Lynn was nominated for his acclaimed plays — both with his theater collective the Rude Mechanicals and as a solo writer — produced across America and abroad.
The University Co-op is a not-for-profit corporation owned by UT Austin students, faculty members and staffers. Since 2000, it has given more than $33 million to the university in gifts, grants and rebates.
Thursday, Oct. 16, is World Food Day and the theme this year is “Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth.” This is fitting because 500 million of the world’s 570 million farms, or 88 percent, are family owned, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Family farms, the FAO points out, are clearly the best places to look for solutions to hunger, sustainability and biodiversity. And that is exactly what the FAO and other international development organizations are doing: concentrating on helping small-scale farmers — most of which farm on less than 5 acres — especially in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Texans and other Americans face a set of different challenges.
Americans are not so much hungry as “food insecure,” meaning they’re malnourished because of imbalanced diets, insufficient vitamins or minerals, and the over-consumption of unhealthy foods. Neither are American family farms small and unproductive.
About 96 percent of American farms are family owned and operated, and family farms account for nearly 85 percent of U.S. agricultural production, with “large” and “very large” family farms providing nearly two-thirds of this production. American farms also get a great deal of support from Congress and the USDA.
Still, the FAO is correct: small and midsize farms in the United States receive far less support than larger farms, with more than half of commodity payments going to the 11 percent of farms earning more than $500,000 a year.
They are also far less profitable than the larger farms, with almost all of the small and very small, or “hobby” farms, relying on nonfarm income and midsize farms vanishing, with well more than 100,000 gone over past decade.
Many family farms in the western states are also unsustainable as they drain rivers, dry up reservoirs and pump out ground water at nonreplenishable rates.
Moreover the midsized farms provide more biodiversity, since larger farms are typified by monoculture, with large plantations of single-variety species of corn, soy, cotton and other commodities, whereas smaller farms tend to plant different kinds of crops and raise different kinds of animals.
Yet it’s the midsize family farms that are especially getting squeezed. They don’t have the scale economies that the larger farms do — whether in buying from corporate suppliers, selling power to food companies, and receiving price supports and other subsidies.
And it’s the midsize farms that constitute the mainstay of rural America. Whereas the larger farms are much more likely to have absentee owners and send their profits out of state, midsize family farms buy and spend locally, with resultant multiplier effects of jobs and income then going to local buyers, local hardware and grocery stories, and others.
So the question then becomes, what kind of rural America do we want?
Agricultural studies from several Midwestern states show that consumers in Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan spend of billions on food annually, but nearly all this money and all of the states’ farm production leave their respective states.
An Illinois state task force found that just a 20 percent increase in local food production, processing, and purchasing would spark $20 billion to $30 billion in new economic activity around the state and create thousands of jobs in Illinois.
To promote the diverse kinds of agriculture that would allow a more diverse and interconnected farm system to develop, policymakers in Illinois, Texas, California and other states need to reconsider what kinds of a rural America they want. Americans pride themselves on having a food system run by family farmers, but the truth is that the midsize farm, the backbone of American farming and country living, is less and less of a reality, and that trend will continue.
If Americans seek productive rural areas where midsize farms thrive and where young families can afford to become full-time farmers, state and national leaders both in and out of government must think creatively about how large, interconnected, and more self-sufficient state and regional markets could be developed.
Bartholomew Sparrow is a professor of government at The University of Texas at Austin who studies the history of U.S. foreign relations and teaches classes on the politics of food in America.
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Share this story on Twitter:October 16, 2014
AUSTIN, Texas — A recent $1 million gift to The University of Texas School of Law from Richard and Virginia “Ginni” Mithoff of Houston will support the school’s Pro Bono Program. The gift brings the Mithoffs’ total contributions to the program to $2 million.
By participating in the Pro Bono Program, students increase access to justice and build their professional skills by assisting individuals and communities in need.
The program will be renamed the Richard and Ginni Mithoff Pro Bono Program to acknowledge the donors who first supported it with an initial $1 million gift at its founding five years ago. The Mithoffs’ recent donation will increase the endowment for the program.
Richard Mithoff earned his J.D. from the School of Law in 1971.
“Richard Mithoff is one of the greatest lawyers in America, and he and his wife, Ginni, are two of the state’s most dedicated and generous philanthropists,” said Ward Farnsworth, dean of the School of Law. “We are deeply fortunate to have their support of our Pro Bono Program; the endowment they are creating to support its work will make an important difference in the lives of thousands of people for many years to come. Having the Mithoff name on the program does honor to their commitments and will be a constant source of pride and inspiration for everyone here at the Law School.”
Since 2009, the Pro Bono Program has grown to include full-time staffers and student scholars. It engages an increasing number of students, faculty members and alumni each year in pro bono work and offers service projects and legal clinics that help hundreds of people across the state.
The expanded endowment for the program will allow it to serve more low-income clients, involve more students and instill in School of Law graduates a commitment to pro bono work that will continue throughout their careers. The Pro Bono Program is a project of the school’s William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law. As a former law clerk for U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice, Mithoff was also an early supporter of the Justice Center.
“The Pro Bono Program at the Texas School of Law is one of the finest pro bono programs in the country,” Richard Mithoff said. “Ginni and I are honored to be a part of this program, which not only provides outstanding training to our law students and future lawyers, but also provides very valuable legal assistance to those most in need. We are very proud of the overwhelming participation by students and faculty.”
Before graduating from the School of Law, Richard Mithoff received his bachelor of business administration from UT Austin. In 1974 he went into practice with legendary trial attorney and 1952 School of Law alumnus Joe Jamail. In 2005, he established the Mithoff Law Firm, which is focused on general civil litigation.
He currently serves on the University of Texas Law School Foundation and has endowed a series of scholarships at his alma mater, including a Presidential Scholarship in law for educationally, socially and culturally disadvantaged students.
Ginni Mithoff received her B.S. in elementary education from UT Austin and serves on the University of Texas Development Board and the University of Texas Health Science Center Development Board.
“I’m delighted the UT law school’s Pro Bono Program is being named for Richard and Ginni Mithoff,” said University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers, who is also a former dean of the School of Law. “Increasing access to justice by serving those in need is an important value we need to instill in every UT law student. Through the Mithoffs’ generosity, we can now do that even better.”
Every year on an autumn evening, several hundred Longhorns gather to celebrate a group of their most accomplished peers. The Texas Exes’ annual Distinguished Alumnus Awards ceremony is the biggest event of the year around these parts, and this year it promises to be even more spectacular than usual.
The 2014 recipients of the Association’s highest honor come from many walks of life. They are legendary athlete Earl Campbell, Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, former regent H. Scott Caven Jr., astronaut Karen Nyberg, historic preservationist Dealey Decherd Herndon and education champion John H. Massey.
Record-breaking basketball coach Jody Conradt will also receive the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor given to an individual who did not attend UT.
The honorees will receive the award in an Oct. 17 ceremony at the LBJ Library.
The Tower will glow orange with “100″ lit up on the shaft on Oct. 16 to commemorate the School of Journalism‘s centennial year.
Since its founding in 1914, the School of Journalism has trained more than 12,000 journalists in top-ranked undergraduate and graduate programs, and was selected as one of 12 journalism schools to participate in the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education.
In 2012, the School introduced a new digital-based undergraduate curriculum and moved into the state-of-the-art, 120,000-square-foot Belo Center for New Media.
Journalism Centennial FundCelebrate the School of Journalism’s 100th anniversary with a gift to the Centennial Fund.
The school counts many renowned journalists and national leaders among its alumni, including Walter Cronkite, Lady Bird Johnson, Liz Carpenter, Bill Moyers and Admiral William McRaven, as well as multiple Pulitzer Prize winners.
Visit the school’s Centennial Celebration website to learn about events related to the anniversary, new student learning initiatives, award-winning faculty and alumni, and to see a timeline of the school’s history.
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This story is part of our series “The Creative Campus,” which showcases student creativity. Learn more about the Creative 40 Acres program, which supports student artistic expression at the university. Photo by Jerry Hayes Photography.Have you ever wondered how to play an instrument and be part of a football-field-sized TEXAS at the same time?
Longhorn Band members take on this challenge each week during football season. They’ve got to know not only the music in every halftime program but precisely where they need to march, turn and stand to form a giant TEXAS or Longhorn silhouette or even an airplane — all without missing a note.
The key to knowing your location in a formation, as it turns out, is seeing the field as a grid and knowing how to march in specific “step sizes” while playing music. These fundamental skills are imparted to band members before they even arrive on the Forty Acres.
“They’re trained when they’re in high school to know all of these varying step sizes,” says Robert Carnochan, director of the Longhorn Band, which is based in the Butler School of Music. “This gets drilled into them for four years straight.”
Carnochan says Texas high schools have the best bands in the country, giving students a strong knowledge foundation when they arrive here. Even some complicated aspects, like using the “eight-to-five” stride — taking eight marching steps for every five yards — are second nature to the band members.Instead of seeing the field with changing yard lines, the students divide it into a grid by different step sizes and can seamlessly shift between eight-to-five, the 30-inch stride of six-to-five and other step sizes. Photo by Jerry Hayes Photography.
Point to any spot on the field — even places between hash marks and yard lines — and the student performers can say how many steps that spot is from the closest markings.Each member of the marching band has a dot sheet to help them know where they’re supposed to be on the field. Photo by Nicholas Persac.
To stay on course, Jason Anthraper, an electrical engineering senior who plays tuba, says he focuses on the music and, in his mind, pairs the band’s sound and his upcoming notes with the shifting formations. Anthraper, who also serves as a section leader in the band, says breaking the football field into a grid helps the marchers stay on track.
To bridge the students’ backgrounds with newly created formations and show designs, the marchers use “dot sheets,” or slips of paper about the size of a business card, to know where to be and when.
The sheets appear cryptic, with longitude and latitude like codes communicating the shifting formations to those who can decipher the plan. Erin McAtee, a senior studying biology and Spanish who plays piccolo in the Longhorn Band, says using “dot sheets” helps members visualize how an individual part fits into the whole show.
“Some people are going to be more technical with it,” says McAtee, who is also president of The Longhorn Band Student Association and serves as a section leader. “But we all put in a lot of memorization.”
Watch and listen to Band director Robert Carnochan explain the complex formations performed in November of 2012 in honor of Veterans’ Day.
The source of those coordinates and dot sheets is a computer program developed by a Longhorn Band alumnus. Pyware is the industry standard for collegiate marching bands across the country. Py Kolb, the creator, majored in computer science at UT during the late 1970s and played trombone in the band.
Kolb’s Pyware software helped band directors evolve from the large graphing paper they previously used to individually plot marchers in slightly shifting formations, page after page — like a cartoon flipbook.
When Anthony Marinello, Longhorn Band assistant director, arrived at the university in 2009, he wanted to make the iconic Longhorns silhouette logo sharper and snazzier. He spent three days using Pyware to meticulously plot where band members start and shaping how the logo’s outline should form. That refreshed formation is now part of the band’s iconic repertoire.Before Pyware software existed, Longhorn Band director Vincent DiNino charted formations on graph paper. Image courtesy of the Briscoe Center for American History.
As new formations come and go with passing shows, one constant remains as the band’s signature and crowning formation: Wall-to-Wall Band.
“I love seeing the band end zone to end zone and sideline to sideline,” Carnochan says. “The band looks gigantic, and it just represents Texas so well because everything is bigger in Texas.”
[Watch a slideshow of photos from the Cactus yearbook of the Longhorn Band through the years.]
That traditional formation began in the 1950s under the reign of one of Longhorn Band’s most beloved leaders, Vincent R. DiNino, director of the Longhorn Band from 1955 to 1975. (DiNino died in September and will be honored during halftime on Oct. 18 and at a memorial celebration on Oct. 19. See sidebar below for more information.)
“Wall-to-Wall is really our signature,” Carnochan says. “If another band did that, people would say, ‘You guys stole that from Texas.’”The iconic Wall-to-Wall Band formation. This year, 381 students are members of Longhorn Band, and 95 percent of the band’s members are from Texas. Among the entire band, 84 students are studying engineering, while 47 are music majors. The other most common degree paths among band members include biology (34), business (22) and computer science (22). Photo by Jerry Hayes Photography.
During a recent rehearsal in “The Bubble” (aka, the Denius Indoor Practice Facility), band members march in sharp lines, taking even strides while forming shifting shapes. But instead of donning the famous western-style, burnt orange uniforms, the students wear T-shirts and gym shorts in arrays of colors and sport carpenters’ fanny packs stuffed with sheet music and marching directions.
Carnochan walks among the students signaling for the lines to be straighter, Marinello and Scott Hanna, the band’s associate director, watch for imperfections from a platform that gives him a vantage point comparable to some stadium seats, and a team of graduate students stands on ladders and watches from the sideline, policing for even the slightest missteps.
“Instruments are up. Feet are together. Make this better,” instructs Marinello, watching the rehearsal from the platform. “Same thing,” he commands.
“Same thing, mo’ betta!” the band shouts in response. Then the performers return to starting positions and start the drill over from the top.The Longhorn Band rehearses in “The Bubble.” The undergraduate members have a lot of influence over the music being played and a show theme, but creating for formations is typically left to the band’s faculty and graduate students. Photo by Jerry Hayes Photography.
These formal rehearsals are only part of the practice students put into being a member of the Longhorn Band. Between full-band practices, tests with section leaders and practicing in free time, the students expect to put in at least 10 hours of practice every week on top of the 11 or 12 hours required for every home game.
Though personal strengths vary among the band’s 381 members, many agree playing the music is harder than the marching, mainly because of the large quantity of the music, the tunes’ complexities and the perfection expected by the band’s student and faculty leaders.
J. J. Vernon, an electrical engineering junior who plays tuba, says marching and making the formations is “like riding a bike.” With a little patience, members can pick up new formations with ease.
“You have to put one foot in front of the other,” Vernon says.Legendary Director DiNino to be Honored Oct. 19
The University of Texas at Austin family will honor the life of Vincent R. DiNino, director of bands emeritus, who passed earlier this year, during a memorial service Sunday, Oct. 19, at 10 a.m. in the Bass Concert Hall on campus. The Tower will glow orange with a “D” on the shaft to honor DiNino that evening.
DiNino, who served as director of the Longhorn Band from 1955 to 1975 and then as director of bands until 1985, helped push the band to its current heights.
He oversaw some of the band’s most recognizable traditions, from the “Wall-to-Wall Band” and “Script Texas” formations and playing March Grandioso, to Big Bertha’s presence and wearing western-style burnt orange uniforms.
DiNino also opened the band to both women and minorities, and he touched the lives of thousands of students during his tenure.
“He didn’t wait to be told what to do,” says Robert Carnochan, the Longhorn Band’s director. “He went ahead and did what he knew was the right thing.”
Share this story on Twitter:October 16, 2014
When we were in Dallas on a recruiting visit last week as word of the first Ebola patient in the United States hit the news, we reacted as many other people did — we told jokes.
Every cough or sneeze was greeted with a comment about whether it was time to call an ambulance or head to the emergency room. We walked by that large statue of an eyeball in downtown and stood around it checking to make sure it was not bleeding.
Why is it so natural to greet serious news about a potential public health nightmare with humor? Because it lets us think about it.
A stream of research in social psychology says that our ability to think about death holds the key to understanding this reaction. Something called terror management theory starts with the assumption that humans are most likely the only species on Earth that can contemplate mortality. Because we can think about the fact that some day we will die, each of us needs to find strategies to deal with the fear that comes along with that knowledge.
So why does gallows humor work with so many people?
First, it creates a little bit of positive feeling. Lots of research demonstrates that your mood influences the memories you recall and the interpretation of events around you. If you are sad, you remember sad things, and you find the saddest way to understand events.
When you are anxious, you think about other times in your life when you were afraid, and you focus on the scary elements of the world. These negative moods will perpetuate themselves.
By joking about death, you lighten the mood. It allows you to remember positive times in your life and to experience hope. Humor breaks the potentially vicious cycle of fear that can ultimately be paralyzing.
Second, the fear of death is rooted in the knowledge that death is bad. After death, we will cease to exist. By joking about death, we minimize its importance. Death could not possibly be that important if we can ridicule it. By making death seem less important, at least in the moment, we lessen its impact as a source of anxiety.
There are many ways people react to thoughts about death. Some people cling more tightly to their culture or their religious beliefs, because of the knowledge that the culture will outlive them as individuals. Those people who react by focusing on culture and religion also increase their sense of moral outrage when people do things that violate their cultural or religious beliefs.
This also explains why some people get so offended by gallows humor. In the face of an event like the Ebola outbreak, everyone is forced to think about his or her own death. Some people react by telling jokes.
Those people whose reaction to threats is to take refuge in culture, however, can interpret jokes as a sign that people are not recognizing the seriousness of the situation. They react with outrage that someone would even contemplate joking at such an important time.
So is it “right” that we make jokes about situations like an Ebola outbreak? Maybe, maybe not. But we all must recognize that there are many ways that people deal with the knowledge that someday each of us will die. Laughing in the face of death is just one way that we feel alive even in the worst of circumstances.
Art Markman is the Annabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of psychology and marketing at The University of Texas at Austin and founding director of the Human Dimensions of Organizations program. He is author of “Smart Thinking and Smart Change.”
A version of this op-ed appeared in the Dallas Morning News.
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Share this story on Twitter:October 13, 2014
Clapper, Hadley, McRaven to Address Intelligence Reform at Event Hosted by Clements Center and Strauss Center
EVENT: “Intelligence Reform and Counterterrorism after a Decade: Are We Smarter and Safer?” featuring addresses by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and former commander of the United States Special Operations Command Adm. William McRaven. Adm. McRaven will open the conference on Thursday, Oct. 16, at 4 p.m. at the Blanton Museum of Art Auditorium, followed by remarks by Director Clapper at 5 p.m. The conference is hosted by the William P. Clements, Jr. Center for History, Strategy and Statecraft and the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at The University of Texas at Austin.
WHEN: Oct. 16-18 (Thursday-Saturday)
WHO MAY ATTEND: The conference is open to the public, but seating is limited. The full list of conference participants, schedule and registration information can be found here.
MEDIA: The conference is open to the media. Media check-in and set-up will begin on Thursday, Oct. 16, at 3 p.m. at the Blanton Museum of Art Auditorium. Please register for media credentials here.
A livestream of the conference can be viewed at
BACKGROUND: It has been a decade since the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 ushered in a sweeping reorganization of the U.S. intelligence community, creating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center. In partnership with the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the Clements Center and Strauss Center will host the multiday conference to examine lessons that have been learned and the challenges that lie ahead.
Other participants include prominent practitioners, policymakers and scholars, including
- U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security
- U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Amarillo), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
- John McLaughlin, former acting director of Central Intelligence
- John Negroponte and Michael McConnell, former directors of National Intelligence
- Matt Olsen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center
- Adm. Bob Inman, former director of the National Security Agency
- David Shedd, acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency
This conference is an initiative of the Intelligence Studies Project, a collaboration of the Clements Center and Strauss Center to bring together scholars, policymakers and intelligence officials to explore the past, present and future of intelligence work. This includes workshops conducted with the National Security Agency, the National Intelligence Council and senior intelligence and counterterrorism officials.
AUSTIN, Texas — Retired state District Judge Harley Clark of Austin, a venerated Texas Ex who became a part of Longhorn lore by introducing the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign at a University of Texas pep rally during the 1950s, died Thursday at the age of 78.
He passed away at his beloved farm near Dripping Springs, Texas, where he was able to spend the last months of his life surrounded by books, dogs, family and friends.
“Apart from Judge Clark’s role in helping establish a UT tradition, he was a longtime supporter of the university in other important ways, including contributing to our legal defense in the Hopwood case and volunteering his time. We’ll miss his good-natured presence on our campus,” said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin.
The Hopwood v. Texas case involved the university’s use of race as one of several factors in its admissions process.
"Today, Texas Exes mourn the passing of a man who embodied the spirit of our beloved university," said former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, president of the Texas Exes, the university’s alumni organization. “Harley Clark introduced the Hook 'em Horns hand sign, a symbol of Longhorn pride that is recognized and shared around the globe. His love and dedication to UT Austin will never be forgotten.”
Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. at The Etter-Harbin Alumni Center on campus. The center is located at 2110 San Jacinto Boulevard. The services, open to the public, will be followed by a burial at the Texas State Cemetery, located at 909 Navasota Street.
Clark earned a bachelor of arts degree from the university in 1957, a master of arts degree in 1960 and a law degree in 1962.
He became a successful trial lawyer in the 1960s and 1970s before Gov. Dolph Briscoe appointed him to be a judge for the state’s 250th Judicial District Court in 1977. His most notable decision was in the Edgewood lndependent School District case in 1987. He ruled that the state’s system of financing public schools violated the Texas Constitution because of its funding disparities between property rich and property poor school districts. The decision was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court, 9-0.
After resigning from the court in 1989, Clark spent 10 years working in the Austin office of the law firm Vinson & Elkins.
He then took up gardening a 40-acre organic plot near Dripping Springs. The garden produced gourmet-quality vegetables and herbs for area restaurants.
In a 2007 interview for Texas Gardener, Clark noted a similarity between the size of the farm and the original acreage of the university, saying, “I figure if 40 acres is big enough to start a university, it’s big enough to start a farm!”
Through the years, Clark maintained close ties to The University of Texas at Austin. Since about 1998, he was a special guest nearly every year at Gone To Texas celebrations in front of the Tower. The ceremony is held the night before the first day of each fall semester to welcome new students and share the history of Longhorn traditions. Students always listened intently and responded with enthusiastic applause as they joined him in proudly waving the “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign toward the heavens.
Clark, who was the university’s head cheerleader in 1955 and student body president in 1957-58, publicly introduced the now-famous “Hook ’em Horns” hand sign at the suggestion of classmate Henry “HK” Pitts, who had noticed that, as a shadow figure, it resembled a longhorn, the university’s mascot.
The introduction came during a rally in Gregory Gym the day before the big University of Texas vs. Texas Christian University game in 1955. Clark demonstrated the sign to the crowd and declared, “This is the official hand sign of the University of Texas, to be used whenever and wherever Longhorns gather.”
Clark often related that after the rally, Arno Nowotny, the dean of student life, was very upset and asked Clark whether he was aware of what that sign might mean in another part of the world such as Sicily.
Clark said his response was, “Dean, you need to look on the bright side of things. Instead of our mascot being a longhorn, it could’ve been a unicorn.”
The day after the rally, Clark went to the football field before kickoff and saw that many of the students were flashing the hand gesture. By the end of the game, other people in the stands, nonstudents, also were doing it. A tradition was born.
Clark is survived by his wife Patti Clark; daughter Cari Clark and her husband, Mike Valigura; daughter Paige Suffredini and her husband, John Suffredini; daughter Jeneffer Allen and her husband, Cal Allen; and his youngest daughter, Teel Mayo Clark. Harley had five grandchildren: Clark Schwab, Thomas Schwab, Hannah Valigura, Abbey Allen and Sophia Suffredini.
Gaming apps. Educational apps. Book apps. Parents have lots of categories to choose from when picking apps for kids these days, but none of these categories focuses on what parents should pay attention to most when letting their kids play and learn online: privacy.
A recent report by the Federal Trade Commission showed that close to 60 percent of apps designed for children collect and share personal information — and only 11 percent tell you they are doing so.
Apps collect information about online behavior, log purchase preferences, track locations and link to social media. Mobile apps and the information they gather help define our children’s virtual selves.
These personas are permanent and useful to all kinds of companies, including advertising agencies, credit reporting agencies, insurance companies and future employers. But at the Center for Identity at The University of Texas at Austin, we see every day that in the hands of an identity thief or other real-world criminal, apps can be a powerful tool to gain sensitive information about your child and family, including your child’s physical location, date of birth, your own usernames and passwords, and, once you link a credit card to an app, your financial information.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) provides some measure of protection against invasion of privacy for kids under the age of 13. Under the law, mobile apps must get parental permission to collect, use or disclose a child’s information. The FTC and state consumer protection agencies bring suits and leverage fines against app developers that fail to live up to the law’s requirements.
However, those protections disappear when children turn 13 despite the fact that the threats to their privacy, and their interest in mobile apps and social media, are growing quickly at that age.
So what should we do? First and foremost, we must demand transparency from app developers and distributors. It is imperative that those who are collecting — and profiting from — the data our children provide be honest and up-front about how, when and why they are collecting data, and how they plan to protect it.
Lawmakers should pass the recently filed Do Not Track Kids Act, which would extend the protections that COPPA offers to include children through the age of 16. The legislation also includes requirements for an “eraser button,” allowing teens to remove information they have posted from the online world.
But while all of this will help, it falls at the parents’ feet to teach their kids common sense rules about app use. Parents should talk to their kids about general privacy protection for any online interaction. Remind them that any time they choose to share information, that choice is permanent.
Parents should monitor downloaded apps to make sure they are from trusted sources, and update apps regularly to ensure the most secure versions. This reduces the risk that apps will contain malware, reducing the threat to kids private information and their parents’ wallets.
Parents should also use the devices’ settings to limit the data that apps can access, and clear their devices of all apps and personal information before they get rid of them.
Communication and education are key. By providing reasonable guidelines for app use to kids, parents can help teach their children the awareness and skills they will need to protect their privacy throughout their digital lifetimes.
Katie Stephens is the education program manager at the Center for Identity at the University of Texas at Austin. She develops education programs, classroom curriculum and interactive learning tools for the Center for Identity’s public resource center on identity theft, management and privacy.
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New op-ed on TP: Apps, kids and privacy. You should read this before downloading your next app for your kids. http://t.co/emKZQOQe0j— Texas Perspectives (@TexPerspectives) October 9, 2014
New inductees clockwise from top-left, Thomas Edgar, Greg Fenves, Yale Patt, and Bob Schutz. With them are, left, C.D. Mote Jr., President, National Academy of Engineering, and right, Charles O. Holliday Jr., Chairman, National Academy of Engineering.
Last week, four professors from UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering traveled to Washington, D.C., for their induction into the National Academy of Engineering. UT Austin had the most new members of any university this year. The academy inducted 67 new members and 11 foreign associates. I’m especially proud that among them is our executive vice president and provost, Greg Fenves. They are:
- Thomas Edgar, director of the Energy Institute at UT Austin and the George T. and Gladys H. Abell Chair in Engineering, who is recognized for contributions to mathematical modeling, optimization and automatic control of chemical and microelectronics processes, and for professional leadership.
- Greg Fenves, executive vice president and provost of UT Austin, who is recognized for contributions to computational modeling, creation of open-source software for earthquake engineering analysis, and for academic leadership. Prior to becoming provost, Fenves served as the eighth dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering.
- Yale Patt, the Ernest Cockrell Jr. Centennial Chair in Engineering in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who was elected for contributions to high-performance microprocessor architecture.
- Bob Schutz, the Joe J. King Chair of Engineering in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, who was elected for his contribution to the use of satellite laser ranging and GPS tracking to study Earth system dynamics.
Provost Fenves and Professors Edgar, Patt, and Schutz make us all proud.
Optical imaging, brain plasticity, planet formation and human trafficking are just a few areas of research to be explored by the winners of this year's Donald D. Harrington Fellows Program, the most prestigious fellowship program at The University of Texas at Austin.
The recipients are two visiting faculty fellows and 15 graduate fellows who will work with UT Austin colleagues to delve into topics covering a broad spectrum of research and exploration.
“I’m so proud of this program and these incredible scholars. Through their pursuits in education and research that benefit society, the Harrington Fellows truly embody our mission at The University of Texas at Austin,” said President Bill Powers, chairman of the Harrington Fellows Program.
Visiting from Princeton University, Professor Brian Herrera will be on campus to pursue his work on the history of performance art in the United States. Professor Patrick Jagoda from the University of Chicago will continue his research about new media, film, and game design.
The 2014 group includes 15 graduate fellows with specialties such as brain circuitry, astronomy, cognitive science and many others. The graduate fellows and their areas of expertise are:
- Sarah Barfield, UT Austin — Ecology of reef-building corals
- Cynthia Blanco, University of North Carolina — Role of accents in linguistics
- Brian Bondy, Georgia State — Brain plasticity and the ability to process information
- Emily Bragg, Georgia Institute of Technology — Increasing performance in mobile devices
- Daniel Briley, Pepperdine — Cognitive development in children
- Jacqueline DiBiasie, Washington & Lee — Viewing urban space through graffiti
- Laurie Heffron, Georgetown — Human trafficking and violence against women
- Natalie Henninger, Vanderbilt — Dynamics of groups and organizations
- Raquel Martinez, California Institute of Technology — Star and planet formation
- Joshua Moon, Alabama — Polymer construction for environmental & energy uses
- Natalie Poulos, UT Austin — Dietary patterns and outcomes in youth
- Nandini Ramani, Visvesvaraya Technological — Economic impact of digital marketing
- Lisa Richards, Duke — Optical imaging to measure blood flow during surgery
- Ethan Shlachter, Missouri — Growth of India during the late-colonial period
- Mary Stitt, Carleton College — Privatization of New Orleans public schools
The Donald D. Harrington Fellows Program is one of the best visiting scholar and graduate fellow programs in the nation. The fellowships support young faculty members and graduate students who have extraordinary academic records and a broad range of distinctive achievements. Sybil Harrington, the granddaughter of one of the first families to settle Amarillo, established the program as a tribute to her husband.
In order to create brand ambassadors who can sell a certain look, clothing stores have been known to screen prospective employees based on appearance. In addition to creating ethical concerns, this practice may be alienating customers, according to research from the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin.
In a study published in the August online issue of the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, researchers found that customers tend to enjoy the shopping experience less and make fewer purchases when faced with similar-looking store employees.
Researchers say that "aesthetic labor practices" such as hiring homogeneous-looking employees can decrease customers' perceptions of employee empathy – the sense that employees are friendly and relatable. The study, based on a survey of 457 female members of a consumer research panel, was authored by Moody College Advertising Assistant Professors Kate Pounders and Angeline Close and Louisiana Tech University Professor Barry Babin.
"Findings from this work suggest that service managers should hire employees that fit together organically and aren't similar based solely on management directives to create a certain look," Pounders said.
Aesthetic labor practices have become common in image-oriented sectors related to fashion, beauty and other industries.
Retailers have gone as far as sending mug shots of prospective employees to company headquarters for approval. Store "look policies" have dictated how customer-facing staffers can wear their hair, makeup and nails. And fashion retailers have been accused of discriminating based on religious attire, race and weight.
The study also examined other aesthetic labor practices, including consumers' perceptions of how airline employees seemed to belong together beyond physical appearance. Researchers found that airline service providers who look alike are also perceived as belonging together, sharing similar personalities and values. When customers sense that employees belong together, this improves perceptions of employee empathy, customer experience and sales, researchers found.
"In a context closely related to self-concept, such as fashion retailing, customers are more likely to compare their own appearances with employees' appearances," Pounders said. "If employees have a similar look, customers may feel self-conscious. But in a context less associated with self-concept, such as an airline, similar-looking employees have a more positive effect."
Researchers also gauged consumer perceptions of uniformed employees across multiple service categories – a clothing store, airline and home-goods store. They found that when employees already look alike, uniforms could negatively affect customer perception. Researchers say this could lead consumers to feel the environment is overly contrived, questioning whether the common appearance is natural. However, when employees do not look alike, researchers found that uniforms increase consumers' perceptions of employee belonging.
While this study addressed customers' perceptions of aesthetic labor practices, Pounders said future studies could focus on the ethical implications.
"How both service employees and customers view the ethicality of aesthetic labor practices is a critical issue that should be examined," Pounders said. "We've seen companies like Abercrombie & Fitch come under intense scrutiny and criticism for some of their policies, and I believe it has had a negative effect on their brand image and played a role in declining sales. From an organizational perspective, if employees see the policies as unethical, it could also damage the morale of employees."
This story is part of our series “In Pursuit of Health,” covering medical news and research happening across the university.
Abby Bassett was only four weeks old when what seemed to be a mild cold turned into a much harsher reality.
The newborn was diagnosed with pertussis, or whooping cough, a disease that claims the lives of 195,000 children across the globe annually.Quick Facts About Pertussis
- Pertussis causes coughing fits that last longer than 10 weeks, earning it the nickname “100-day cough.”
- Approximately half of infants younger than one year old who get pertussis are hospitalized.
- Worldwide, an estimated 195,000 children die from pertussis annually, and another 16 million pertussis cases are reported.
- In 2012, more than 48,000 cases of pertussis were reported in the U.S., the most since 1977 when nearly 63,000 cases were reported.
- Texas reported more than 3,400 cases of pertussis in 2013, giving the state the 12th highest per capita incidence rate with 13.2 cases per 100,000 residents.
- In 2012, 22.6 million infants around the world were not immunized against pertussis.
“As Abby was clinging to life in the intensive care unit, I just couldn’t believe that even after decades of research, there were no treatments that were specific for pertussis,” says Suzanne Bassett, Abby’s mother. “I knew that we could lose her at any moment. It was such a hopeless feeling. All I could do was pray.”
Now, a University of Texas at Austin researcher is working on a better way to treat whooping cough.
Jennifer Maynard, an associate professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, is on the cusp of a therapeutic injection to treat the symptoms of pertussis and the painful coughing fits that come with the illness.
Maynard’s passive immunization techniques gives babies who’ve had exposure to pertussis “instant immunity” using a mixture of two antibodies. The first binds to the whooping cough toxin, preventing it from attaching to healthy cells. The second stops the toxin from reaching its target within a healthy cell.
“It gives this one-two punch to deal with the toxin,” says Maynard, who is a scientific colleague of Bassett’s. The therapeutic can also help babies who’ve contracted the disease by alleviating their symptoms, which are caused by toxin, in conjunction with antibiotics that eliminate the bacteria that causes the illness.
Maynard is working with Synthetic Biologics to bring her solution to the market, and she hopes to start clinical trials in 2015, paving the way for public use in only a few years. With support from that company and The University of Texas at Austin’s Office of Technology Commercialization, Maynard is optimistic her vaccine will soon reach the people who need it most, possibly even being distributed for free in developing counties. (As for baby Abby, her mother says she’s a happy, healthy 3-year-old today.)
“We want to make sure that whatever we come up with at the end is really going to have impact,” Maynard says.
While working on her Ph.D. research to create an antibody to neutralize anthrax toxins, Maynard realized the passive immunization technique could be used to fight pertussis. And the work she’s now done on pertussis may be the stepping-stone to combat the next sickness on which she sets her sights.
“Everything we’ve learned how to do with anthrax and with pertussis,” Maynard says, “we can apply to other diseases.”Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Center for Identity at The University of Texas at Austin (UTCID) has launched IDWise, a state-funded online resource and one-stop-shop for consumer-friendly tips, articles, games and videos on how to manage and secure personal information for individuals, businesses and families.
Completely free, IDWise is a resource designed to educate those most at risk for identity theft: children and parents, older adults, small businesses, veterans and active-duty service members. Fueled by innovative research, support from the Texas Legislature and contributions from UTCID’s partners, IDWise takes a novel approach to identity theft prevention, uniting practical advice with entertaining and relevant content tailored to address the top concerns of these at-risk audiences.
“We are working to reduce instances of identity theft and data breach around the world by educating organizations and consumers about what they can do to protect themselves,” said Suzanne Barber, director of the Center for Identity. “Smarter citizens and businesses can help prevent millions of dollars in lost income, fraudulent costs, wasted time and reputation damage.”
“I’m proud to be a part of UTCID’s efforts and the launch of IDWise,” said Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs, a member of UTCID’s advisory board and head of the Child ID Task Force. “As Texas’ CFO, I can tell you that this is a daily concern to many Texans, and this unique resource is crucial to helping folks in Texas and all over the country who face the threat of identity theft every day.”
The Center for Identity hosted a public launch of IDWise on Oct. 7, 2014, on campus at The University of Texas at Austin.
Learn more at identity.utexas.edu or use #IDWise on social media.
Building a better future for American children lies in creating effective policies today. One of the more effective policy changes that must happen is raising the minimum wage to at least $10.10 and then indexing it to inflation so that American families can keep up with the rising prices of gas, food and housing.
While the minimum wage needs to be raised across the nation, the lack of effective movement at the federal level leaves it up to the states to step up and lead this movement. Texas should be one of the states leading the change.
The current minimum wage was established in 2009 at $7.25 per hour, only $7 more than at its inception in 1930 at 25 cents. While the current minimum wage has remained stagnant, the price of food, housing, gas and college tuition has not. As a result, purchasing power among low-wage families has decreased, and the gap between the poor and the middle class has widened. It has also increased dependence on government services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid.
For the 20 states that have raised their minimum wages above the federal minimum, positive results are being seen. According to the Washington Labor Council, it is important to a state’s economy for low-wage earners to maintain their purchasing power beyond the ability to meet their basic needs.
In addition, several cities have also increased their minimum wages. For example, Seattle ($15), San Francisco ($10.74), Santa Fe, New Mexico ($10.66), New York City ($8), and San Jose, California ($10.15). To date, Santa Fe has seen no effect on employment and is doing economically better than Albuquerque, its sister city, which did not raise its minimum wage past the federal minimum.
When take-home pay is increased for low-income families, they tend to spend more within their local communities, which helps local businesses. This cycle creates better economic conditions locally and statewide. For business who employ minimum wage to low-wage workers, studies have shown higher productivity, decreased turnover, lower recruiting and training costs, decreased absenteeism, and increased worker morale for these businesses with increased minimum wages.
Those opposed to raising the minimum wage offer a number of arguments that suggest any increase would be detrimental to the economy. Unfortunately, when scrutinized these arguments fall apart.
First, several economists have indicated job loss as a consequence of raising the minimum wage. This argument is based in the theoretical premise that when price increases, demand will go down. This simple supply-demand construct essentially says that if the cost of paying low-wage workers increases, then the demand for low-wage workers will decrease. These authors state that the supply-demand premise only holds true when the critical condition of “all else equal” is met.
Considering the country’s ever changing economy and the changes increasing the minimum wage would inspire, the critical condition of all else equal is not maintained — essentially invalidating the increase in unemployment argument.
Opponents often state that raising the minimum wage would actually harm the people it is intended to help. However, a report this year from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office states that for families living below the poverty threshold, a raise in minimum wage to $10.10 would increase real income, on net, by $5 billion and pull about 900,000 families above the poverty threshold.
Opponents also say that the only way to offset the wage increase is to lay off workers or relocate. Again, rigorous studies show businesses absorb the costs by other means such as slightly raising prices, initially accepting small profit reductions, or improving productivity.
With the highest number of hourly-wage workers of any state at about 3 million, Texas could set a strong precedent for the rest of the nation if state policymakers raise the minimum wage. Texas’ low-wage families would see an aggregate increase of $5.9 million to $8 million in additional income. This additional millions of dollars would go straight into the local and state economies.
Our state policymakers should take notice and raise the wage for the betterment of society and enable economic growth.
Shetal Vohra-Gupta is a research scientist for the Institute of Urban Policy Research and Analysis at The University of Texas at Austin.
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I’m proud to report that once again the London-based publication Times Higher Education has ranked The University of Texas at Austin among the best universities in the world. This year, UT came in at No. 28. This is the fourth consecutive year we have ranked in the top 29. Among public universities in the United States, UT Austin ranked sixth on the list. The full list of universities can be found here.
Times Higher Education examines 13 factors in five separate areas to determine excellence — teaching, research, influence of research, innovation, and international outlook. UT Austin’s highest marks were in its influence of research, as measured by the number of times faculty members’ studies are cited by peers; overall research, which includes funding, number of articles published and quality; and teaching, which is based largely on the university’s reputation among scholars.
All Texans can take great pride in the fact that UT Austin keeps company with the world’s very best universities.
AUSTIN, Texas — Lorraine J. Haricombe has been selected as the new vice provost and director of libraries at The University of Texas at Austin. Haricombe currently serves as the dean of libraries at the University of Kansas. She begins her new position Feb. 1, 2015.
“Dr. Haricombe brings to UT Austin critical expertise on the evolving role of libraries in advancing teaching and research at top universities. She also is an international leader in improving access to scholarly publications. I’m proud she’s coming to UT Austin,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers.
During her tenure at KU, Haricombe oversaw the enhancement of several library facilities across campus. She was instrumental in implementing a faculty-led open access policy at KU, the first public institution in the U.S. with such a policy, ensuring increased visibility for KU research and scholarship. Open access reduces barriers to scholarly output to create faster, wider sharing of knowledge and increases the return on research investment.
"I am honored and humbled by this appointment to lead the libraries at a world-class research university,” said Haricombe. “The University of Texas Libraries provides an exciting opportunity to elevate the role of libraries as an integral partner in the higher education ecosystem, while advancing new strategic directions in support of teaching, learning and research.”
Haricombe was selected through a national search to fill the position.
“Given her extensive experience as a director of a major research library system at an institution that is a member of Association of American Universities, Lorraine has much to offer UT,” said UT Provost Gregory L. Fenves. “She has a vision for how to enhance learning communities for students and scholars and understands the importance of creating better digital access to original materials.”
Haricombe earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology and library and information science at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, and her master’s degree and Ph.D. in library and information science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
In her new role at UT Austin, Haricombe will oversee one of the nation’s largest academic research library systems, which annually serves more than 2.5 million visitors and 11 million online visitors with collections in excess of 10 million volumes. The library system includes the flagship Perry-Castañeda Library, nine specialized branch libraries and world-class special collections (Alexander Architectural Archive, Benson Latin American Collection and the PCL Map Collection).
Along with those core units, the library system also maintains numerous digital-native collections, including the Human Rights Documentation Initiative and the University of Texas Digital Repository. UT Libraries are founding members and hosts of the statewide Texas Digital Library.
Haricombe will replace Fred Heath, who retired this year after 11 years in the position.
In addition to her university experience, Haricombe is a co-founder of the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions in North America, an international advocacy group for institutions with open access policies. She also has served for the past seven years as a mentor to junior librarians from underrepresented areas as part of the Association of Research Libraries Leadership Career Development Program.
Given the utter lack of competition in Texas, political observers in the state are forced to examine characteristics other than competition to find “interesting” races this year. The state’s 27th Congressional District is in the running simply for its location in the state, its demographic makeup, and its incumbent.
Republican U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold is running against Wesley Reed, a Democrat who has never sought political office. Farenthold was part of the tea party class of 2010, when he won by just 775 votes over 14-term incumbent Solomon Ortiz.
According to the latest Cook Report ratings for U.S. House races, Montana, which elects one person to the House, has as many “competitive” races as the state of Texas, which has 36 seats. Cook, incidentally, rates Texas’ 27th District race as “Solid Republican.” In 2012, Mitt Romney got 61 percent of the vote in the district to Barack Obama’s 38 percent. At the same time, Farenthold won by 18 points.
If the electorate in 2014 is supposed to be even more Republican, and Barack Obama is supposed to be even less popular in the district, how is it possible that Texas’ 27th District is “interesting”? At least four factors make this race one of the most interesting races in Texas.
First, the competition for “interesting” in Texas isn’t particularly strong. Only one of 36 incumbents opted to give up his House seat. Steve Stockman chose to run against Sen. John Cornyn in the Republican primary rather than run for re-election to his House seat. One other Texas incumbent, Ralph Hall, was defeated in his primary. Romney did even better in both of those districts.
Although most political scientists would consider Farenthold’s 18-point victory margin fairly substantial, it was the third lowest in the state. The other Republicans in the state won their districts by an average of 40 points.
Second, if it wasn’t for the adoption of a Republican redistricting map, this race very well could have been the most interesting race in the state. The district where Farenthold beat Ortiz was 73 percent Hispanic. After the 2010 redistricting cycle, the district is now just 51 percent Hispanic.
Farenthold is the closest Texas House Republican to the Texas-Mexico border and has been an opponent of immigration reform, suggesting that the Senate-passed bill (that had 14 Republican votes) “doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell in the House of Representatives.”
Third, Farenthold isn’t what you would call a formidable incumbent. While Reed, according to a June 30 campaign finance report, had only $114,484 in cash on hand, the incumbent had only $419,900. Although six of his fellow Texas Republican incumbents have even less cash on hand, their opponents have a combined total of $18,175. Furthermore, in his four-year career, he has only sponsored one successful bill. Having flirted both with “birtherism” and with a scantily dressed woman while wearing pajamas during his initial run, Farenthold has recently been targeted by comedian Bill Maher in his effort to “Flip a District,” though he “lost” in the semifinals to Congressman John Kline of Minnesota.
Finally, the voters in the 27th District do not have an easy job. They must balance their ethnicity, their ideology, and their partisanship in choosing between a “colorful” incumbent and a challenger who will be tied to the unpopular policies of the Obama administration. Furthermore, they will have to balance their distaste for Obamacare, even while more than 20 percent of them lack health insurance, and the complications of a stalled immigration reform bill while a crisis festers at a border fewer than 200 miles away.
Perhaps if it weren’t the midterm of a second-term president who is unpopular in the district; perhaps if it weren’t the currently configured, but rather, the pre-redistricted district; perhaps if the economy were doing better or if foreign crises dissipated, Reed would have a chance. As it is, the only reason that the race is interesting at all is because of Farenthold, who under a different set of circumstances could very well be running to save his political life.
Sean Theriault is a professor of government at The University of Texas at Austin. He is an expert in party polarization in elections and voter retribution.
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