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UNIVERSITY

CITY

College consolidation leads to layoffs

Council aims to raise pay for part-time employees

By Madlin Mekelburg @madlinbmek

Though Kevin Hegarty, UT executive vice president and chief financial officer, said no layoffs will occur in UT’s move toward shared services, centralization within the College of Liberal Arts has led to the elimination of multiple positions. The centralized offices within the College of Liberal Arts are in no way affiliated with the University-wide

move to shared services, but the Shared Services Steering Committee reviewed the college’s centralization before producing its report and recommendations. In February, Victoria Vlach, the course scheduler in the department of Asian studies, was told her position was being eliminated “because of restructuring for improved efficiency,” according to documents obtained by The Daily Texan. Over the course of the

last two years, the College of Liberal Arts has worked to centralize its administrative and technological services by creating offices meant to work with multiple departments in the college. Of the 44 departments and centers in the college, 14 now work through the Centralized Business Services office. The Shared Services Steering Committee considered the success of the College

SHARED page 2

By Kate Dannenmaier @kjdannen

Miriam Rousseau / Daily Texan Staff

Victoria Vlach, a course scheduler for the Asian Studies department, lost her job because of restructuring.

STATE

West: ‘We won’t let our disaster define us’ By Wynne Davis @wynneellyn

On the fairgrounds of West on Thursday night, community members came together for a memorial service to remember their friends and family one year after a local fertilizer plant exploded and left destruction in its wake. During the service, Pastor John Crowder of the First Baptist Church in West gave his remarks about the town, the community’s rebuilding process — both physical and emotional — and the goals the community is still striving to achieve. “Our community leaders and … our school board have worked hard to prepare a way for us to move forward,” Crowder said. “Once we have that one thing, that goal … then we can go forward.” Crowder — known as

WEST page 3

Shelby Tauber / Daily Texan Staff

Karissa Kaluza embraces her boyfriend Clint McHargue, both West High School freshmen, at the West Memorial Service Wednesday night. Kaluza’s cousin, Jimmy Matus, died as part of the rescue team during the explosion.

Part-time city employees may start earning the same $11 per hour minimum wage as full-time employees. The City Council passed a resolution Thursday to support this goal and direct its staff to analyze how this would affect the city’s budget. Michael McGill, policy adviser to the resolution’s main sponsor, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, said the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour was not enough money for a person to live on in Austin. “The $11 figure is one that was decided upon by this council as the floor of a living wage in Austin, so somebody working [here] could make ends meet, essentially,” McGill said. Councilwoman Kathie Tovo, one of the co-sponsors of the resolution, said it has been an important value of the city to ensure that its employees are able to afford to live where they work. “We have many talented employees who work for the City of Austin in part-time, temporary and seasonal jobs and receiving a higher wage would have an immediate positive impact on those employees and their families and could help with employee retention,” Tovo said in an email. McGill said $11 was already the minimum wage for all of the city’s

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UNIVERSITY

CAMPUS

Disparate faculty pay raises concerns By Alex Wilts @alexwilts

Miriam Rousseau / Daily Texan Staff

Astronomer Stefano Meschiari invented the “Super Planet Crash” online game, which allows players to build their own solar system.

Astronomer creates game to garner interest in space By Justin Atkinson @jusatk

In hopes of encouraging greater interest and education in astronomy, one UT postdoctoral fellow has created an internet “gateway drug”: a simple but addictive game called Super Planet Crash. Super Planet Crash, created

by Stefano Meschiari, is a game in which users build their own planetary systems and earn points for maintaining stable environments without causing planets to collide. The Web page also keeps a high score table that resets every day. Meschiari said he wanted

GAME page 2

Associate professors may be ranked higher than assistant professors, but that does not mean their salaries are likely to rise as quickly, according to The Daily Texan’s analysis of University data. Not accounting for inflation, from 2010 to 2013, associate professor salaries in the College of Liberal Arts increased 5.8 percent, while assistant professor salaries increased 10.5 percent. Martha Newman, associate professor and department chair of religious studies, said the discrepancy between increases in salaries is partly influenced by the market for new faculty. According to Newman, to ensure the University continues to hire the best scholars, starting salaries must be

Claire Trammel / Daily Texan Staff

In 2012, history associate professor Alberto Martinez aided in writing a report for the history department which focused on current issues affecting associate professors at UT.

able to compete against other universities. “This is the reason why assistant professor salaries are increasing at a high rate,”

Newman said in an email. “In some departments, the salary of a starting professor may be nearly as high as that of an associate

Austin Reggae Festival April 18-20 • Butler Park Easy Star All-Stars, Inner Circle Everton Blender and More www.austinreggaefest.com Benefitting the Capital Area Food Bank

professor who has taught at UT for many years.” Associate history

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continues from page 1 professor Alberto Martinez said the problem does not only affect faculty but the University’s overall quality as well. “It seems that some new hires are paid too much for a state university, which in turn leaves less funds for rewarding good work by current employees,” Martinez said in an email. “It pushes many good professors to seek jobs elsewhere.” Martinez said, although the University gives more funding for research than it did 10 years ago, there are fewer raises for professors who have attained tenure. “Maybe researchers now produce more, but the net effect [of using funds for research] is that achievement is hardly rewarded, which is discouraging,” Martinez said.

SALARY INCREASES 2010-2013 History: Associate professor: +5.7% Assistant professor: +2.6% Government: Associate professor: +5.7% Assistant professor: +2.6% Sociology: Associate professor: +5.7% Assistant professor: +2.6%

English: Associate professor: +5.7% Assistant professor: +2.6% Classics: Associate professor: +5.7% Assistant professor: +2.6% Asian Studies: Associate professor: +1.3% Assistant professor: +4.2%

David Ochsner, College of Liberal Arts spokesman, said in an email that there are no simple solutions to solving the inequities amog faculty salary raises. “We are not only looking at professors in different stages of their careers,” Ochsner said. “We also need to consider variables between the disciplines themselves, for example, opportunities for sociology vs. classics faculty.” According to Martinez,

job advertisements for professors do not list salaries, so universities may end up overpaying new faculty because salary negotiations do not begin until after candidates have been hired. “If instead we cap and list specific salaries, then we’d save funds that can be used for raises to fix inequities,” Martinez said. “You can get a great professor for a $120,000 salary, but you can get one equally good for much less.”

SHARED

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of Liberal Arts’ centralization when drafting their own plan to cut University spending through the centralization of human resources, information technology, finance and procurement services. Hegarty said approximately 500 jobs must be eliminated in the consolidation through natural attrition and retirement. Vlach, who has worked at UT for 18 years, said she had heard about layoffs

happening in other centers and departments in the college, but, because of the size and complexity of her department, she did not think her own job would be affected. “It was like being sucker punched, having the wind knocked out of you, being hit with a ton of bricks — pick a metaphor, and it applied,” Vlach said. Christine Williams, sociology department chair, said she thinks the College of Liberal Arts has handled centralization incredibly well, but she is not

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continues from page 1 to teach people about the work of astronomers. “The simplest thing that most everyone understands is gravity,” Meschiari said. “I wanted something so accessible that it could make people interested in extraplanetary science, maybe as a gateway drug to wonder why things are happening. I wanted people to enjoy it on a visceral level. People are actually very motivated to be first on the leaderboard.” Rachael Livermore, astronomy postdoctoral fellow and one of the first testers for Super Planet Crash, said the online game had a surge of popularity for the department. “The email [containing the game] started going around in our department and we basically shut down for a day,” Livermore said. “It spread like wildfire. It got a bit obsessive with trying to create stable solar systems, and an hour went by, and I realized I hadn’t done comfortable with a Universitywide effort. “I’m completely terrified of the possibility of it going to a University level,” Williams said. “Keeping it at the college level is very important, both in terms of the ability to communicate needs to the college and [the college’s] understanding of the kind of operation we’re running here. I think it would be really different if it was kicked up two levels of administration.” William Pennebaker, chair of the psychology department, said the college

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any work. It really got interesting once a group of us starting getting competitive and fighting over Twitter about high scores.” Joel Green, astronomy research associate, said he has helped consult Meschiari on possible ways to expand Super Planet Crash. “We’ve been discussing some broader applications for the game,” Green said. “I’ve actually been looking for ways to make the game harder. My work focuses on the beginnings of planetary systems, and so I thought about some of the phenomenon that occur there. I’m wondering if it could incorporate the star flashing or objects coming through or wings and disks.” Meschiari said he hopes the game helps people learn astronomy. “My hope is that people go out on their own to understand the science behind it and understand how scientists analyze the data that comes from telescopes and tease out the signals of alien worlds,” Meschiari said. laid off four IT staff members when his department consolidated IT services. He said centralization efforts could potentially ease the financial strain in a department. “We’re under all sorts of pressure to reduce costs,” Pennebaker said. “If there’s a way to do something that will get the job done and it turns out it’s cheaper, you have to at least give it a try.” Vlach said the people who make the decisions about layoffs underestimate the human consequences of their actions. “I think they forget,” Vlach said. “I really think they forget the human piece of it. Numbers are fine, but they cannot hold the value of an individual human action.” Vlach said she worries that small steps towards centralization will escalate to larger levels. “You’re playing Jenga, only you’re only pulling out pieces from the bottom layers,” Vlach said. “How long is that going to last before the whole thing comes crumbling down?”

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UT’s prestige lessens advertisement needs By Kate Dannenmaier @kjdannen

Prospective college students often find themselves bombarded with postcards from different universities asking them to apply to their institutions — but not from UT. Instead of using paid advertising, UT spokesman Gary Susswein said the University advertises itself through public service announcements at nationally televised athletic events, emails to high school students encouraging them to apply, advertisements in publications such as the Princeton Review and representatives at college fairs. According to Susswein, UT benefits greatly from its strong reputation for teaching and research programs. “We are consistently ranked among the best universities in the world on multiple lists and have some of the highest-rated academic programs in the world,” Susswein said. “People looking for the top options are likely to learn about us.” According to advertising professor Isabella Cunningham, applications for undergraduate admission always exceed available capacity, so the University doesn’t need to engage in a lot of paid advertising to recruit undergraduates. “Most of all, UT lets its graduates be its ambassadors to prospective students, legislators, researchers, global leaders and so on,” Cunningham said. John Harmon, an

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continues from page 1 full-time employees. “When a company looking to relocate to Austin is seeking economic incentives, we require they pay a minimum of $11 [per hour],” McGill said. “We also make that a stipulation for our contractors. We don’t do everything inhouse, so if we contract, we require that those companies pay their workers $11 or more.” The council approved a similar resolution last week expressing its support for state legislation that increases statewide minimum wage. “[The council] approved a resolution that asked for the state of Texas to either raise the minimum wage to a living wage or to

J. Scott Applewhite, / Associated Press

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, right, urges approval for raising the minimum wage, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Changes to minimum wage won’t apply to all

Illustration by Aaron Rodriguez / Daily Texan Staff

aerospace engineering sophomore from Illinois, said in addition to UT’s engineering program, the fact that his family had attended the University was a big influence on his decision to attend UT. “I’ve been a Longhorn fan my whole life because my dad and my sister went here, and so the choice was easy,” Harmon said. Cunningham said recruitment of undergraduates would not be the only objective of a first-class university. According to Cunningham, it is more

allow municipalities to do that themselves,” McGill said. “So in other words, the city of Austin could set a minimum wage for within its borders that all private employers would be subject to.” Phil Thoden, president and CEO of the Austin Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, a trade association for the construction industry, said he thinks small businesses would have to compensate in two ways if they had to pay their employees a higher wage. “Prices either have to go up, which impacts you and me for whatever we want to buy, or something’s got to be cut,” Thoden said. “Either hours or some of the inputs into producing whatever it is you’re producing.” McGill said City Council

WEST

continues from page 1 Brother John to the community — recounted the first Sunday after the explosion, when services were held in a field because the explosion made the church inaccessible. Crowder said the community must look to the future to keep moving forward. “Understand that when we talk about forgetting what lies behind, we will never forget what happened on April 17. We will never forget those who died — the friends and neighbors — but we can move beyond that night,” Crowder said. “We won’t let our disaster define us, and we won’t let our past confine us.” Steve Soukup also spoke at the memorial. Soukup lost his nephew, first responder Jimmy Matus, in the explosion. “I really needed this tonight. I had a rough day today,” Soukup said. “Jimmy was almost like a son to me. My heart was heavy all day today.” Soukup said he has had a wonderful life in West since being born there in 1937, and said he knows there is a silver lining to the disaster. “It’s going to take a while, but I know I’m going to

Understand that when we talk about forgetting what lies behind, we will never forget what happened on April 17. We will never forget those who died: the friends and neighbors, but we can move beyond that night. —Jim Crowder, First Baptist Church pastor

heal, and this city’s going to heal,” Soukup said. Mayor Tommy Muska gave a “State of West” report to the crowd and said the community is making progress. Out of the 70 new homes built, 25 are occupied, and places like the local park continue to be rebuilt. Muska said anyone who goes down the town’s main street can see the progress. “The state of West is that the people of West are the most resilient in the world,” Muska said. “The state of West is that the city will have a new normal. We just don’t know what that normal will be yet.”

important for UT to reach out to different communities in order to recruit graduate students and top faculty candidates. “To do so, the University employs a number of communication tools like press releases, an award-winning website, conferences and professional meetings and many more,” Cunningham said. “While these are not paid advertising activities, they are very effective methods for reaching UT’s intended audiences.” Taylor Gordenstein, an architecture freshman from

Massachusetts, said she hadn’t heard of UT outside of its football team until her guidance counselor told her about its architecture program. She said after researching UT and finding its program was among the best in the country, it was the only architecture school she considered. “All the other schools I considered were out of state, and I just toured them all, and I really liked the way this campus felt,” Gordenstein said. “My decision was mostly made on deciding to study architecture.”

Daulton Venglar / Daily Texan Staff

City Councilwoman Kathie Tovo is a co-sponsor of the resolution to guarantee an $11 minimum wage to part-time and seasonal workers.

was trying to set an example for the state by passing this resolution. “The reason we’re bringing this up this week is really to bring consistency to our policies,” McGill said. “If we’re asking the state to do

something, and we haven’t done it ourselves, I think that’s an issue. And Sheryl thinks that’s an issue: to make sure that we are practicing internally the things that we are asking for outside entities to practice as well.”

WASHINGTON — Some low-paid workers won’t benefit even if a longshot Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum wage becomes law. More than a dozen categories of jobs are exempt from the minimum, currently $7.25 an hour. Those exclusions, rooted in labor law history, run from some workers with disabilities to crews on fishing ships to casual baby sitters. Legislation sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would gradually raise the minimum to $10.10 by 2016. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it would mean higher earnings for 16.5 million workers — but also would cost 500,000 others their jobs. Harkin’s measure wouldn’t eliminate exemptions, however, including for live-in companions for the elderly, staffs of state and local elected officials, and jobs at summer camps and seasonal amusement parks. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says nearly 1.8 million hourly workers were paid below $7.25 last year — about 2 percent of the 76 million Americans earning hourly wages. In one major category, wages for tipped employees such as waiters can be as low as $2.13 hourly, as long as their pay reaches the overall federal minimum when tips are included. Harkin’s measure would gradually raise the minimum for tipped workers to 70 percent of the minimum for most workers. When asked why he wasn’t eliminating more exemptions, Harkin said, “I’m having a hard enough time getting votes for the minimum wage” by itself. Though Democrats

say higher-paid workers would help the economy by spending more, Republicans point to projections that an increase in the minimum wage could cost some workers their jobs. That negative prediction is based on the idea that higher wages would bring higher prices and therefore hurt the economy and employment. Employers receiving government certification can employ disabled people at below the minimum wage, paying whatever they determine reflects a worker’s productivity. Most of these employees are mentally impaired and work in special workshops run by organizations like Goodwill and Easter Seals. Advocates for the disabled say the system, originally meant to encourage employers to hire such workers, is being abused by some organizations that underpay and inadequately train them. “This is a system that lives on the perception that these people cannot be productive,” said Anil Lewis, a top official with the National Federation of the Blind. Under Harkin’s bill, lower minimum wages for some workers would grow because they are linked to the full minimum wage. That includes many fulltime students, who must get at least 85 percent of the full minimum. Administrative, professional and executive employees also are excluded, though most earn more than the minimum wage. President Barack Obama has ordered the Labor Department to write new rules qualifying more salaried management workers for minimum wage and overtime coverage. —Associated Press

Newly discovered planet could support life LOS ANGELES — Astronomers have discovered what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet detected — a distant, rocky world that’s similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it’s not too hot and not too cold for life. The find, announced Thursday, excited planet hunters who have been scouring the Milky Way galaxy for years for potentially habitable places outside our solar system. “This is the best case for a habitable planet yet found. The results are absolutely rock solid,” University of California, Berkeley astronomer Geoff Marcy, who had no role in the discovery, said in an email. The planet was detected by NASA’s orbiting Kepler telescope, which studies the heavens for subtle changes in brightness that indicate an orbiting planet is crossing in front of a star. From those changes, scientists can calculate a planet’s size and make certain inferences about its makeup. The newfound object, dubbed Kepler-186f, circles a red dwarf star 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. A light-year is almost 6 trillion miles. The planet is about 10 percent larger than Earth and may

very well have liquid water — a key ingredient for life — on its surface, scientists said because it resides at the outer edge of the habitable temperature zone around its star — the sweet spot where lakes, rivers or oceans can exist without freezing solid or boiling away. The find “is special because we already know that a planet of this size and in the habitable zone is capable of supporting life as we know it,” lead researcher Elisa Quintana of NASA’s Ames Research Center said at a news conference. The discovery was detailed in Friday’s issue of the journal “Science.” The planet probably basks in an orange-red glow from its star and is most likely cooler than Earth, with an average temperature slightly above freezing. Quintana said she considers the planet to be more of an “Earth cousin” than a twin because it circles a star that is smaller and dimmer than our sun. While Earth revolves around the sun in 365 days, this planet completes an orbit of its star every 130 days. Scientists cannot say for certain whether it has an atmosphere, but if it does, it probably contains a lot of carbon dioxide, experts said. If the planet is habitable,

Courtesy of NASA Ames, SETI Institute

This artist’s rendering provided by NASA on April 17 shows an Earth-sized planet orbiting a star 500 light-years from Earth.

This is the best case for a habitable planet yet found. The results are absolutely rock solid. —Geoff Marcy, University of California, Berkeley astronomer

photosynthesis may be possible, said astronomer Victoria Meadows of the University of Washington, Seattle. “There are Earth plants that would be quite happy with that,” she said. Since its launch in 2009, the Kepler telescope has confirmed 961 planets, but only a few dozen are in the habitable zone. Most are giant gas balls like Jupiter and Saturn and not ideal places for life. Scientists in recent years have also found planets slightly larger than Earth

in the Goldilocks zone called “super Earths,” but it is unclear if they are rocky. The latest discovery is the closest in size to Earth than any other known planet in the habitable region. Astronomers may never know for certain whether Kepler-186f can sustain life. The planet is too far away even for next-generation space telescopes like NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, set for launch in 2018, to study it in detail. —Associated Press


LAURA WRIGHT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF / @TexanEditorial Friday, April 18, 2014

COLUMN

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HORNS UP: UT TO HOUSE IDENTITY THEFT CENTER THIS SUMMER

Quotes to note: Patrick, Castro face-off, Hall drama “I don’t like to see the exploitation of people crossing the border. … It is not right for a man who is crossing this border with his family to see his daughter or wife raped at midnight by a coyote. It is not right to come to America on the back of an 18-wheeler.” — Dan Patrick, Republican lieutenant governor candidate, at a televised debate over immigration issues with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro on Wednesday “You’ve been huffing and puffing on the campaign trail like the Big Bad Wolf and now you are tiptoeing around like Little Red Riding Hood. … Your numbers are wrong, your policies are wrong and you’re wrong for Texas.” — San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro confronting Dan Patrick, Republican lieutenant governor candidate, about immigration at a televised debate Wednesday “The matter at hand pertains to the power of the governor to issue vetoes as allowed under the Texas Constitution. I have been retained to ensure that [the special prosecutor] receives all the facts, which will show that the governor’s veto was carried out in both the spirit and the letter of the law.” — Defense attorney David Botsford, retained by Gov. Rick Perry while he is under criminal investigation for withholding funding from Travis County district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office

“I’m excited to see our campaign add another tool to our cutting-edge digital outreach, which is allowing us to reach more Texans than any previous campaign in the state. … The spirit of bitcoin embodies the free market principles that make Texas a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship. We welcome the bitcoin community to join our team.” — Greg Abbott, Texas attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate, on his campaign’s decision to accept bitcoin contributions

TAKE YOUR SHOT

“The goal is to give some direction, with [the committee’s] support, to the state agencies on coming up with a very specific plan for West. … We will be looking at how to go forward and try to keep these situations from happening in the future.” — State Rep. Joe Pickett, chairman of the State House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, on plans to consider new regulations on ammonium nitrate storage

Every Friday, the Daily Texan editorial board will publish a selection of tweets and online comments culled from the Daily Texan website and the various Daily Texan Twitter accounts, along with direct submissions from readers. Our intention is to continue the tradition of the Firing Line, a column first started in the Texan in 1909, in which readers share their opinions “concerning any matter of general interest they choose.” Just like in 1909, the Texan “will never express its approval or disapproval of opinions given under the [Firing Line] header.” In other words, take your shot. Submissions can be sent to editor@dailytexanonline.com. Submissions are edited for length.

Students promote inclusivity in Islamic Awareness Week By Syed Razvi Guest Columnist

More broadly, Islamic Awareness Week seeks to join Muslims from various Islamic schools of thought, many of whom experience conflict both on this campus and around the world.

With Americans losing $24.7 billion to identity fraud last year, and the unknown impacts of the Heartbleed bug that leaked the sensitive information of millions of online users, this sort of training could help students be safe in an increasingly online world.

“We want to be fair and we want to be thorough because I know there will be discussions about this in years to come.” — State Rep. Dan Flynn, co-chair of the House Select Committee on State Agency Operations, on the committee’s investigation of UT System Regent Wallace Hall’s behavior and its possible implications for Hall’s impeachment

COLUMN

This week, students at UT have hosted day and evening events meant to create awareness and clarify crucial misunderstandings held about Islam as part of Islam Awareness Week at the University. These events are aimed to tackle current issues for the Islamic community. For example, on Monday the women of the Muslim community here at the University of Texas tabled at the West Mall, asking passersby if they were interested in trying on the hijab. The hijab is an Arabic word that literally means screen or curtain. In Islam, for both men and women, hijab is the physical and the metaphysical practice of modesty. Although hijab is an abstract concept, women traditionally practice hijab by wearing a headscarf, something that has been a cause of discrimination and hate crimes. While curious students tried on the hijab, women on UT’s West Mall engaged with their fellow longhorns about the misunderstandings of the hijab and what the concept truly means: empowering women. More broadly, Islam Awareness Week seeks to join Muslims from various Islamic schools of thought, many of whom experience conflict both on this campus and around the world. The cooperation of Muslim Longhorns on campus, exemplified by Islam Awareness Week, contrasts with the relationship between different Islamic groups around the world, many of whom face sectarian violence and injustice. Just like any act of violence and injustice, sectarian violence is an act that disrespects race, creed, color, ethnicity, religion or class. However, since the Soviet War in Afghanistan, this form of violence has escalated in the Muslim world. Such violence plagues much of the world and the death toll is rising into the hundreds of thousands as a result of the wars and civil conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bahrain and Syria. In fact, over 650,000 deaths have been ascribed in part or in whole to sectarianism, and that’s a conservative estimate. It’s easy to be desensitized in the face of such a large number of deaths, but the grief that friends and family of the deceased face as a result of this violence is very real, though difficult

Starting this summer, UT will house an identity theft center to provide theft protection training to students. Comptroller Susan Combs helped create the center as a way to prevent the damage caused by theft of sensitive and valuable information. This sort of training could help students stay safe in an increasingly online world — a world in which Americans lost $24.7 billion to identity fraud last year and the unknown impacts of the Heartbleed bug recently leaked the sensitive information of millions of online users. Horns up to being proactive against preventable cyber crimes.

Slowly, but surely, young MuslimAmericans are pushing for unity across the U.S. It is no surprise that the leaders of such a movement come from the 40 Acres. to imagine and describe. As a result, families and communities have been torn apart, leaving a lasting impact. This grief can either serve as a call for unity or become a cause to deepen the division between Muslims. Here in America, sectarianism among the Muslim community is not an alien concept. Though we do not succumb to violence to express our animosity, we eat separately, pray separately, spread malicious words and institutionalize discrimination in places of prayer and other organizations. The division we have in the Muslim community affects the broader community here in America, too. For example, the beliefs that breed sectarianism have created political spheres that push U.S foreign policy in directions that could jeopardize American values. A report published from the directorate-general for external policies under the policy department in the European Parliament, titled “The Involvement of Salafism/Wahhabism In the Support and Supply of Arms to Rebel Groups Around the World,” found that the Salafi/Wahhabi movement led gulf states like Saudi Arabia to support and supply arms to terrorist organizations around the world. Wahhabism is an ultra-conservative reform movement credited for inciting sectarian division and violence. The relevance here is that gulf states like Saudi Arabia hold American interests, which complicates United States’ foreign relations because these rebels groups often engage in sectarian violence. However, slowly but surely, young Muslim Americans are pushing for unity across the U.S. What has made this Islamic Awareness Week especially ground breaking is that it is organized and facilitated through the Texas Muslim Council, of which I am the founder. The Texas Muslim Council, composed of the presidents of all the Muslim organizations on campus — there are six in total — was founded to unite, empower and organize student groups representing different sects of Islam. This unprecedented union has brought together organizations that were once disunited. The very differences that have caused sectarianism and the deaths of many are the very differences that are appreciated here at University of Texas, and even though Islamic Awareness Week is coming to an end, this work toward unity should not.

LEGALESE | Opinions expressed in The Daily Texan are those of the editor, the Editorial Board or the writer of the article. They are not necessarily those of the UT administration, the Board of Regents or the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees.

Friday Firing Lines: Tasers, Regent Wallace Hall, CNS

CNS 101 PROGRAM IS BUILT TO ADDRESS STUDENT NEED Thanks for covering the town hall meeting of students in the College of Natural Sciences which introduced CNS101, a new small community cohort initiative for students in CNS. A couple of clarifications and elaborations seemed useful. While the program will be new, UT has had Freshman Interest Group (FIG) programs for many years, and the College of Natural Sciences in particular has long worked to include many of our students in small learning communities such as TIP, FIGs, ESP, BSP, FRI, etc. We view CNS101 as our college’s effort to make a meaningful contribution to the provost office’s 360 Connections challenge to include every incoming freshman in a small academic community. CNS101 will borrow from some of the best practices found in our current programs and translate that best practice to all sections for all students. Our initiative was spurred by student comments that not all of our current communities offered the same opportunities for students. What we learned from students is that there are many great ideas already out there, but we needed to get that set of ideas in front of every community. What is pleasing to me about CNS101 is that it is anchored in what students told us is most important. We heard that students want to be supported in a community of peers when they first arrive on campus, and they want academic support and advice on how to be successful. These are themes addressed in FIGs now. But what we also heard is that students wanted greater connection with academic and faculty advisers, and they wanted opportunity to talk about careers and majors. So we extended CNS101 to be a full year and built on the existing ideas of small communities to include these new considerations. Other universities have also found that community building, academic success, advising and careers/majors really helped their students. Your article rightly points out that there is much to be done, and this program is new. Our hope is that with a solid foundation of student input, as well as continued advice and participation by the student body, CNS101 will provide a valuable service to new students in the College of Natural Sciences. — Sacha Kopp, associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences, submitted via email in response to Francisco Dominguez’s column “CNS101 program will unite College of Natural Sciences”

ON UGS COURSES Tyler Brabec @Tylerbrabec @thedailytexan @TexanEditorial a giant waste of time?

HALL IS TRULY CONCERNED ABOUT OUR UNIVERSITY So, basically Hall asked for public records. People didn’t like it. They are making him look like a criminal. Shame on them, not Hall. He may be a jerk, but he appears to be the only one concerned about corruption at UT. — Online commenter Delahaya in response to the editorial “In fight over UT Regent Wallace Hall, students were forgotten”

UT TUITION HAS HISTORICALLY BEEN A BARGAIN Alice @AusTexAlice @thedailytexan Keep in mind, in the 70’s fees were usually 4x the tuition. The avg semester bill was about $300, still a bargain.

TASERS ARE USED TO ENFORCE THE LAW In effect, this Horns Down waves a flag that says, “we can’t trust our law enforcement with TASER weapons in schools but we can trust them with OC spray, batons AND firearms.” Law enforcement in schools isn’t there to enforce punishment - that would be a civil rights violation. They are there to enforce law, serve and protect students and staff from outside threats. Sometimes that does include juveniles -- some more than 6 feet, 200+ pounds fighting students and even police. You are also not mentioning the success that SROs have had in stopping these very same threats in schools -- not just “children.” When TASER controversy strikes, it’s easy to focus on an individual event instead of the totality. It’s akin to banning planes because they crash and not realizing that 10,000 planes land safely every hour. Is there a problem? Perhaps. So you address the problem in a thoughtful manner -- not a moratorium. Moratoriums based on individual incidents are bad precedents. You correct it with enhanced and well understood policies and procedures, strict oversight, and recurrent extensive training. — Online commenter stevetuttle in response to the April 17 horns down against the use of a Taser on another local high school student

SUBMIT A FIRING LINE | E-mail your Firing Lines to editor@dailytexanonline.com. Letters must be more than 100 and fewer than 300 words. The Texan reserves the right to edit all submissions for brevity, clarity and liability.

RECYCLE | Please recycle this copy of The Daily Texan. Place the paper in one of the recycling bins on campus or back in the burnt-orange newsstand where you found it. EDITORIAL TWITTER | Follow The Daily Texan Editorial Board on Twitter (@TexanEditorial) and receive updates on our latest editorials and columns.


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STEFAN SCRAFIELD, SPORTS EDITOR / @texansports Friday, April 18, 2014

FOOTBALL

New era begins with UT scrimmage

SIDELINE MLB MARINERS

By Jeremy Thomas @Jeremyobthomas

As spring practices conclude Thursday, a new era begins at the spring game for Longhorn football. For the first time since the late ’90s, a new head football coach will roam the sidelines at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium during Saturday’s Orange-White Scrimmage. Head coach Charlie Strong said he doesn’t expect the team to just go through the motions Saturday. “I always look at that game like you did all that hard work,” Strong said. “You had 14 good practices, and now is a chance to see the fans in the stadium — I know we are going to have a good turnout. And then allow them to just go out and not so much have fun, because we want to score and we want to keep them from scoring on defense, but just make sure that, offensively, we are able to execute, and defensively, we are able to stop people.” During spring practices, the Longhorns suffered some injuries, including junior redshirt quarterback David Ash with a fractured foot, junior running back Johnathan Gray

RANGERS

YANKEES

RAYS

NHL BLACKHAWKS

BLUES

TOP TWEET Mack Brown Lawrence Peart / Daily Texan file photo

Many eyes will be on sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes when the Longhorns take the field for the annual Orange-White scrimmage Saturday. New head coach Charlie Strong expects fierce competition from every Longhorn in the game.

recovering from a torn Achilles suffered last season and senior running back Joe Bergeron, who is away “to handle some personal issues,” according to a UT spokesman. “You still have a quarterback in [Tyrone] Swoopes,”

Strong said. “Then you have Malcolm Brown, and we were able to take [Jalen] Overstreet and move him to running back, so I don’t think it is going to be depleted. Those guys are injured, but you always have guys and that is why

you recruit, so now it is time for someone else to step up.” The quarterbacks for the spring game include Swoopes, senior Miles Onyegbule, a converted tight end, and walk-on Trey Holtz. Offensive coordinator

Shawn Watson said the team has worked on uptempo offense, but only on a situational basis. “We worked out of the huddle for the first couple of weeks simply because we

SPRING page 7

Horns seek consistent results against Baylor By Daniel Clay and Grant Gordon @TexanSports

The Longhorns will travel to Waco on Saturday for the Michael Johnson Dr Pepper Classic, searching for their first bit of consistency this season. Coming off a successful performance on both the men’s and women’s sides last weekend at the Texas Invitational, athletes will start to getmore repetition at Baylor. “We’re going to start doubling, tripling up each meet,” head coach Mario Sategna said. “You just kind

of progress it along. You don’t want to do too much because it’s still very early in the outdoor season, and you’ve got to be healthy all the way through the middle part of June if you go to the national meet, so you can’t ever afford any setbacks.” Some runners to watch on the men’s side are freshman Senoj-Jay Givans in the 100-meter and sophomore Zack Bilderback in the 200-meter. Both sprinters received blazing marks last Saturday, but they were discounted because

TRACK page 7

First team AllAmerican goes pro

Mengwen Cao / Daily Texan Staff

Sophomore C.J. Hinojosa got a double off of TCU’s Brandon Finnegan, who surrendered just four hits,and struck out 11 in eight innings.

Horned Frog ace shuts down Longhorns with 3-0 victory By Evan Berkowitz @Evan_Berkowitz

Jenna VonHofe / Daily Texan Staff When Texas meets Baylor this weekend Sophomore runner Zack Bilderback is expected to perform well in the 200-meter event.

With the weekend series having moved up a day for Easter, TCU took a rainy game one 3-0 as No. 6 Texas had no answer for junior pitcher Brandon Finnegan, a projected first round pick in the 2014 MLB draft, in front of 20-plus scouts at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. “This night belongs to

[Finnegan],” Garrido said. The game, quite predictably, turned into a pitcher’s duel as the top two pitching teams in the Big 12 trotted out their typical Friday night starters. Junior Parker French (4-3) and his 2.27 ERA paired up against Finnegan (7-2) and his 1.56 ERA. “I don’t think anyone in the nation would be hitting [Finnegan] tonight,”

French said. After four, quick, scoreless innings, the Horned Frogs (24-13, 8-5 Big 12) finally broke through for three in the fifth inning after a lead-off double got things started. An RBI single drove in the first run and put men at the corners. Then, with two outs, French threw a pick-

BASEBALL page 7

SOFTBALL

Texas can’t overcome Sooners’ rally in 4-1 defeat By Matt Warden @TheMattWarden5

The most recent chapter in the Red River Rivalry was written Thursday night on ESPN2, a platform not usually reserved for regular season softball games. Texas (26-17, 6-2 Big 12) dropped its second Big 12 game this season in its 4-1 defeat at the hands of No. 16 Oklahoma (33-9, 10-1 Big 12). The game was a pitching duel for the most part, until the Sooners bats came alive to chase freshman star Tiarra Davis. After two scoreless innings senior Mandy Ogle got the Longhorns on the board first with a deep homer to left field, giving her seven on the

season. Oklahoma responded in the bottom of the third with an RBI single, which tied the game at one until the fifth inning. Davis did a solid job against the Sooners, allowing just four hits and one run through four innings, but a Sooner rally of two homers in the bottom of the fifth sealed the deal for the Longhorns, who weren’t able to manage even a hit in the final two innings. Davis’ final line was six innings pitched, with six hits and four earned runs given up. Despite the Ogle home run early in the game, Sooners sophomore pitcher Kelsey Stevens controlled the Longhorns on the mound, surrendering only three hits and one

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson-Get your new start today

SPORTS BRIEFLY

BASEBALL

TRACK&FIELD

@UT_MackBrown

A home run by senior catcher Mandy Olge wasn’t enough Thursday night in Texas’ 4-1 loss to Oklahoma. The Longhorns managed just three hits against the Sooners.

Daulton Venglar Daily Texan Staff

run while striking out seven Texas hitters on the night. Senior outfielder Brejae Washington was hitless in the game and still remains two hits shy of second place on

the Texas all-time hit list. She needs nine to take sole possession of the hits record. Thursday night marked Texas’ first conference loss since April 5 against the Red

Raiders and broke its momentum after a series sweep of Iowa State last weekend. Game two is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday night, in Norman, Okla.

After much deliberation, Duke freshman Jabari Parker has decided to forego his final three years of college to enter the 2014 NBA Draft. Parker was a consensus first-team All-American in his only season for the Blue Devils, posting season averages of 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. The 6-8 freshman set or tied six Duke freshman records in his only year with the team. Parker, a Chicago native, will be the fifth Duke freshman in history to declare for the NBA Draft, joining Corey Maggette, Luol Deng, Kyrie Irving and Austin Rivers. Parker is projected as the No. 2 overall prospect behind Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, according to ESPN NBA Draft insider Chad Ford. Although Parker only played one season in blue and white, head coach Mike Kryzewski had nothing but praise for Parker’s decision to leave school. “Jabari could not have been better,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “He is the epitome of what you would want a basketball player to be: outstanding every day on the practice court and in the classroom and a very humble young man. He had a fantastic freshman year and is so deserving of the opportunity to play in the NBA and follow his dream.”

Chad Johnson signs with CFL’s Alouettes

Former NFL star Chad Johnson will return to football this fall after nearly three years away from the game, except he won’t be suiting up for any NFL teams. On Thursday morning, Johnson, 36, signed a two-year deal with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. In 166 career NFL games, he caught 766 passes for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns while being named to six Pro Bowls. —Matt Warden


6 COMICS 6

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COMICS

The New York Times Syndication Sales Corporation 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018 For Information Call: 1-800-972-3550 For Release Friday, April 18, 2014

Edited by Will Shortz

Crossword ACROSS 1 Did some aboveaverage work 6 Doesn’t just tear up 10 One way to get the beat going? 13 Master, in Mysore 14 Hostiles 16 “Well, well, well!” 17 He may be trying to unload crates 20 “Am ___ France?”: King Lear 21 Jeans reinforcer 22 They’re easily fleeced 23 Chinese dish eponym 24 See 39-Across 25 Magazine industry’s equivalent of a Pulitzer 27 Not nixed 29 Composition of some wreaths

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SPORTS 5

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SPRING

continues from page 5 wanted to coach them,” Watson said. “We will execute things that we feel like we want to get seen on film. It’s more about the players right now, putting them out there and seeing what we have.” Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said players such as defensive backs senior Quandre Diggs, senior Mykkele Thompson and junior Duke Thomas

TRACK

continues from page 5 of wind. The No. 3 women will compete this weekend with the hopes of further asserting their dominance over Big 12 rival No. 19 Baylor, whom the Longhorns scorched with seven first place finishes at last weekend’s Texas Invitational. Sophomore sprinter

BASEBALL

continues from page 5 off throw to first away to allow another TCU run. With the same batter at the plate, a grounder off the glove of the diving junior second baseman, Brooks Marlow, allowed TCU to tack in the third run of the inning. “I felt good tonight,” French said. “That one inning, though, kind of got away from me.” That was all the Horned Frogs would manage against French, who went 6.1 innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs, followed by sophomores Travis Duke, Chad Hollingsworth and Ty Culbreth’s combined hitless 2.2 innings. But TCU wouldn’t need any more. Finnegan mowed down the Longhorns, going eight innings, allowing just four hits — none after the third — while striking out 11.

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performed well this spring. Bedford said the defense will keep it simple. “When you get into the spring game, it’s about having fun,” Bedford said. “It’s about everybody that’s out — walk-ons included. They are a big part of this program. We are going to play everybody. We are not trying to scheme or trick anybody — real simple.” Several recruits plan to attend the spring game. Monday, Tristian Houston, three-star running

back from Galena Park North Shore, committed to Texas. On Thursday, the Longhorns picked up verbal commitments from San Jose, Calif., Valley Christian brothers: fourstar running back Kirk, part of the current recruiting class, and 2016 fourstar wide receiver Collin Johnson. Both are sons of former Texas All-American Johnnie Johnson. Kirk Johnson is the ninth verbal commitment for Texas in its 2015 class.

Courtney Okolo, who was named Big 12 Track and Field Female Athlete of the Week on Wednesday, will try to build upon her performance last weekend in which she finished with the top 400-meter time in the nation. If she performs well, Okolo could qualify in the 200-meter for the NCAA West Regional Meet. At this point in the

season, Sategna wants to ensure that top athletes such as Okolo are making the adjustments necessary to consistently achieve the top times. “We can still fine-tune and look down the road to regionals and nationals,” Sategna said. “When you see consistent high marks, that is when you know teams have really broke through.”

Texas had opportunities early but couldn’t push home any runs. The Longhorns’ (309, 9-4 Big 12) first major chance came in the second after junior designated hitter Madison Carter’s bunt moved sophomore shortstop C.J Hinojosa, who doubled to lead off the inning, to third. But a freshman first baseman Kacy Clemens strikeout and a freshman third baseman Zane Gurwitz fly out to center ended the threat. In the third, for the second straight inning, Texas got a runner to third. A twoout bunt single by senior centerfielder Mark Payton extended his nation-leading on base streak to 78. He then stole second and advanced to third on the throwing error. But freshman catcher Tres Barrera’s strikeout kept third base full for the second straight inning. “Truth of the matter [is]

This night belongs to [Finnegan]. I don’t think anyone in the nation would be hitting him tonight. — Augie Garrido Head coach

we didn’t score early,” Garrido said. “In those three innings, we were as good as anybody. Great pitchers do what he did after that. He took his game up a notch.” Texas managed no more hits after the third as Finnegan got into a groove. The series will continue Friday at 6 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk field with junior Dillon Peters (5-2, 2.70 ERA) paired up against TCU’s Preston Morrison (4-3, 1.80 ERA).

WEEKEND PREVIEWS

Dalton Venglar / Daily Texan Staff

Junior Lloyd Glasspool has been one of the strongest competitors for the Longhorns this season. The team has lost only one conference game this season.

MEN’S TENNIS / BRIANNA HOLT After celebrating head coach Michael Center’s 50th birthday, the No. 7 men’s tennis team took on Baylor, but the results left little to be happy about. The Longhorns took on No. 6 Baylor on Wednesday, with a loss of 2-5. Texas is now

19-4 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12. On Saturday, the Longhorns will compete in their final match of the regular season against Texas Tech. The Big 12 Men’s Championship will then be the next stop, on April 25 in Fort Worth.

Recently, the team defeated Big 12 Conference favorite and third-ranked Oklahoma with a score of 4-3 — its best win of the season. Texas has had a great turnout with its 7-3 record against top-25 opponents this season.

WOMEN’S TENNIS / CHRIS CARAVEO Senior Day and the last regular season match at the PenickAllison Tennis Center will see seniors Elizabeth Begley and Juliana Gajic possibly play their last matches at home. The Longhorns will face No. 14 Baylor (20-6, 8-0 Big 12) Friday. The Bears clinched the top seed in the conference tournament, and No. 20 Texas (11-10, 6-2) will look to take the third spot with a win. “We’re always looking forward to playing Baylor,” head coach Patty Fendick-

McCain said. “It’s always a great competitive match, and we’re focused on what we need to do.” Begley resumes her No. 2 singles spot after moving to first with sophomore Breaunna Addison out against Oklahoma State. Both Begley and Gajic will also compete in doubles at their respective first and third spots. “Hopefully this last match will be one of the most memorable ones they play,” Fendick-McCain said.

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Juliana Gajic Senior

Texas and Baylor will begin play at 5 p.m.

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8 L&A

HANNAH SMOTHERS, LIFE&ARTS EDITOR / @DailyTexanArts Friday, April 18, 2014

8

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

New app offers alcohol delivery By Danielle Lopez @ldlopz

Disillusion strikes hard when that highly anticipated Saturday night party runs out of alcohol, cutting every partygoer’s booze-filled dreams short. A team of three men believe they’ve solved this problem with their new app, BrewDrop. BrewDrop is an Austinbased app that will allow customers to browse inventory from the store nearest to them, choose their order from a selection of beer, wine and liquor and have their purchase directly delivered to their door in about 30 minutes. BrewDrop is the first app of its kind to launch in Texas. App production began about a year ago and will be available for download in May. Brothers Matt and Andrew Bell, BrewDrop president and CEO, respectively, along with chief technology officer Gerardo Trevino, developed the idea for BrewDrop after an incident at Matt Bell’s wedding. “There was a concern that there wasn’t going to be enough wine, so some of the groomsmen were sent out,” Andrew Bell said. “They ended up coming back with no wine and a keg, and that was kind of the ‘aha!’ moment.” BrewDrop acts as a

middleman between the customer and the local vendor. For a $5 fee, the customers place their orders and delivery teams from individual stores drop off the purchases. Although it is delivered, the same rules for in-store purchases apply — liquor is only available for purchase until 9 p.m., and beer and wine are available until midnight. “BrewDrop empowers local businesses,” Bell said. “One thing we stress is we’re not selling or delivering any of our own alcohol, we’re partnering with stores and helping them reach more customers.” So far, BrewDrop is in partnership with two of Austin’s local liquor stores, Smitty’s Beer & Wine Delivery and Far West Liquor and Fine Wines. “A couple of places do delivery service, like Smitty’s, but you have to call up in advance and know what you want,” said Jay Egger, marketing coordinator and former Daily Texan staff member. “Our generation is so used to everything being on our phones, so this makes it easy.” BrewDrop will be Far West Liquor and Fine Wines’ first service to deliver on a nightly basis. “It was something that we started thinking about while sitting around one night,” said UT alum Ryan

Illustration by Alex Dolan / Daily Texan Staff

Robertson, co-owner of Far West Liquor. “We wondered if we might start our own delivery to add another revenue stream.” Alcohol delivery is what Smitty’s Beer and Wine has specialized in for the past few years, but the owners found BrewDrop to be a means of branching out. “We thought it was a good idea to help business and get

our name out there,” Smitty’s co-owner John Cubano said. The BrewDrop team is also marketing toward college students. “I think we’re going to get lots of students with the kegs,” Egger said. “We’re hitting the frats hard; we have all the fraternity presidents on a contact list.” BrewDrop and its partners follow standard TABC rules.

Customers will be required to show their identifications at the door before any money or alcohol is exchanged, though, that means BrewDrop could possibly lose out on the delivery fee. The vendors do not think carding will be a problem. “It’s not going to be any more difficult than what we do currently in the store,” Robertson said. “Also, I believe they’re exploring preliminary au-

thentication to start a profile on BrewDrop that requires a 21-year-old license.” In the near future, BrewDrop hopes to expand and partner with more liquor stores. “However many partners it takes, that’s how many we’re going to sign on,” Bell said. “We’re trying to be the first to take over Austin and help everyone get their alcohol in an easier way.”

THEATER

MOVIE REVIEW | ‘TRANSCENDENCE’

Formerly incarcerated women find chance for self-expression By Kritika Kulshrestha children. She soon realized @kritika88

Peter Mountain / Associated Press

Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Rebecca Hall and Johnny Depp star in the ham-fisted cautionary tale “Transcendence.”

Director’s debut totters through lackluster story, squanders cast By Alex Williams @AlexWilliamsDT

At first glance, “Transcendence” seems like an obvious choice for Wally Pfister, making his directorial debut after a long stint as Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer. Much like Nolan’s “Inception,” it grapples with massive sci-fi ideas and has visual-effects-driven action scenes. Unfortunately, the film’s ham-fisted script wastes an overqualified cast, and while Pfister does a serviceable job behind the camera, “Transcendence” is a misfire. Johnny Depp stars as Will Caster, a charismatic scientist on the verge of a breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence. After an assassination attempt leaves him poisoned, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) teams up with fellow programmer Max (Paul Bettany) to import his consciousness into a computer. As Will is drawn further into the limitless powers of his character, Evelyn begins to wonder how much of her husband is left in the increasingly powerful machine. “Transcendence” starts strong, framing the implications of an all-powerful artificial intelligence as a chilling cautionary tale. But as Will becomes near-omniscient,

the film’s science grows sillier, and some of the elements the film introduces in the later half are so improbable that the characters don’t even attempt to explain them. A few of the more outlandish ideas would be a little easier to swallow with a cast genuinely committed to selling them, but that’s not the case here. Among the film’s impressive ensemble, Rebecca Hall is the only one who emerges unscathed, making Evelyn’s passion and conflicts palpable and moving. Unfortunately, her character is hugely passive throughout the film, existing mostly as a tool to enable Will. Depp, meanwhile, is completely unengaged, turning in a performance that sheds his oddball charm in exchange for monotone disinterest. Bettany is perhaps the biggest victim of Jack Paglen’s script, which frames Bettany’s character as a driving force for the narrative but keeps the decisive moment in his arc offscreen. Costars Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, and Cillian Murphy are also underused, and the biggest mistake Pfister makes is the egregious waste of this excellent cast. Though he has yet to master the intricacies of story and character, Pfister establishes himself as a capable

TRANSCENDENCE Director: Wally Pfister Genre: Science fiction Runtime: 119 minutes

visual filmmaker. The massive underground data center Will designs is a suitably unsettling, sterile location for the film’s second half, and Pfister displays a strong affinity for mesmerizing shots of nanoparticles in scientifically improbable action. But he flubs a few moments, particularly in a climactic action beat where he cuts away from a pivotal moment at the exact moment the audience needs to see what’s happening. No one could blame Pfister for wanting to step into the director’s chair after his exemplary work on the “Batman” films, but “Transcendence” feels like the product of a long list of called-in favors. While Pfister shows promise, the film’s script is a black hole that sucks the talent out of everyone in its gravitational pull, and “Transcendence” never manages to transcend beyond the shortcomings of its story.

Lauren Johnson, an Austin native, has tried hard to escape from the shadows surrounding her past. According to her, she continues to change her life and others’ each day by reaching out to the community through “Performing Possibilities,” a four-member theater ensemble for formerly imprisoned women. “Performing Possibilities” was created in July 2013 by Conspire Theatre, an Austin-based theater group for women during and after their incarcerations. The ensemble will stage its 45-minute theater piece Saturday at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin. Through the theater performance, Johnson and the other women speak about the time when they were in prison. The only props used during the show are four chairs. “They are telling really deep, serious things about their lives, and it’s a very vulnerable place to be in,” said Michelle Dahlenburg, master of fine arts graduate and artistic director at Conspire Theatre. “Audience reactions have boosted their confidence, and they’ve realized how important it is to tell these stories.” Johnson initially began participating in the prison’s creative writing classes to secure contact visits with her

she liked to write about things she observed around her. “One of the things I’ve learned while being with Conspire is my story is what makes me who I am,” Johnson said. “Lots of people have jobs and kids and extra-curricular activities. It’s not that big of a deal. But when you factor in where I came from — that’s what makes who I am now a big deal.” “Performing Possibilities” has performed four times, and Johnson has narrated her story to more than 400 audience members so far. Johnson said she’s no longer emotional about her own story because it’s just a bunch of facts. “But, when they put it all together in the script, then all of our stories makes us emotional,” Johnson said. “Now, even though we’ve performed it a couple of times, it still shuts us up a little bit.” None of the women had much experience with theater before joining the cast. To help them get familiar with each other, Dahlenburg and Conspire Theatre founder Katherine Craft created team-building exercises for the women and encouraged them to share their personal stories with each other. “Michelle asked us to write little paragraphs of the day we were born and about a memory that we had before, during and after

PERFORMING POSSIBILITIES When: Saturday, 6 p.m. Where: Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center Cost: Free

incarceration,” Johnson said. “They circled a couple of the things that they would have liked to hear more about and then they handed the notebook back to us. We picked one of those stories and we told that story about our life. Finally Michelle and Kat wove all our stories into one performance.” Johnson said the nerves never go away, but she tries to remind herself before each show that nobody other than herself is the expert on her life. Five years ago, Johnson tried getting a business communication associate degree from the University of Phoenix. “I anticipate that my criminal history is going to get in the way at various points in my journey,” Johnson said. “So I thought having a degree in business might assist me towards the path of entrepreneurship.” Johnson seeks to remove the stigma associated with incarceration because she said she stands up for what she believes in. “My motto is ‘If you don’t like your life, then change it,’” Johnson said.

Shelby Tauber / Daily Texan Staff

Lauren Johnson is a member of “Performing Possibilities.” The theater ensemble for formerly imprisoned women let Johnson narrate her story to more than 400 audience members.

The Daily Texan 2014-04-18  

The Friday April 18, 2014 edition of The Daily Texan.

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