February 6th, 2014
Quick and quiet breaths come one after another as the phlebotomist says to stay calm and relax. She takes a light blue tourniquet and places it up above the crook of an elbow. “Breath,” she says, taking note of the blue vein as it begins to swell. Then there is a slight pinch, and a quick prick of pain as the needle hits home. Eight minutes later a bag of blood and plasma sit separated on a sterile white table.
This is the process of a simple blood donation. A process each of the Bronc baseball players went through in honor of Nolan Naranjo and Jiada Grace Ortiz, Jan. 30 at the UTPA Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex.
The drive was held by United Blood Services and is not solely for Ortiz and Naranjo, but the two have been sponsored by the team in the past with not only two previous blood drives but a bone marrow drive as well.
Both children are from the Rio Grande Valley were diagnosed with a type of rare bone marrow disease known as Aplastic Anemia. The illness affects the bone marrow the patient; this causes them to stop producing enough red blood cells and white blood platelets.
UTPA Assistant Coach Norberto Lopez explained that the blood drive was in honor of the children and marked another chance for the team, as a whole, to give back.
“We have been able to help a couple of kids in the past,” Lopez said. “They had some real rare blood disease…(Head Coach Manny Mantrana) wants to teach the guys, he wants to make sure that we teach them that it isn’t just about us and our lives. (It’s about) going every day and making sure that we are giving back and helping out.”
This event is by no means the first or last of its kind. This is the third year in a row that the Broncs have hosted the drive.
Recently, the baseball players paired with members of the women’s basketball team to host a bone marrow drive in November. The bone drive held Nov. 13 was to sponsor Naranjo, who was diagnosed with Pre-leukemia and was in need of a transplant.
Andy Fortuna, a Bronc outfielder, was present and donated at the January drive. He feels that he and the team should hold themselves to a standard where the community is also a priority.
“This is to set an example to the rest of the community,” the senior physical therapy major said. “If they see a group of guys in jerseys donating blood they will come around. Being a part of the University everyone looks at us in a certain way, we always try to set an example to everybody else.”
According to Fortuna this is a belief that the coaching staff has instilled in these players and has made the team what it is.
His coaches agree.
”We have been doing this for four years,” Lopez said. “And we might have a special group, cause they never complain. I’ve seen guys that are scared of needles and they are freaking out, they are almost turning white, but they still want to do it. And I think that is a testament to Coach Mantrana; he really preaches to them and tells them about giving back.”
Whether it is the ideals instilled in them by their coaching staff or peer pressure that keep them donating, the end, even first-timers see the value.
Jesus Garcia, a shortstop for the team, said sometimes it’s the little things that matter, and taking time out of their days to donate is a small price to pay.
”This was my first time,” Garcia said. “And you really don’t feel much. It did not bother me at all, it was for a good cause. We are doing a small part for something big and this is what we are doing, each of us, It will contribute little by little to something big.”
February 6th, 2014
For all of the victims affected by sexual assault, President Barack Obama has officially given them a voice in the White House.
The president issued a Presidential Memorandum Jan. 22 to establish a “White House Task Force” to protect students from sexual assault. Representatives from the Office of the Vice President and White House Council on Women and Girls have appointed this task force of leaders. The president is giving the group 90 days to compile the best practices on increasing enforcement, awareness and interagency coordination to prevent rape and sexual violence on college campuses nationwide. Once these findings are reported, they will be shared with 4,500 colleges and universities in the nation and further action will be decided upon by administrators.
Accompanying this order was the White House Council on Women and Girls’ report, entitled “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action.” The report found that one in five women – totaling 22 million- experienced rape in their college years.
Although women are most at risk for sexual assault, the study also found that 1 in 71 men- a total of 1.6 million -experience it in their college years as well. On top of this, it was also found that of these cases, 12 percent of all student victims reported their assault and 80 to 90 percent of cases involved acquaintances of the victims.
Dean of Students Mari Fuentes-Martin spoke of the positive impact this national initiative would have on students at UTPA.
“I think it’s good overall and I think it’s important that the president and the Department of Education place a high importance on campus safety,” Fuentes-Martin said. “Of course, I think all of us want to see the elimination of rape and sexual assault. The hard part about it is the regulations and how they’re written and their enforcement, and the mechanisms to report all of that hasn’t really been firmly established in our infrastructure, and this will resolve that.”
Fuentes-Martin stated that national committees are currently looking over mandates on how to respond to cases, what definitions of sexual assault have changed or not changed and if enough is being done to promote safety. The Dean of Students also elaborated on why students don’t always come forward with their cases.
“The main reason is that student victims suffer from shame and guilt,” Fuentes-Martin said. “Why don’t they come forward? It’s because they’re scared of the suspect, scared of telling their families, scared of being blamed, scared of all of these things and one of the things that is most important for us is to educate them more and provide outreach for our students about the options that they have in case something does happen to them.”
As for student reactions, sophomore Giselle Buentello commented on the president’s special attention to the topic.
“I think it’s generous on his part to think about such a small group,” said the dance performance major. “He’s trying to generalize and fix a problem that most people don’t pay attention to.”
Junior Cathleen Pompa also spoke of the attention given to this issue and about positive outcomes that can come from the task force.
“It makes sense to help out with the universities and especially with the rape victims that have been affected, so that we can make sure it won’t happen again,” said the English major. “Especially in this generation, you never know who you can trust and who is safe to be around. It’s all about the safety of the students and to make sure that we feel safe and comfortable to come to school every day, so it’ll help us, definitely in that sense.”
According to statistical records from 2012, there have been two reports of sexual assault at UTPA in the 2011-2012 academic year. Currently, students who experience rape or sexual assault on campus have the option of pursuing justice criminally or through the student conduct system. Through the criminal process, students can file charges through the district attorney and have their day in court.
Through the University, the case will be investigated by the dean of students and disciplinary action will take place if the charge is found to be a credible one. The options can be pursued simultaneously.
After a crime has been committed, students can go to the University Police, Counseling and Psychological Services or Student Health Services to report the offense. These practices and services will more than likely be strengthened with the president’s initiative.
UTPA is currently educating students on this subject through the police department’s defensive training program, residence hall outreach, and collaborations like the Coalition Against Violence Exploitation. This project is shared between citizens and businesses from the Rio Grande Valley, the Pan American Collaboration for Ethics and Professors and UTPA and aims to eliminate violence against women.
Further education is planned for March with events such as Safety On Week, held the week before Spring Break, to provide students with information about protecting themselves in dangerous situations. The week will also include the play Sex Signals, a two-person improvisational show of educational skits on dating and sexual violence.
Fuentes-Martin hopes this initiative will help in stopping these crimes, further educating students on how to protect themselves in the process.
“We do some things, but we could definitely do more,” Fuentes-Martin said. “Our first concern is going to be that the physical and mental welfare of the student is addressed, and we’re trying to evaluate our current programs and see what we can improve to what we offer to our students.”
January 21st, 2014
UTPA women’s basketball team gave the Chicago State University Cougars a fast paced game Jan. 18. Midway through the game the broncs went on a 16 point run to pull off a win at the UTPA Field House 66-44.
Currently the Bronc season record now stands even 9-9, 3-2 season record in the Western Athletic conference.
The game was at a standstill as the Broncs fought off the Cougars. But Kaelynn Boyd, a sophomore, scored a three pointer, starting the 16 point run. Then junior Tonashia Walker hit seven straight points using two free throws, a three pointer and one layup.
The Broncs kept up the momentum as Charrell Price scored another three pointer and Brittany Bush went for a free throw. Scoring Shawnte Goff ended the run 42-27.
All in all Goff scored a total of 18 points, junior Jasmine Thompson scored 10 and Bush came close to a double double with nine points and 12 rebounds.
With this win in hand the Broncs will now face off at home against New Mexico State, Jan. 25, at the UTPA Field House.
October 17th, 2013
While the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives voted to reopen the federal government and lift the debt ceiling Oct. 16, the impact still affected UTPA and Texas for 16 days.
Of the estimated 800,000 federal workers furloughed due to the government shutdown, as many as 140,000 were in the state of Texas, according to the Dallas Morning News. Federal workers were either deemed “essential” or “nonessential” during the shutdown, which was in effect for two weeks.
With cuts made in nearly every federal department, the impact the shutdown had on UTPA spanned several departments and resources, including research funding, financial aid, services for veterans and library resources.
In order for the government to operate, there needs to be funding. If Congress can’t agree on a method, the government shuts down, according to The Washington Post.
Each year the House and Senate are supposed to agree on a dozen bills to fund federal agencies by Sept. 30 to keep the government going. In the past 30 years, Congress has met this deadline only four times – in 1977, 1989, 1995 and 1997. During all other years, Congress resorted to stopgap measures, or temporary solutions, to keep business paid for.
This year, however, the Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House couldn’t agree on specifics regarding the stopgap legislation. The two government bodies are at odds regarding President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, national legislation created with the intent of providing health insurance to the estimated 60 million people who are uninsured. The House wanted to delay Obamacare for one year and repeal a tax on medical devices, but the Senate did not.
According to USA Today, scientific research at public universities is deemed “nonessential.” The National Science Foundation, which funds research in mathematics, computer science, engineering and other disciplines, furloughed 95 percent of its staff during the shutdown. This resulted in major delays in reviewing and awarding new grants. The NSF is just one of several federal resources for research funding.
These delays affected institutions such as UTPA.
“The University of Texas-Pan American receives a number of competitive grant awards from various federal agencies,” said Sadiq Shah while the shutdown was still in effect. “Our faculty and staff work hard to develop competitive proposals to seek external funding for projects that are related to the academic mission. These awards may provide funding to engage students in hands-on research, scholarship, creative activities, curriculum development and service and community engagement projects.”
According to Shah, the vice provost for research and sponsored projects, proposals must follow strict rules. For example, proposals sent to agencies one minute after the deadline won’t be accepted.
“Generally, these proposals are submitted online. However, sometimes there are technical issues with these websites due to submission of thousands of proposals submitted by various universities,” he said. “With the government shutdown, there is no one at the agencies to address these issues so that we may successfully submit proposals.”
In addition, when these agencies closed or downsized, there was no one to review proposals and without these reviews there was a delay in decisions regarding awards. The agencies also cannot issue award letters, so if a proposal was accepted, the University could not be notified and these new projects couldn’t be started, Shah said.
“As a result, students cannot be engaged on these projects,” he continued. “For existing awards, that are multimillion dollar awards, we do the work and submit invoices to the agencies for reimbursement for our costs. Unfortunately, due to the shutdown we are unable to receive reimbursement. It creates a financial hardship for the University.”
Because financial aid is forward-funded, meaning the awards for the 2013-2014 school year come from last
year’s budget, the short-term effects of the government shutdown were minimal, said Elaine Rivera, executive director for student financial services.
“The UTPA financial aid office is still able to draw down funds and disburse aid, students are able to complete FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) applications and schools are able to import FAFSA applications that students have completed,” Rivera said Oct. 8. “Students completing the FAFSA verification process may be slightly inconvenienced. The local IRS (Internal Revenue Service) office in Harlingen is closed, so students must request copies of tax transcripts directly online at the IRS website.”
The debt ceiling, set at $16.7 trillion before it was raised Oct.16, is the maximum amount of borrowing the government can do; it determines how much debt the federal government can have to pay for its operations.
The Treasury estimated it would exhaust its legal authority to borrow Oct. 17 and would have about $30 billion in cash on hand to pay those who are expecting to receive federal money. If nothing was done, this money would have run out by the end of the month and the country would have entered “default” and wouldn’t have the funds to pay those who own Treasury securities, according to NBC.
If Congress allowed the U.S. to hit the debt ceiling, not only would financial aid run out, but student loan rates could soar because they are now tied to the 10-year Treasury note. Rivera said this is why the long-term effects of the shutdown could have been more dire than the short-term ones.
“The next hurdle of concern would be the failure of Congress to increase the debt ceiling,” she said. “Reports indicate that the U.S. Treasury Department is expected to run out of borrowing options in mid-October. Failure to increase the levels of debt which the U.S. can take on could potentially disrupt student aid funding, not to mention financial markets across the globe.”
According to Elda Arriaga, manager of the UTPA Veterans Service Center, the assistance the center provides wouldn’t be interrupted by the shutdown unless it was prolonged. Like the situation with financial aid, veterans’ benefits depend on the debt ceiling.
“VITAL (Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership) veterans’ benefits administration programs will remain operational: compensation, pension, education, vocational rehabilitation and work study,” Arriaga said Oct. 8. “However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, the processing of claims and payments in these programs would be suspended when available funding is exhausted.”
In addition, certain scholarly resources, such as data.gov, were not available during the shutdown. This site, among others, provides access to government data from across the federal government that students may need to use for research.
“All of the government information resources that students would rely on for their research papers and academic work are unfortunately shut down,” said Karen Holt, head of reference and instructional services in the library, Oct. 11.
The deal reached by Congress prevented these long-tern effects from happening and fixed the short-term problems faculty and students experienced at the University.
October 3rd, 2013
The recent release of the World Economic Forum’s 2013-2014 global competitiveness report showed a lag in the education system of Vietnam. It ranked lower than neighboring countries in terms of higher education and training, including Korea, Thailand and Malaysia.
Thanh Nien News in Vietnam reported that lagging scores for primary and higher education are due to curriculum and teaching methods that are outdated and inefficient. Vietnam native Ngo Ai Nhan, a lecturer in the department of English at the University, wants to help fix this.
“I am not pleased with education in Vietnam. Critical thinking skills are not being developed there,” said Ngo.
In the United States, the family name is used as the last name. However, in Vietnam, the family name is first. So she is listed as Ai Nhan Ngo in the UTPA directory, but that is not how she is referred to in Vietnam.
Ngo moved to the Rio Grande Valley nearly three years ago to complete her master’s degree at UTPA in English second language. She received a bachelor’s in foreign language studies from Hue University in Vietnam. Upon receiving her master’s in ESL, she became a teaching assistant and is now a lecturer. While she had difficulties adjusting to a new culture, she said she will take back her educational experiences from America and spread them to the youth in her home country.
Many of the problems with the education system, according to AsiaNews, can be attributed to the prevailing communist government structure found in Vietnam. Because the government controls the education system, AsiaNews said there is little room for education to grow and for free thinking to occur among young students. Ngo and other Vietnam natives feel this type of education system is detrimental to the future of the nation.
Ngo, aware of the challenges she will face in her country, said that many Vietnamese college graduates come to the states for a doctoral degree and find it very hard to change the education system in Vietnam once they return.
“Just because it’s hard to do,” Ngo said, “does not mean you don’t try.”
According to the Critical Thinking Community, an online organization that promotes education reform and improvement, critical thinking is the ability to analyze and evaluate gathered information and develop an answer or conclusion based on logic.
“I see the role of critical thinking (in the United States) and I want my students in Vietnam to learn and think, not just memorize,” the 27-year-old said when discussing what she hopes to apply to her teachings in Vietnam.
The role of critical thinking in the classroom is also seen as something very important to Sarahi Ruiz, a senior education major from UTPA.
“The main goal of education is to promote and develop critical thinking skills so that students can think for themselves as adults,” the 20-year-old said. “And also be themselves; be individuals.”
AsiaNews reported that a monopoly on the education system in Vietnam may also be part of the problem, with the country’s government focusing on earning money from universities rather than educating youth.
“(Asia is) not like America where just anyone can get a scholarship or a grant from the government,” said Irish Bautista, a senior in the nursing program and Philippines native. “You have to have a lot of money (before you start college).”
Ngo discussed how a corrupt government stands in the way of educational advances in her country, adding that there is a lack of skills in the classroom that perpetuates this problem.
“Research and critical thinking skills are lacking in Vietnam,” Ngo said. “I had to learn (these skills) here (in the United States) and developed them here as well.”
Ngo plans to teach at UTPA for four to five more years to gain as much education experience as possible. Then she will return to Vietnam to try and reform the education system. She said that by taking all she has learned about research and critical thinking back to her country, she will be able to implement these theories into her teaching methods there and possibly change education in Vietnam for the better.
“If I am going to learn something,” Ngo said, “I am going to do something meaningful with it.”
September 5th, 2013
More than 3,500 new students entered the University this fall, with the new enrollment totaling to 20,000 students; a 3 percent increase in population compared to last year, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness. As posted on the facilities management website, UTPA is expected to grow and continues with the Campus Master Plan, which was last updated in 2005.
These projects include the new Performing Arts Complex, the Van Week Parking Project, the new Academic Services Building and the remodeling of the Mary Alice Shary-Shivers Building with a new courtyard.
Marta Salinas-Hovar, assistant director of project planning and management at UTPA, estimates that by next year the school will have gained 110,000 square feet of building space.
“These include all additional buildings on the campus when we are done with all the projects,” Salinas-Hovar said. “The old building (PAC) had outlived its useful life. It did not meet the current building codes. It did not meet with safety handicap accessibility. It was too small to meet the needs of the fine arts program.”
The new PAC will be more than twice the size of the old one. For example, the original auditorium was 25,000 square feet and the new one is to be 60,000 square feet, encompassing three buildings.
Building ‘A’ will have the new 1,000-seat auditorium with lower and upper balconies and an audio and video recording studio that will provide live feeds and four rehearsal halls. Building ‘B’ is a remodel of the current two-story building; it will offer classrooms, a dance practice room and a small practice area with a removable dance floor. Building ‘C’, the north building, will contain practice rooms and a computer lab with a piano and piano-recording equipment.
“This gives us a much better auditorium with proper handicap-accessible seating requirements, a bigger lobby, some support space for the theater arts, dressing rooms, larger rehearsal spaces,” Salinas-Hovar said.
In addition, the complex will have an arched wall entry to a remodeled courtyard with a new water fountain. The entire complex is scheduled for completion by October 2014 and will cost $42 million.
“We don’t know about any delays; we don’t know the future,” Salinas-Hovar said. “But we do plan on having our first Christmas performance concert event when it is completed.”
SOUTHSIDE MASS & ACSB
South of the campus is the site of the MASS remodeling and the new ACSB with a student lounge and courtyard.
The second floor of the MASS building has been retrofitted for the Office of Human Resources and the third floor for the Office of Student Financial Services. In addition, the first floor will hold the Office of Graduate Studies; all floors are scheduled for completion in mid-October.
In addition, by August 2014 the 40,000-square-foot ACSB building will be complete, costing $11.9 million. It will have five classrooms, each with a 60-student capacity, the University’s Writing Center, the Office of International Programs and the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning. It will also house a new student lounge, and the new University College, which will assist entering undergraduate students in adapting to their new environment. The University College will also host the well-known UNIV 1301: Learning Frameworks classes.
“I think it is exciting that we are getting this upgrade,” said Kelly Longoria, a 30-year-old student finishing her license as a professional counselor. “It’s getting bigger and better. The University is getting pretty old and we need to progress and keep up with everybody else. Construction is good.”
In addition, there will be a new stoplight at the University’s main entrance on West University Drive, near the Visitors Center. It will connect to the recently constructed Joe Ochoa Drive and should alleviate many problems for drivers.
“The stoplight is a good thing. Actually, today I saw it, they just ran the stop sign,” said Al Morales, a 24-year-old senior majoring in criminal justice. “They didn’t even yield or wait the proper (amount of) time. (A new stoplight) would most definitely help with controlling traffic problems.”
NORTHSIDE VAN WEEK
There will be exactly 336 more parking spaces in what will be known as the Lamar Parking Lot, when the estimated $2 million Van Week Parking Project is finished. According to Director of Facilities Management Oscar Villarreal, Van Week Street parking lots directly south of Schunior Street will open Sept. 16 and another west of the thermal tank will open Nov. 15.
The project will also include a pedestrian mall, which is a landscaped walkway also known as a “pedestrian street”, have drainage improvements and finalize a new road to connect Schunior and Van Week streets.
“In a selfish sense, the construction has hindered the ability to get from one end of the parking lot to Sugar Road,” UTPA student Longoria said. “In the grand scheme of things, construction is construction and it’s progress. You are doing it for the betterment of the University and the community. There’s no need to complain about something that’s going to get better.”
Both Longoria and Morales attended UTPA before most of the changes to the parking took place and are very much used to the morning traffic.
“Additional parking most definitely helps, but it is still going to be a tight squeeze,” Morales said. “As it is, there’s a lack of parking every now and then, but I don’t mind walking.”
PAST AND FUTURE
Last December, the University updated its signs around campus and this fall installed a new three-sided brick kiosk by the University’s sundial to help students find their way around campus. It offers a cork board, a campus map, and an LED color screen. Some students who have been attending UTPA prior to the recent construction feel the school is moving in the right direction in terms of design.
“It makes the school stand out a bit more,” Morales said. “The signage (of building names) keeps it modernized. It brings the University to the new age. It makes it look like a university now.”
Last year, the University finished construction of the Student Union and unveiled a new game room, Chik–fil–A, SU Cafe, Mein Bowl, the C-store, Subconnection and Mi Taco Poncho’s.
“The (revamping of the) Student Union, that helped out. They brought in different restaurants and different food,” Morales said. “It helps out to not always eat the same kind of meal. At least we now have some variety to choose from. About the game room, I really miss the old pool tables.”
Longoria, who was an undergraduate student at UTPA in 2002, sees a difference between past and current parking issues.
“It was a different world then,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of parking options. Now it’s different, there’s residential parking where there used to be open parking. I was going to park in my regular spot, but then there was Zone 2. I’m sure there’s reasons for it. It helps the staff get to their destination.”
Also, students can expect the completion of the “Dome Safe Room” by summer 2014. This structure will accommodate 1,000 people in case of a weather emergency, providing refuge for at least 24 hours. It will also provide 19 classrooms and house offices for the Department of Health and Safety.
“We hope to achieve this process within the next month or so,” said Villarreal of facilities management. “We are currently working on obtaining final (Federal Emergency Management Agency) approval.”
With all the construction happening, Salinas-Hovar has a message for students about staying safe.
“On the perimeter, we have fenced the areas to keep the students, faculty and the campus community out,” the project planner said. “Please stay away from these areas. Our information is posted on the facilities management website. We use this to alert students of these areas to go around and find an alternative route.”
Additional information and maps on construction are also available at the UTPA Police Department website.
“We ask the students to bear with us. To be patient, and understand that our campus is growing,” she said. “In due time, we will have these facilities and parking lots completed. We are working hard and diligently to provide improvement for the students. We are looking to make things better. In order to progress, we must go through growing pains.”
September 1st, 2013
By Lisa Marie Rojas
The University athletic department welcomes back Matt Taylor, as the new strength and condition coach. Taylor was a previous employer at UTPA during the 2007-2008 season as head strength and conditioning coordinator.
“I am happy to welcome Matt back to the Bronc athletics family,” Director of Athletics Chris King said. “He has many years of experience working with student-athletes at Presbyterian, Rice, UTPA, Buffalo, Arizona State and Gardner-Webb. His methods and strength and conditioning philosophy will make (a) significant impact on the athleticism of our student-athletes.”
Taylor received his bachelor’s degree in physical education, health and secondary education from Mount Union. Meanwhile, he helped lead the Union football team to win four National Collegiate Athletic Association championships.
“I would like to thank Chris King for the opportunity to come back to UTPA,” Taylor said. “There have been a lot of positive changes to the athletic program and I’m looking forward to our first of many WAC Championships.
Since he was last employed, the University joined the Western Athletic Conference and implemented the new women’s soccer program arising in the fall of 2014 and men’s soccer program beginning 18 months later in 2015.
August 27th, 2013
Crusaders and challengers of affirmative action are watching closely as Supreme Court Justices seek “strict scrutiny” over raced-based college admissions and prepare to take another case involving the use of the controversial policy. In Michigan’s Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, individuals who favor the use of affirmative action urge the removal of Proposal 2, an amendment in the Michigan Constitution which bans statewide use of affirmative action in public education, employment and contracting. The case will be heard by the Supreme Court Oct. 16.
Affirmative action, a policy first introduced in the 1960s, is tailored to counteract historical discrimination faced by underrepresented groups, such as women and ethnic minorities, including Hispanics and African-Americans. Currently, courts, like universities, are questioning the constitutionality of race-conscious admissions policies that seek a diversified student body and to remedy past inequalities.
In Fisher v. University of Texas, Abigail Fisher, a white student, challenged the way some universities use race as a determining factor in college admissions. In 2008, the Sugarland resident filed a lawsuit which claimed she was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin on the basis of her race.
In a 7-1 decision, the Supreme Court decided to send the case back to the lower court for a strict review June 24. The justices ruled that the lower court did not review the university’s affirmative action program carefully enough. The court allows universities to continue using race as a factor in admissions in order to achieve diversity. However, universities must prove that “available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice” before considering race in admissions.
According to a 2013 Gallup poll, a strong majority opposes affirmative action in college admissions. In the United States, 67 percent of Americans believe applicants should be admitted solely on the basis of merit.
Although UTPA does not consider race when making an admission decision, according to Director of Admissions Debbie Gilchrist, students on campus expressed mixed views toward affirmative action, mirroring the divisions among the nation.
Sahara Ruiz, a special education major, said she does not believe in the field-leveling technique.
“It shouldn’t be based on race – and giving preference to minorities has racism in there, like reverse discrimination,” the 20-year-old senior said. “If I’m the minority and she’s the white girl, and she’s more qualified than I am to get into the school, she should be able to get accepted. I’m probably going to be accepted because I’m the minority.”
Ruiz said if affirmative action continues to be used in college admissions, universities would have to prove why a minority should be accepted over another applicant that is white.
“You want diversity, but you also want people that are ready and qualified,” Ruiz said. “If I applied to UT and I get accepted because of affirmative action, I might not be ready for UT. A smaller school (might) be better. I might not be ready for the challenges.”
Niki Cavazos, an education major, echoed Ruiz’s opposition to affirmative action. The 23-year-old senior said admissions to universities should only be based on academics.
“(Selection) should be based on your education, on what you know,” Ruiz said. “Your race or gender…should never be taken into consideration.”
However, not all students are against affirmative action, including Karla Garcia, a graduate student studying guidance and counseling. The 24-year-old said the policy can help create more diversity in universities when used fairly to help qualified minorities.
“I think it’s better when the minority group has a chance to get more opportunities,” Garcia said. “When we have more diverse universities, we can learn from other cultures and races.”
On both sides of the argument is 24-year-old Alfonso Jaramillo, who believes affirmative action can be a good thing when applied properly. The history major said the policy makes up for the people that are discounted because of their race, despite their skills.
“I’m for it as an equalizer – it’s good to have diversity,” Jaramillo said. “I saw a graph of a city in the Midwest and I think it was 97 percent white and three percent every other minority, so if you can avoid that in college, that would be best to get different viewpoints. It’s a better learning environment…people are not always from the same background.”
Jaramillo, however, acknowledged that affirmative action can have its downside, supporting Fisher’s argument. He also said applying the policy in the workforce can be more challenging.
“If both (applicants’ qualifications) are exactly the same, it’s more of a coin toss,” Jaramillo said. “In single-race areas, if you want more diversity, then yes, you have to take (race) into consideration. If (the minorities) are not as qualified, that (could potentially) cause problems.”
Texas practices what is known as the Top 10% Rule, a law established in 1997 guaranteeing high school students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class automatic admission to any state-funded university. UT recently changed the law to automatically admit the top eight percent of high school graduates. The remaining applicants are then reviewed and selected based on academics, skills and, in some cases, by their ethnicity.
Fisher, who carried a 3.59 grade point average and ranked in the top 12 percent of her high school class, failed to receive automatic admission. She claims UT’s affirmative action policy gave preference to racial minorities from her class who had lower grades than she did.
Gilchrist said the University does not use race when making an admission decision. In addition, she also said UTPA has never applied affirmative action in the process.
Selected applicants who do not qualify for automatic admission based on high school rank or ACT and SAT scores may be eligible for admission through the University’s Admission Review Program. According to Gilchrist, applicants can receive admissions approval or denial based on a combination of the following holistic criteria: academic record, work-related activities, leadership roles, community activities, performance level of the applicant’s high school and prior college credit earned. Colleges with holistic admissions evaluate the whole applicant rather than just using a few pieces of empirical data, such as test scores and GPA.
IN THE WORKFORCE
Although affirmative action has garnered the most criticism when practiced in college admissions, the policy’s origins stem from the 1960s movement for equality in the workforce. The policy is practiced when hiring faculty and staff in the University. According to UTPA’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action webpage, the University seeks to make good faith efforts when implementing its Affirmative Action Plan.
According to a 2011 report by UTPA’s Affirmative Action Plan, out of 1,839 employees, 1,388 are minorities and 919 are women. The average salary of a male professor is $96,355 while a female professor earns an average of $92,916.
UTPA has faced opposition in the past due to gender-based discrimination.
Hilda Medrano, an education professor, was demoted as dean for the College of Education in 2005. In 2009, she discovered she was paid less than her male counterparts during her time in the position. Medrano, whose salary was $116,322 annually, was the lowest paid dean at the time while the highest paid one made $143,556 per year. A difference of $27,234.
Medrano’s lawsuit against the University for gender discrimination won her $230,000. According to a jury, the University had willfully violated the Equal Pay Act, a law passed by Congress in 1963 declaring that women and men must receive equal pay for equal work.
Although the winner in Fisher v. University of Texas has yet to be determined, both parties claim the Supreme Court’s decision was a victory. The case will be re-evaluated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, a federal court that reviews appeals from district courts within the states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
In a press release, UT President William Powers said he was “encouraged” by the ruling.
“Today’s ruling will have no impact on admissions decisions we have already made or any immediate impact on our holistic admissions policies,” Powers said June 24. “We remain committed to assembling a student body at The University of Texas at Austin that provides the educational benefits of diversity on campus while respecting the rights of all students and acting within the constitutional framework established by the Court.”
However, by sending the case back to the lower courts, affirmative action policies used by universities may be at stake.
Fisher, who received her finance degree from Louisiana State University, will remain the plaintiff as her case is expected to return to the federal appeals court in New Orleans.
“Of course we’re happy with it,” Fisher said of the decision in an ABC article June 24. “You know, they gave us everything that we asked for, and I’m very confident that UT won’t be able to use race again.”
August 13th, 2013
According to the U.S. Department of Education, UTPA’s cost of attendance is the lowest in the nation after financial aid is taken into effect. The tuition is not the lowest in the nation, but it does have the lowest average net price of -$95 among public four-year colleges.
The average net price is the total annual cost of the institution after aid and grants are taken into account. The total cost includes fees, tuition, books, supplies and living expenses.
“It’s a good thing. It’s something that we stress to our students. UTPA is a good value,” said Jael Garcia, associate director of Financial Aid Outreach and Customer Services. “(UTPA’s average net price) doesn’t surprise us. Because the students of our area are so needy, our families, most of our students are eligible for grant money as compared to student loans.”
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average net price only applies to starting undergraduate full-time students who receive grants or scholarships from the school they are attending, from the federal, state or local government.
“This shows that college is a possibility for students that come from families that would not otherwise be able to afford a college education,” Garcia said. “What the student is eligible for does not equal the amount of tuition that is required to be paid. Each grant varies depending on where it’s from and what college they pay for.”
The list of colleges with the lowest net prices comes from the College Affordability and Transparency Center; it was designed to inform students and parents about the cost of education at different schools.
Terrance Charboneau, a 23-year-old philosophy senior from Saginaw, Mich., is one person who took advantage of the University’s net price.
“Essentially, it is affordable,” Charboneau said. “I’m not sure about the economic situation in the Valley, but people say it’s one of the poorest regions in the country. Well, then that’s a great thing to have an affordable university in your backyard. It’s a good school. People need to take advantage of that.”
After he received his financial aid award, he chose UTPA when he realized the out-of-state tuition here was the same as the in-state tuition at Michigan State University.
“I can either go (to school) an hour away from home or I can go 2,000 miles away from home,” Charboneau said. “It’s like a whole another world here. I really enjoy the culture and the people.”
UTPA is offering to keep the tuition low and affordable, according to University President Robert Nelsen. He said the decision was made by the University of Texas System Board of Regents to keep the 2012 cost of tuition for the 2013-2014 school year.
The University’s tuition is currently $5,410 for residents and $9,622 for non-residents, for 12 hours. Nelsen said he believes that providing a low-cost education is crucial.
“The net price shows that we are finding ways to make it possible for students in the Valley to attend Pan Am,” the president said. “We will keep the cost as low as possible and will continue to provide the support that we have always provided for all our students.”
According to the UTPA Stats at a Glance Fact Book, UTPA has increased tuition by $761 since 2009, a 16.4 percent increase for in-state tuition. It has also increased out-of-state tuition by $1,601, a 20 percent increase.
Though UTPA is at the top of the list of average low net cost, South Texas College comes second with -$85.
“STC has low prices as well, but it would still be cheaper to come to Pan Am because of how close I live,” said Edgar Aldape Jr., a 21-year-old criminal justice major who grew up in Edinburg. “The costs seem fair, as long as you take advantage of the (extra fees and services).”
Another student, 21-year-old Mexico City native Astrid Ramirez, said she came to the University because her mother had taken classes here. She said that coming to this school is less expensive and it is less crowded than la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) or el Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN). A total of 324,413 students attended UNAM in fall of 2012 and IPN had a total of 153,027 students in 2009.
“I really like the (degree) plans and this school. The tuition is a little more expensive (in Mexico) than here,” said Ramirez, a junior double major in economics and finance. “Compared to Instituto Tecnológico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM), which is a business school, this was the best choice.”
Ramirez, like other students, takes part in the Programa de Asistencia Estudiantil (PASE) program, which allows for Mexican residents to pay in-state tuition for their education.
According to the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, there were 47,914 grants and scholarship aid awards handed out to UTPA students in fall of 2012 totaling $154,157,025. Included in this amount are $44,962,888 that came from the University.
Oluwaseun Sam Oremosu, another out-of-state student who is originally from Lagos, Nigeria said he was proud to receive a scholarship at UTPA after attending the University of Houston.
“The tuition here is cheaper than other schools,” said Oremosu, who is currently working on his master’s degree in electrical engineering. “There are good quality professors in the electrical engineering department. Here, we have the opportunity to go farther.”
July 26th, 2013
With of a vote of 81-18, the U.S. Senate approved the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, July 24. The bill would tie the interest rates on student loans to the financial markets; interest rates will immediately be lower, but could climb in the future if the economy improves.
This legislation will retroactively roll back the interest rate increase on Federal Direct Stafford loans, which doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent July 1. In addition, if the bill is passed in the House, rates on subsidized undergraduate loans issued after July 1 will be lowered from 6.8 percent to 3.86 percent, rates on loans for graduate students would be 5.41 percent, and PLUS loans for graduate students and parents of undergraduates would have a rate of 6.41 percent.
While there is a possibility interest rates could be higher in the future, the bill sets a maximum rate for each type of loan. Rates on undergraduate loans will not be allowed to rise above 8.25 percent, rates on graduate loans cannot be more than 9.5 percent and rates on PLUS loans cannot exceed 10.5 percent.
It is predicted that this bill will keep interest rates on student loans steady through the 2015 school year.