university of texas

The U.S. Supreme Court returns on Wednesday to the emotional issue of affirmative action in higher education. The court will once again hear oral arguments on the issue, this time in a case from the University of Texas.

Over the past 35 years, the court has twice ruled that race may be one of many factors in determining college admissions, as long as there are no racial quotas. Now, just nine years after its last decision, the justices seem poised to outright reverse or cut back on the previous rulings.

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Wednesday, Oct. 10, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Fisher v. The University of Texas. The case asks whether including race as a factor for admission is constitutional. Debate around the issue has been heated.

Minority groups held a conference at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday and said affirmative action is necessary to right historic wrongs. They argued that underprivileged minorities remain underprivileged if they can’t attend flagship universities. And they argued that diversity in the classroom will help students deal with diversity in the real world.

But Lino Graglia, a constitutional law professor at UT who specializes in race and education (and is no stranger to controversial remarks on the topic), says affirmative action won’t fix this. He says the real problem is that many minority students aren’t ready for college when they graduate high school.

Caleb Miller for KUT News

A University of Texas at Austin student is facing a felony charge for hacking UT’s computer system.

University police say 19-year-old Garret Phillips flooded the registration site with information in April, shutting it down temporarily when students were trying to sign up for summer and fall classes.

But UTPD Sgt. Charles Bonnet says no personal information was put at risk.

“The type of attack that was launched was just a flood of information into the site which caused it to crash. There was no effort to extract any kind of information or view any kind of information," Bonnet says.

KUT News

Racial issues are one again simmering the University of Texas at Austin.

Students marched on the UT campus earlier this week to protest what some are calling racially motivated attacks, where balloons allegedly filled with bleach were dropped from apartment balconies in the West Campus area near UT.

While the perpetrator or perpetrators of the attacks is unknown, and therefore their intentions are unclear, KVUE reports Austin police “have spoken to victims who were involved in four separate and similar incidents involving liquid-filled balloons dropped on people of color.” And the incidents have once again created a focus on racial climate for African-American students on campus.

“I won’t say that it’s easier being on campus, because people still look at you like you don’t belong here,” says Reva Davis, vice president of the Black Student Alliance. “And you can walk into a classroom and you’ll still feel uncomfortable — whether you’re a freshman or senior — being a person of color. It doesn’t get easier, you just find ways to deal with and cope with it.”

Jerod Foster for Texas Tribune

Ashton Curlee, the ambitious daughter of two teachers, received official notification of her acceptance to the new Texas Science Scholar Program at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin on the first day of college.

“It’s a really awesome program,” said Curlee, a native of Monahans. “There’s a lot of good stuff that comes along with it.”

Savings top that list. If Curlee stays on track, maintaining a 3.0 grade point average and completing 30 hours of course work each school year, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2016. Instead of paying more than $6,300 per academic year in tuition and fees — the current cost for a regular student — Curlee will pay $2,500 per year.

That adds up to a $10,000 degree, a notion that has taken on grail-like status in some Texas higher education circles as the state struggles to address rising tuition at its public universities.

Samsung

A small Austin-based technology company, Javelin Semiconductor, has landed its largest contract to date – thanks to a burgeoning relationship between Central Texas and South Korea.

Javelin Semiconductor was picked to produce a power amplifier for Samsung’s new Galaxy S Duos. Robert Wagner, a spokesperson for Javelin, partially credits the company’s continued partnership with Samsung to Austin’s connection to Seoul, South Korea.

“There’s a good relationship in general between Austin companies and Samsung in Korea. So we get some good recognition from the Korean side of Samsung, that we’re this Austin company and they’ve had good success with other local Austin companies like Silicon Labs.”

The Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Susan Davenport agrees. Davenport says that in addition to the success of local companies, the University of Texas has been influential in building Austin’s cluster of technology and talent – which companies like Samsung are now enjoying.  

Photo by Mose Buchele, KUT News

Update (2:30 p.m.): Overview of what happened

People are allowed back into buildings on the University of Texas campus after an evacuation at 9:55 this morning. UT officials received a bomb threat around 8:30 from a man they described as having a middle eastern accent. They said he claimed to have planted bombs all over campus. The caller said they were going to go off in 90 minutes.

University of Texas Energy Institute

The University of Texas at Austin has put together a panel of three experts to review a professor’s disputed study on hydraulic fracking.

UT professor Charles Groat’s study stated there’s little or no evidence that fracking’s connected with groundwater contamination. But the results of the study came into question after a watchdog group noted Groat has received money from a company that does fracking.

StateImpact Texas shares the make up of the panel:

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A San Antonio scientist looking for possible causes of autism is taking an unusual approach. University of Texas Health Science Center epidemiologist Dr. Raymond Palmer is using baby teeth to try to root out some answers.

The project is nicknamed “the tooth fairy studies” because to conduct his research, Dr. Palmer collects old, donated baby teeth from kids with and without autism. He is trying to discover how environmental effects  -- from as early as conception – can determine whether a child develops autistic traits.

University of Texas Energy Institute

A University of Texas study disputing connections between the oil and gas industry practice of fracking and groundwater contamination is receiving new scrutiny, with the revelation the study’s leader failed to disclose significant financial ties to a drilling company that engages in the practice.

As KUT News reported in February, the report from the UT Energy Institute, “Separating Fact From Fiction in Shale Gas Development,” stated that fracking, when executed properly, doesn’t contaminate groundwater. However, contamination may occur as the result of above ground spills or mishandling of wastewater.

StateImpact Texas, a joint reporting partnership of KUT News and NPR, has followed the story. On Monday, highlighting a report from watchdog group  Public Accountablitiy Initiative, it reported study leader Charles “Chip” Groat had extensive industry ties:

Photo by Matt Largey for KUT News

Jury selection begins for Fort Hood bomber suspect

Jury selection is set to begin this morning in the trial of a soldier accused of planning to blow up a Killeen restaurant filled with Fort Hood soldiers.

Private First Class Naser Abdo could face up to life in prison if convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

SAN ANTONIO — When Gene Powell first arrived at the University of Texas at Austin in 1964, it was on a scholarship to play offensive guard and defensive linebacker for the legendary coach Darrell K Royal.

“I was a very average to mediocre football player, and that’s probably being generous,” Powell, a real estate developer and South Texas native, recalled during an interview at his San Antonio office this week.

More than four decades later, Powell was asked to return to Austin — this time by Gov.Rick Perry, who needed a staunch ally and strong leader to support his reforms on the University of Texas System’s board of regents.

Image courtesy flickr.com/jacockshaw

In July, University of Texas employees who use the UT SELECT Medical plan will have to declare whether they use tobacco. And if they do, they will have to pay a $30 dollar premium every month starting in September.

The same goes for spouses and children who are on the plan. The maximum charge would be $90 per month, per family.

“During Annual Enrollment, all UT SELECT Medical plan participants will need to declare whether they are or are not a tobacco user,” the university’s Office of Employee Benefits writes. Approximately 200,000 employees, spouses and children are enrolled statewide in the UT SELECT insurance program.

Photo by Divya Darsi for KUT News

Two weeks after 17 students were arrested in a similar protest, members of the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition conducted another sit-in yesterday.

The sit-in was held in the University of Texas Tower with more than 40 students participating. At about 5 p. m. yesterday, the students left the Tower after warnings from police they could be arrested, said the Austin American-Statesman. At 8 p.m. on Sunday night, a candlelight vigil of students, faculty and community members convened in front of UT Austin President Bill Powers’ house; the vigil was led by Pastor Jim Rigby.

As KUT News previously reported, the coalition wants UT to join the Workers Rights Consortium, an independent monitoring organization that conducts investigations of working conditions in factories. A statement on the WRC homepage specifically mentions their goal to protect the rights of workers who make clothes.

The Fulbright Foreign Student Program brings approximately 1,700 foreign students to the United States every year to study for one year or longer.
Fulbright logo courtesy fulbright.state.gov; UT photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News.

Women from Sub-Saharan Africa participating in the Fulbright Foreign Student Program have gathered this week in Austin to participate in a women’s leadership seminar.

The seminar was designed to teach the women in the program how they can use the knowledge they gained in the U.S. to better their communities and themselves when they return to their homes. Participants arrived in Austin on Tuesday and the seminar will continue through Sunday.

Nomoa Mazwai is a South African participant in the program and has been studying economics at Fordham University. She plans to work in education when she returns home.

Photo by KUT News

Seeking to boost students’ on-time graduation rates, the University of Texas is refining its orientation program.

A recent report from UT’s Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates looked at ways to increase four year graduation rates. As KUT News wrote at the time of the report’s release, UT’s four-year graduation rate is currently about 50 percent, and the university wants to increase that amount to 70 percent by 2016. Speeding up graduation rates is seen as one solution to the problem of crowded and increasingly expensive college educations.

College and university presidents are wringing their hands over the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to revisit the issue of affirmative action next fall. Critics of racial preferences are thrilled because the court could significantly restrict the use of race in admissions, but proponents of affirmative action say this would be a huge setback for institutions struggling to diversify their student body.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/ericejohnson

Today, the Main Building on the University of Texas campus – also known simply as the Tower – celebrates its 75th anniversary.

KUT News recently toured the tower with Jim Nicar, acting director of the UT Heritage Society, who got into the history behind the iconic building:

Photo by Wyatt McSpadden, courtesy University of Texas

Could rush hour gridlock turn into relaxation time for Texas drivers?

University of Texas researcher Peter Stone and his fellow project members at UT’s Autonomous Intersection Management (AIM) project have been receiving attention with a provocative concept: creating “smart” intersections linked to intelligent autos that will enable cars to drive themselves. Stone’s research was recently presented at a meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science.

Stone is no stranger to automotive technology; five years ago, he was part of a team that responded to a development challenge from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create a vehicle that could pilot itself. “Since then, in 2007, we’ve had a car which can drive itself,” Stone says.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

How to boost graduation rates at the University of Texas? More student monitoring and orientation, decreased summer course fees, and increased tuition for students that have over-accumulated credits.

Those are some of the recommendations from UT’s Task Force on Undergraduate Graduation Rates, compiled in a report issued today.

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