Talk Back: Responses to Our March|April 2014 Issue

 

Talk Back: March|April 2014

The Texas 10

Our annual alumni-nominated roundup of 10 teachers who change lives prompted dozens of comments, with many readers cheering for their favorites. “So happy to see Mia Carter recognized,” wrote Melia Hughes, BA ’94. “I have not forgotten her class, even 20 years later. She was a highlight of my academic experience at UT.”

“David Laude is incredible,” said Ann Grace Martin. “Intuitive, bizarre, brilliant, entertaining, and so caring.”

“Herbert Miller was definitely one of the best and most memorable professors during my years on campus,” added Orelia Gonzalez. “I remember going home and sharing what was discussed in his class with friends. Regardless of their major, it was relevant.”

Other readers chimed in to share stories of their own favorite teachers. “I could have built a nest in the corner of Robert Abzug’s office and absorbed the awesomeness,” enthused Jennifer Phillips, BA ’07.

For Gus Breymann, BA ’63, Life Member, the story brought back memories from the 1960s. “I want to say again how much some of my UT professors contributed to my education,” he said. “They were Bill Livingston, Wilfred D. Webb, Wallace Mendelson, Oliver Radkey, H. Bailey Carroll, and O. Douglas Weeks. What role models they were, each in his own way!  They’re gone now, but I’m still thankful to them.”

Government professor Sean Theriault said that being named to the Texas 10 helped him reconnect with his students. “The thing I like most from these awards is hearing from my former students,” he wrote. “Your accomplishments, your thoughtfulness, and your gratitude inspire me!”

Reframing the Constitution

UT law and government professor Sanford Levinson’s provocative argument for a new Constitutional convention drew a wide range of responses. Many readers bristled at the very idea of criticizing the Constitution, while others saw Levinson’s argument as an intriguing conversation starter. Below is a varied selection of the letters that poured in.

Prof. Levinson’s basic argument in favor of a Constitutional convention seems to be that the separation of powers prevents the easy passage of “sweeping legislation” and that is one of the causes of the current public disaffection for Congress and government. I would counter that the failure to pass “sweeping legislation” is likely the last reason most would give for their attitudes about government.

I would remind Prof. Levinson that the Constitution was intentionally drafted to make governmental action difficult. This was wisely designed to protect “We the People” from the possible tyranny of too much power concentrated in too few or a single hand.  King George III comes to mind. This is not a defect of the Constitution; to the contrary it is one of its shining achievements.

As to the problem with divided government which Prof. Levinson laments, I would remind him that even with divided government during the Reagan years both the Kemp-Roth tax reform and the Social Security compromise legislation were accomplished, both of which would no doubt qualify as “sweeping legislation” that Prof. Levinson seems to favor … Likewise in the Bush Jr. years the No Child Left Behind Act and Medicare Part D Drug Act were enacted with a divided government in place. Is it possible that the current impasse between the various branches of government has more to do with the current occupants of the Presidency and Congress than the basic Constitutional structure?

Other than the article discussed above, I enjoy the Alcalde and appreciate the work of you and your staff. As to the captioned article I will simply crack open a roll of Rolaids and carry on, Constitution in hand.—Frank F. Smith Jr., BA ’64; JD ’68, Life Member

I am embarrassed by the cover of this last Alcalde magazine. As a Texas Ex and an American, the Constitution is to be revered, not insulted. It is what made this country great and [Levinson’s article] is an insult and makes me embarrassed to claim Texas as my University. What were you thinking?—Karen George Sutherland ’72

Sanford Levinson wrote the article I have been waiting to read. I immediately ordered his book, Framed: America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance. Alas, his coverage of this immense problem is limited to a couple of pages of Chapter 1. He even lets another author, Daniel Rodriquez, define the problem: “[T]he basic range of policies and policy choices made by state and local officials dwarf—indeed always have dwarfed—national political activity.” That has been my observation for years, and why it should be a mystery to any other student of American history is beyond me.

The Constitution, as currently interpreted, allows greedy corporate entities like ALEC to divide and conquer ignorant voters from north to south and coast to coast with impunity while the peasants anxiously watch the media circus in D.C., hoping that Congress will save them from their own folly. Most Americans don’t know enough math or have enough patience to file their own tax returns, let alone realize when snake-oil salesmen are taking them to the cleaners, and none of our 51 constitutions offer them much protection. No wonder we have income inequality.

Let’s scrap all of our constitutions and start over. Who will take the first step?—James M. Bruner, BS ’63, Life Member

It amazes me how little understanding well-paid [UT professors] have of the importance personal freedom has had on the prosperity of our nation, and how quickly they would eliminate it if they had the power.  Perhaps “single, non-renewable 18-year terms,” as Levinson prefers for Supreme Court justices, would also be the best job description for university professors. —Marianne Mason, BA ’72, Life Member

Do not agree with Mr. Levinson, his idea would make our nation worse. He is on the fringe.Joel Ponton, BBA ’83, Life Member

The Constitution could definitely use some 21st-century updates. I agree with Thomas Jefferson’s idea of having the constitution re-written every 19 years (in a letter sent to James Madison in 1789). In a changing world and society, it’s pretty absurd to have some of our predecessors’ antiquated views influence law for centuries on end.—Erik Werzner, BS ’11

UT is a great national institution with a diversity of thought. I’m proud to see the Alcalde running this piece and even prouder to be an alumnus of the Law School. —John Owen, JD ’01, Life Member

I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I retrieved my latest copy of the Alcalde and read the cover, “Is it time to scrap the Constitution?” I thought, this is a joke, right? As I read the article written by the embarrassment of the UT Law School, Sanford Levinson, I thought to myself, what’s next, “Women’s Suffrage: A failed experiment?” For those of you who believe the U.S. Constitution is “outdated,” please let me remind you that it has been changed 27 times. Yes, it is one of the most difficult constitutions in the world to change, but for good reason. That’s the beauty of it. Fads come and go, but our Constitution stands the test of time.—Myron Repka, BS ’82

He Did It With Class

The response to our look back at Coach Mack Brown’s career was overwhelmingly warm. “He’s a wonderful man and I was very proud to have him representing the University of Texas,” said Susan Craven Dixon. “Can’t say that for most of the coaches out there.”

Vince Young’s tribute to his coach drew supportive words from Gibb Bauer, BBA ’72, Life Member. “Vince, you nailed it about Coach Brown and Coach Davis,” he wrote. “They saw your talent and your potential … That final drive on Monday Night Football in 2011 was one for the record books. Six third down completions against the best defense in the NFL? You’re still the man that no one wants to face when the game is on the line.”

The Play’s the Thing

William Reynolds praised English professor Doug Bruster’s defense of the Bard. “Shakespeare speaks to the human condition,” he said. “Something that STEM does not teach is leadership. Henry V is probably one of the best stories of what good leadership looks like.”

At the Alcalde, we welcome thoughts about our coverage of the university at comments@alumni.utexas.edu.

 

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