Elliott Naishtat

Upon leaving the 40 Acres, many UT alumni have gone on to win Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, compete in professional sports, establish major corporations and serve as members of Congress.

The contributions of alumni have been particularly prevalent in the political sphere. UT ranks second on the top 15 colleges that members of the U.S. House of Representatives attended, according to a new breakdown by Crisp360.

Other top institutions feeding into the House include the University of California, Harvard University, Yale University and George Washington University.

Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, said he believes location is a major factor for UT students pursuing political positions.

“Austin is one of the most politically active and engaged cities in the country,” Naishtat said. “There are countless political clubs and organizations of all political persuasions that provide students with opportunities to be meaningfully involved on and off campus in politics at the local, state and national levels.”

Naishtat said involvement beyond the 40 Acres gives students necessary experience before pursuing careers in politics.

“University of Texas students are able to get involved in campaigns, to serve as interns and to garner a great deal of experience in politics,” he said. The study also reported the most common subjects studied by members of Congress while in college. Of those, 34.8 percent studied government and law, 20.9 percent majored in humanities while 13.7 percent focused on business and accounting. Additionally, the study reported one in 20 Congress members did not graduate from college.

Associate government professor Sean Theriault said he believes UT’s government program provides a strong base for students interested in continuing in politics after graduation.

“UT is a great school with a lot of ambition,” he said. “We have a great internship program because we’re so close to the Capitol. And we have a lot of instructors who care about politics, so after you take so many classes it’s hard not to have an appreciation for politics.”

UT College Republicans president Cassie Wright said UT is an ideal place to foster a passion for politics through student involvement and awareness.

“At UT we are surrounded by competent students that represent both parties, and the political atmosphere of UT only fosters their competence further,” she said. “The high number of UT graduates in the House is a product of this politically charged climate. It is exciting to realize that these political activists we interact with on campus are the future of the United States.”

Printed on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 as: UT alumni hold big presence in Congress

More than 265,000 Texans are homeless, but two Austin representatives are attempting to lower the number by introducing legislation that would allow homeless individuals the ability to acquire a free Texas identification card — a basic necessity to gainful employment.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, held a press conference Thursday at Caritas, a nonprofit refugee and social service organization, and further discussed the legislation’s goal of making more homeless individuals economically self-sufficient.

“This legislation will help a lot of folks that Caritas helps and make a real difference in many lives,” said Watson.

The proposed legislation would require the Texas Department of Public Safety to waive the $16 fee associated with obtaining an ID as long as applicants are able to verify their homeless status by filling out an affidavit.

“It’s not uncommon for individuals facing homelessness to lose or leave behind many of their belongings, including personal identification,” Rep. Naishtat said in a press release. “This legislation is crucial because without an ID, people do not have access to services, access to permanent housing or access to employment opportunities. This proposal will help to lift individuals out of the cycle of homelessness.”

Assistant Development Director of the Salvation Army Robert Cox said homeless people need an identification card to perform everyday functions.

The Salvation Army, however, already offers free assistance for homeless individuals to gain an identification card, Cox said. The organization has numerous social workers, and homeless individuals that acquire a bed for the night are able to utilize the department and gain assistance.

Peewee Offutt, a homeless man who resides on and near the Drag, said that he would absolutely take advantage of acquiring a free identification card if the bill passed.

“Austin has a lot of organizations I can go to for assistance, but being able to get an ID for free would help out a lot,” Offutt said.
Offutt’s current identification is out of state and expired in 2007. Although he has been homeless for nearly 10 years, he said it would be very difficult to find a job without a current ID.