The State of Texas: February 17, 2015
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Marathon runners are crazy fanatics. The latest examples came during the final stetch of the Austin Marathon on Sunday when pro runner Hyvon Ngetich, whose body gave out on her, literally crawled her way to the finish line. She placed third.
Rick Perry’s not-a-presidential-campaign campaign continues on its beautiful path toward the inevitable. This time, it’s a web video, released yesterday, aimed directly at New Hampshire, the first primary state. It’s all very professional and certainly a huge step up from this 2012 number. He just commits one giant sin of omission: he doesn’t mention Texas once. Oops! The homeland is loving, but it demands tribute. May the Lone Star gods have mercy on Perry.
Admitting Is the First Step – After last Thursday’s critical report on the University of Texas’s admissions practices – which included waving in well connected poorly performing students – the new UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven has taken the classic clean-up step: he’s formed another committee. “My goal is to ensure full and open transparency to the public with respect to how admissions decisions are made at UT-Austin,” said McRaven in a statement, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The committee seems to be more of a public relations campaign than anything else. As the Houston Chronicle notes, “the report by the Kroll consulting firm, commissioned by the UT System board of regents, stopped short of condemning the president’s intervention in admissions decisions. It said Powers broke no rules and acknowledged that universities must consider factors such as relationships with donors and legislators.” The six-member committee is an elite group made up mostly of former UT chancellors and presidents so they’re totally going to crackdown on high-powered back scratching.
A Few Good Women – Well, just one, for now. But what a landmark moment for Texas A&M. For the first time in its history, “a woman will lead the 139-year-old university’s Corps of Cadets, where women once suffered abuse from male colleagues and struggled for decades for equal treatment,” writes the Dallas Morning News. “The university announced Monday that Alyssa Marie Michalke of Schulenburg will take command of the 2,400-plus member unit, the largest of its kind in the nation except for the service academies.” The announcement is part of a concerted effort by the Corps to be more inclusive, particularly given its recent history of exclusion. “A&M officials hope Michalke’s appointment will make it easier to recruit women, who make up half of A&M’s student body but just 14 percent of the Corps—up from 9 percent four years ago. Women were not permitted to enroll at A&M until 1963, and the Corps of Cadets was not opened to them until 1974.” Lead the charge, Michalke!
Sifting Through the Ashes – Major details have emerged in the suspected arson of Houston’s Quba Islamic Institute, which saw its storage shed heavily damaged by fire Friday. Turns out, the story may not be as exciting as most news publications may have been hoping. The fire wasn’t started by some Christian fanatic or hate group but allegedly by a homeless man with an extensive record of petty crimes. So far, investigators won’t say much, but during his perp walk, 56-year-old Darryl Ferguson told reporters the fire was “an accident.” But some have used the blazed as an opportunity to speak ill of Islam.The Houston Chronicle and even England’s The Independent reported on the nasty, hateful comments that appeared on the institute’s Facebook page following the fire. But the silver lining, which went unmentioned in the articles, is that the majority of those comments (from Christians and atheists) are of love and support.
Teacher Troubles – That terrible cliche about teachers not being appropriately compensated just got worse. “More than 200,000 retired educators and their dependents in Texas might have to pay higher premiums for health care,” according to the Associated Press. To be fair, it appears the plan was unworkable to begin with. “Texas legislators are trying to shore up a nearly insolvent health care plan for the Teacher Retirement System of Texas…. Health care costs have outpaced growth in the payroll of active public educators, a sum on which plan contributions are based. Texas currently has to give an amount equal to 1 percent of payroll, or $495 million, in 2014 and 2015.”