Board of Trustees

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Daily Texan Editor Willie Morris once wrote, “The Daily Texan is bigger than any one man.”

But it took only one man, President William Powers Jr., to make a major decision about the future of this University’s 113-year-old independent student newspaper, which he did when he asked Roderick Hart, the Dean of the Moody College of Communication, to absorb the administration of The Daily Texan and its parent organization, Texas Student Media, known as TSM, into the Moody college. Prior to this decision, TSM was housed in the Division of Student Affairs, where a Board of Trustees ensured its independence. 

Not a single student manager in any of TSM’s five media properties, which include The Daily Texan, KVRX radio station, the Cactus Yearbook, Texas Student Television and the Texas Travesty, were consulted about the change or even made aware of it, outside of a brief conversation with Hart and Gage Paine, vice president for Student Affairs, at a September meeting of the TSM Board of Trustees. During that discussion, student managers expressed concerns about moving to the communications school, including the potential for censorship and limiting the paper’s independence. 

In response, Hart repeatedly reassured students that he had no interest in interfering with the workings of the paper, and, honestly, didn’t much want it in the first place. As he told a Daily Texan reporter on Wednesday, “[TSM] is not something that I lusted for.” 

The Moody college, however, has the fundraising resources that the Texan lacks. Whether or not Hart “lusted” after TSM, he will now be tasked with providing TSM the funds it needs, assuaging President Power’s fears about the paper struggling financially in the Division of Student Affairs. 

“President Powers has spoken many times about his commitment to The Daily Texan, to [TSM] and to student journalism. [TSM’s move into the college] is another way to show support and help maintain the excellence of the student journalists we have on campus,” Gary Susswein, a University spokesman, said on Wednesday. 

This editorial board believes in the good intentions of both Hart and Powers. Financially troubled media entities, after all, aren’t the most attractive business acquisitions, and the dean has better business to take care of than nit-picking at the Texan’s articles. Powers has, as Susswein said, consistently stood up for the independence of student journalism on the UT campus. 

But that doesn’t change the fact that neither of them has adequately confronted the potential challenges to the Texan’s independence that come with a move to the Moody college. And, though we trust Hart’s promise to refrain from interfering with the paper, it’s possible to imagine a college’s dean who feels differently, and it’s this worst-case scenario that has to be discussed. If a dean is able to limit the content printed in the Texan, hire and fire the TSM director, or challenge editors who defy him by threatening to tighten the paper’s purse strings, the core values of The Daily Texan — independence and student control — may be under fire. Worse yet, control of The Daily Texan could be granted to professors, who may feel more comfortable with a paper that conforms to their idea of perfection than one that fails — and learns — at the hands of students. 

Which is why we are so distressed that no one involved in the decision, as yet, has adequately explained how TSM will maintain its independence under the Moody college’s umbrella. 

As Dean Hart himself  said Wednesday, “There’s just a lot of unknowns …. It’s in a very sort of still-working-it-out stage.” 

In regard to why the student members of the Board of Trustees were not alerted of the move, Hart said, “All I can say is the president called me over to his office. That was it. I don’t know anything about the TSM board, or what its procedures are.” 

We’re happy that President Powers saw fit to turn his eyes on our beloved, and financially floundering, newspaper. We’re happy he saw fit to order a drastic action to save it. But we’re shocked and concerned that questions about preserving the Texan’s independence were answered briefly, poorly and unconvincingly by administrators at all levels. The editorial independence of one of the nation’s greatest college newspapers is not something with which to play fast and loose. 

Before TSM makes its move to the communications school, students should demand to know how the TSM trust, which protects the paper’s independence, will be amended and when. 

Students should demand to know whether, as Dean Hart put it, “solidifying the management structure” includes strengthening or weakening elected student leadership. 

Most importantly, students should demand a concrete answer to the question of how the communications school will absorb the paper without squelching its independence. That members of the UT administration have repeatedly promised not to meddle with TSM properties is not enough: It is easy to make promises when there is nothing holding you to them.

Penn State students and others gather off campus following the firing of football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier amid the growing furor over how the school handled sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach on Wednesday. (Photo Courtesy of Matt Rourke)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

UT alumnus Brad Kurz was writing a paper Wednesday night when he heard Pennsylvania State University’s Board of Trustees had fired long-time football coach Joe Paterno. Moments later, Kurz heard a police officer pass by his room.

“He said ‘there is a mob of students trying to break into the main building,’” Kurz said. “He came back a few moments later and said the students were heading towards Beaver Street, the main site of the protest [Wednesday].”

Paterno’s dismissal and the subsequent student riots after the announcement made national headlines yesterday night and spurred conversation on many college campuses. Kurz said students were in a state of shock that quickly turned to anger after the announcement, because no one had heard anything about it before. Penn State’s Board of Trustees dismissed Paterno for failing to report rape accusations against his former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Kurz graduated from UT with a degree in psychology and liberal arts honors last spring and currently studies higher education administration at Penn State. Kurz said before he got to Penn State he would joke with his friends that Paterno was like a mascot they only let out for games. He said his perception of Paterno has changed since he got to Penn State.

“Just being around and seeing his impact, you have to grow close to ‘Joe Pa,’” Kurz said. “I don’t even know half of the stories, but what I do know is so impactful, so incredible. I’d be blind not to be impacted.”

Kurz said although there is an ethical debate surrounding Paterno’s actions, students still want him to stay.

“The feeling here is that ‘Joe Pa’ is Penn State,” Kurz said. “He and have wife have created traditions here and have given so much money to charities. Everywhere you go, you see their names.”

Rachel Perrotta, political science sophomore at Penn State, said students will hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of Jerry Sandusky Friday night. A group of Penn State alumni have also recently partnered with the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, an organization providing support for victims of sexual abuse, with a goal to raise $500,000, one dollar for each of Penn States’ alumni, according to the organization’s website.

Paterno released a statement Wednesday saying he was disappointed with the Board of Trustees decision, but he had to accept it. Before the Board announced their decision he said he would retire at the end of the season.

“This is a tragedy,” Paterno said in the statement. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

Glenn Frankel, dean of the School of Journalism, said the only moment equivalent to the firing of Joe Paterno is when Margaret Thatcher stepped down as prime minister of the U.K.

“It was a very sudden thing,” Frankel said. “She thought she was going to be there until the end, then the wise men of the Conservative Party came to her and told her ‘it’s over.’”

This sits very well with the modern American narrative that no institution can be trusted and everyone in authority is like the emperor with no clothes, Frankel said.

“Anyone or any institution that has power and authority over other people needs to be looked at and held accountable,” Frankel said. “That applies to Joe Paterno, Penn State, UT and any other institution.”

Student Government president Natalie Butler said although she thought Paterno was a great football coach the incident was tragic and she felt bad for all of the victims.

“I don’t think people in that position have a higher moral obligation,” Butler said in response to allegations that Paterno should have known better. “It is unfortunate this is the way his career had to end.”

Engineering senior Phillipe Brady said he always thought of Paterno as the grandfather of college football and a stand up guy. He said Paterno was to Penn State what Mack Brown is to UT — they represent all that’s good at their university.

“I don’t think that would happen here, and if it did I don’t know what I would do,” Brady said. “It’s frightening to see someone that good fall as far as Joe Paterno.” 

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, leaves campus while reporters ask him about the accusations surrounding Penn State.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Support for keeping Joe Paterno in his job coaching Penn State football is eroding among the board of trustees, threatening to end the 84-year-old coach’s career amid a child sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant and one-time heir apparent.

A person familiar with the trustees’ discussions and who used the term “eroding” said it was unclear what the consequences for Paterno will be and that a decision could be rendered before the board meets on Friday.

Penn State President Graham Spanier also has lost support among the Board of Trustees, the person said but, again, how much was unclear.

Paterno’s son, Scott, said his father hasn’t spoken with Penn State officials or trustees about stepping down. Addressing reporters outside his father’s house, he said Joe Paterno plans to not only coach in Saturday’s game against Nebraska but for the long haul.

“No one has asked Joe to resign,” Scott Paterno told The Associated Press in a text message.

Penn State administrators canceled Paterno’s weekly news conference during which he was expected to field questions about the sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The former defensive coordinator of Paterno’s two national championship teams in the 1980s was arrested Saturday on charges of sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years. His lawyer said Sandusky is innocent.

Scott Paterno said the decision to cancel was made by Spanier’s office and that his father was disappointed.

“I know you guys have a lot of questions. I was hoping I could answer them today. We’ll try to do it as soon as we can,” Joe Paterno said to a group of reporters as he got into his car. About a dozen students stood nearby, chanting, “We love you, Joe.”

A second person familiar with the board’s discussions, said it was focused on the horrific aspects of the charges against Sandusky; two Penn State officials have also been charged in the scandal, accused of failing to notify authorities when told Sandusky had assaulted a boy in a shower used by the football team.

Trustee David Joyner said he was unaware if any decision had been made on Paterno’s future.

Authorities said that Paterno, who testified in the grand jury proceedings that led to the charges against Sandusky, is not a target of the investigation. But the state police commissioner chastised him and other school officials for not doing enough to try to stop the suspected abuse.

Meanwhile, another potential victim has contacted authorities.

The man, now an adult, contacted the department on Sunday after seeing media accounts of Sandusky’s arrest, Lt. David Young at the Montoursville station said. Investigators took a statement from him and forwarded it to the Rockview station for officers there to pursue, Young said.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, which first reported that the man had come forward, said he is in his 20s, knew Sandusky from The Second Mile charity the former coach founded in 1977 and had never told his parents or authorities about the alleged encounters from about a decade ago.

Young declined to release the man’s name or provide details about what he claims occurred.

The Patriot-News published a rare full, front-page editorial calling for this season to be Paterno’s last and for Spanier to resign immediately.

Published on Wednesday, Novermber 9, 2011 as: Paterno's job could be in jeopardy