Tuesday, January 16, 2007
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ASG pushing for better university representation, funding for programs By Nick Georgiou The University Star The Texas State University System and its universities don’t have much representation in the legislature compared to the school’s major competitors like Texas A&M, University of Texas and Texas Tech. “That’s kind of an unfortunate fact of life that far and away, more UT and A&M alumni get elected to the Senate and House of Representatives,” said William Nance, vice president of ﬁnance and support services. “I think we’re well thought of, and I think people are responsive to our needs but when push comes to shove, the big two systems (UT and A&M) and Texas Tech and U of H are better represented.” But every legislative session, the Associated Student Government tries their hand at the lobbying world by meeting with various lawmakers and their staffs in an effort to inﬂuence or solicit legislation, though ASG members prefer to label their efforts at the legislative level as student advocacy instead of lobbying. During the past couple semesters, ASG members have been meeting and building relationships with different legislators such as state Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs. Rose, who is also a member of the higher education committee, said student involvement is very important for the legislative process. “I value the input from students,” Rose said. In dealing with representatives and their staffs, ASG Vice President Amanda Oskey said she has found the experience educational and described their efforts as successful. “The legislature has really opened their arms to us,” Oskey said. “They actually listened to what we have to say. Its very good and satisfying to know that they actually care.” ASG’s most notable lobbying of the legislature was in 2003, when, after a heated debate between student government members and school
administrators, the organization effectively lobbied for the university’s name change to Texas State. Two years later, legislation creating the student regent position was passed in addition to the environmental service fee. Both were products of student advocacy. Most recently, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio and former University System regent, ﬁled a bill last month allowing components the ability to institute an intercollegiate athletic fee; a proposal ASG members had been pushing for since 2003. “The involvement, the complexity and the function of student government sort of ﬂuctuates from era to era, to time period to time period. Since the name change, I would say we are kind of on the upswing of one of those cycles, and so we’re seeing more involvement in the past ﬁve years than we may of seen in the ﬁve years prior to that,” said ASG President Kyle Morris. The bulk of the student advocacy efforts come from ASG’s Ofﬁce of Legislative Relations, which is headed up by Legislative Relations Director Sam McCabe. McCabe was not available for comment. Other bills being introduced this legislative session that are a result of ASG and other public university’s advocacy efforts include a bill that would make college textbooks tax-free. Those bills, however, have been met with resistance because tax-free textbooks means less money for the state, but Oskey remains optimistic this time around. Though she said it is too early to tell whether or not it will be a battle to get taxfree textbooks, she believes the ﬁght is worth it. “I think we have a good shot and even if it is hard, you still need to stick it out and do it,” she said. Rose supports legislation for tax-free textbooks and believes it will be a difﬁcult process, but he also said it was difﬁcult to get the student regent posiSee ASG, page A9
Legislation could create new intercollegiate athletic fee By Nick Georgiou The University Star By the time the 80th Texas legislative session ends, Texas State students may have to pay a maximum of $8.75 per credit hour for a new intercollegiate athletic fee. Sen. Jeff Wentworth ﬁled a bill last month that would grant schools within the Texas State University System the ability to institute an intercollegiate athletic fee. If the legislation is passed, which it is expected to do, the athletic fee will replace the portion of the student service fee that goes toward athletics. “What they are doing is simply separating the athletic fee from the student service fee but our pledge to the students is that there will be no net increase,” said President Denise Trauth. “It will just be in two different pots of money in the future.” Currently, 40 percent of the athletic budget comes from student service fees and 44 percent of the entire student service fee goes toward athletics, said William Nance, vice president of ﬁnance and support services. A signiﬁcant portion of the athletics budget comes from the student service fee, but the department also generates its own income through ticket sales, among other things. The proposal for the fee made the rounds through the university and administration last year and was approved in November by the Texas State University System Board of Regents. “At that meeting, what happened was some of the regents began to think,” said Associated Student Government President Kyle Morris. “More importantly, other presidents of universities began to think, ‘hey that’s a really cool idea.’ So now it’s become a systemwide issue.” A month later, Wentworth, R-San Antonio, ﬁled the bill
for this year’s legislative session. If passed in the legislature, the fee would be implemented next fall at Texas State. The student service fee would go down also by the same amount, so there will be no net increase for a student’s tuition cost. A separate athletic fee will be more transparent, predictable and easier to manage, Trauth said. “It was passed with the understanding that there are net dollars appropriated by the legislature for our university and then we would take another look at that fee increase and lower it,” Trauth said. “But that’s assuming there are new net dollars coming in from the legislature.” ASG members have been advocating in favor of the athletic fee since 2003 with the idea in mind that it could lead to Division I-A football at Texas State. Currently, football is a Division I-AA program. “Something we wanted to do to was bring our football program up to Division I(-A) status,” Morris said. “We said, ‘OK, we’ll give (athletics) a little more money. We’ll take (it) out of the student service fee but what we want to do is head in the direction of Division I(-A).’” University administrators said there is no intent to move up to Division I-A football. “Well, I know students had that conversation, but the implementation of this fee from the administrations point of view right now is not tied to Division I football,” Nance said. “There are just so many issues surrounding that.” Athletics Director Larry Teis said the fee does not have anything to do with the university moving to Division IA football in the near future. “For now it’s just makes the transition or makes it where students understand what are going into their fees,” Teis said.
Star file photo
Proposal for increased aquifer pumping sparks dispute By Nick Georgiou The University Star From the hustle and bustle of San Antonio and Austin to the quiet, rural communities in the Hill Country, Central Texans all depend on the Edwards Aquifer. It not only provides a large amount of water to the region, but it supports an abundant ecosystem inhabited by several threatened and endangered species like San Marcos’ Texas wild-rice. But a recent proposal by state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, to increase the aquifer pumping limit from 450,000 acre-feet to 549,000 acre-feet has fueled a debate among aquifer stakeholders over the impact the increase could have on the springs which feed the region’s major rivers. “Any more pumping out of the aquifer would decrease the amounts of waters that are in our springs, which would have an impact on our beautiful river and the endangered species within that river,” said Mayor Susan Narvaiz. Tom Taggart, director of San Marcos Water and Wastewater System, said it is important to remember the reason why the Edwards Aquifer Authority, or EAA, was created by the legislature in 1993: in reaction to lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act. Glenn Longley, director of the Edwards Aquifer Research Center and aquatic biology professor, agreed. “The whole EAA was set up as a response to a federal lawsuit where the federal judge had told the state, ‘if you do not control pumping in such a manner as to protect spring
ﬂow, the federal government will come in and do it for you,” Longley said. Roland Ruiz, EAA spokesman, said it is important to understand the context of Wentworth’s proposal. He said in the original legislation of the EAA Act, a statute spells out a pumping cap of 450,000 acre-feet. In the same statute, it also says permits had to be issued to all pumpers in the region based on their historical use. But when all the permits were added up, the total came to 549,000 acre-feet, which exceeds the cap. In order to deal with this conﬂict in the state law, the EAA had to use a system of junior and senior rights, Ruiz
said. Senior rights are uninterruptible and junior rights have restrictions. The purpose of the new legislation, Ruiz said, is to ﬁx this conﬂict in the state law by converting all junior rights into senior rights. “So what this legislation really aims to do is to rectify that conﬂict in the act by basically saying, ‘OK, we have 549,000 acre-feet of permits out there, lets make that the cap,’” Ruiz said. The original act called for the cap of 450,000 acre-feet to be reduced to 400,000 acre-feet by 2008. Wentworth’s proposal would eliminate this scheduled reduction in the pumping limit. Taggart believes San Antonio
ofﬁcials are using this contradiction in the law as an excuse for not ﬁnding alternative sources of water. The intent of the original legislation, he said, was to give stakeholders in the region 15 years to ﬁnd alternative sources of water and reduce their dependence on the aquifer, but San Antonio still gets more than 90 percent of its water supply from the aquifer. On the same note, Longley called Wentworth’s proposal a “ploy by the entities and the San Antonio metropolitan area” to be able to pump more water from the aquifer and avoid developing alternative sources of water. See AQUIFER, page A13
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Bobcat Build prepares for bigger, better projects this year By Bill Lancaster The University Star When about 3,000 Texas State students gather for a new and improved Bobcat Build March 31, they will take steps to make a positive impact on the San Marcos community and improve relations between the university and the city. Bobcat Build, a student-run initiative that brings thousands of volunteers into the San Marcos community, will go through changes this year. Due to the logistics of an ever-increasing volunteer group, Bobcat Build will focus on more visible, high-impact projects. “The student committee Brynn Leggett/Star file photo wants to make it easier to manage so many job sites,” said Kim Porterﬁeld, community rela- HELPING HANDS: Students work to clean grafﬁti off the sides of downtown San Marcos buildings during the 2005 Bobcat Build. tions director. Laura Ruiz, interdisciplinary studies senior and Bob- teams to ﬁnd several houses in “I know the relationship cat Build planning committee the same area where students between the students and the member, said instead of having can help. city isn’t that great,” Ruiz said. one house that needs paintOnce Ruiz started working “I want to help them see that ing and leaving a few students with Bobcat Build, she and oth- the students are willing to give at the job site, the committee ers wanted to see growth and something back.” will work with neighborhood improvements in the program. At its inception ﬁve years ago,
700 students turned out for the one-day event, but it has continually grown and organizers expect to top last year’s volunteer number of 2500 by about 500 students. “The best part is at the kickoff,” Porterﬁeld said. “Seeing 2500 to 3000 students show up at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning all for one purpose: to make San Marcos a better place for everyone.” Mayor Susan Narvaiz said Bobcat Build is an amazing event that touches the lives of citizens who cannot afford to have houses painted or landscaping done. Narvaiz has been active in the Bobcat Build program since its beginning. Through her business, Sedona Stafﬁng, Narvaiz has provided breakfast, water and a trailer for the students. Since becoming mayor in 2004, Narvaiz has continued her support of the program and is now a member of the community team that serves as a resource for the Bobcat Build student committee and helps to coordinate projects throughout
the area. Organizers say Bobcat Build beneﬁts everyone involved: the city, the university and the individual students. “Churches beneﬁt from landscaping, museums and libraries have painting done,” Narvaiz said, “and playgrounds get cleaned up.” The university, aside from improved community relations, may receive other beneﬁts from the Bobcat Build program. “Studies show,” Porterﬁeld said, “that students who are more civically engaged have a higher retention rate and take their studies more serious.” Another beneﬁt Narvaiz hopes to see is an increase in the number of local students choosing to attend Texas State. She said the personal contact made between the university students and the encompassing community will help accomplish that goal. For students, the beneﬁts range from intrinsic good feelings to potential employment advantages. “The students feel good
about what they’ve done,” Ruiz said. “Helping people is nice.” Porterﬁeld said students take pride in what they are doing and that it also turns into a fun event working with others. “It looks good on a resume,’” Narvaiz said. “Corporations look for people who are willing to give back to a community.” Porterﬁeld said they are currently recruiting students for the planning committee who would like to be involved year round or who wish to help coordinate the upcoming Bobcat Build workday. Bobcat Build chose February as awareness month and will sign up individuals and organizations in The Quad in preparation for the March 31 event.
✯ FYI For more information on Bobcat Build contact Kim Porterﬁeld at (512) 245-9644 or communityrelations@txst ate.edu
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Iraqi parliament opposes U.S.-driven ‘New Way Forward’ More U.S., Iraqi troops, police to be deployed By Warren P. Strobel and Nancy A. Youssef McClatchy Newspapers WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Bush unveiled what the White House called a “New Way Forward” in Iraq Wednesday night, but the plan faces old obstacles that have deﬁed solution ever since the U.S. invaded Iraq nearly four years ago. Bush’s plan relies even more than past stratagems on a weak Iraqi government to fulﬁll promises it’s repeatedly broken to take on sectarian militias and end political squabbles. It calls for Iraqis to beef up their forces in Baghdad to help quell raging violence there, four months after the Iraqi government failed to contribute four of the six battalions of troops it promised to a similar security effort. The plan calls for reordering Iraq’s Interior Ministry, something American ofﬁcials have been insisting on since last spring, when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came to ofﬁce. Bush also said Iraq’s government would pass a new law on distributing oil revenues and revise its de-Baathiﬁcation program, which keeps members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party out of government. But both efforts have been stymied by opposition in Iraq’s parliament. The biggest course change is the declaration that Iraqis will be in charge of the effort to secure Baghdad, which al-Maliki has been pushing for. Bush aides, who detailed the plan in a series of documents and brieﬁngs, insisted Wednesday that this time is different. Al-Maliki has pledged to deploy more Iraqi forces to stabilize Baghdad, and the full U.S. troop contingent and ﬁnancial aid package won’t ﬂow unless he follows through on that and other steps, they said. But if al-Maliki fails to deliver, the president appears to have little leverage other than to bring U.S. troops home — and abandon the “victory” in Iraq that he insists is vital to U.S. national security. “An awful lot depends on the Iraqis. We don’t control the Iraqis anymore,” said Daniel Serwer, a vice president of the government-funded U.S. Institute of Peace. Some current and former U.S.
ofﬁcials said they believe that by placing so much of the burden on the Iraqis, Bush is preparing to blame them for the debacle in their country and withdraw American troops. Bush for the ﬁrst time Wednesday said that the U.S. commitment in Iraq isn’t open-ended — though he put no time limit on how long Americans would wait to see whether al-Maliki fulﬁlled his promises. The ﬁrst test will come Feb. 15, when the additional Iraqi troops are to be deployed in Baghdad. The president’s strategy, the product of a more than twomonth review, does abandon some key tenets that have guided U.S. strategy in Iraq for more than a year. Gone is the attempt to reach out to Sunni insurgents; previous efforts to bring them into the political process didn’t reduce violence, and the U.S. is ending any effort to do so. Gone, too, is the rapid effort to replace U.S. troops with Iraqi ones, captured in the mantra “As they stand up, we will stand down.” While training Iraqi troops remains the key U.S. mission, the No. 1 U.S. goal in Iraq is the defeat of al-Qaida and its supporters. Outside analysts said they saw some positive elements in the plan, such as a focus on protecting Iraqi civilians and jump-starting the economy from the grass roots — both classic elements of counterinsurgency doctrine. Bush proposes almost $1.2 billion in new economic assistance in Iraq and a doubling of U.S. civil-military reconstruction teams. But many said they feared Bush’s modiﬁed tactics are too little and too late to make up for past blunders in Iraq. Those include invading with too few troops, disbanding the Iraqi army, underestimating the cost of the venture and misjudging the rapid growth of Iraq’s insurgency. “The problem is the solutions applied three years ago or two years ago might have stabilized the situation … I ﬁnd it hard to see they will apply today,” said Judith Yaphe, a Persian Gulf expert at the National Defense University. At best, the current and former ofﬁcials said, Bush’s plan might produce measurable improvement in Baghdad’s secu-
rity — perhaps returning it to the situation before February 2006, when the bombing of an important Shiite mosque in Samarra set off Iraq’s civil war. The core of Bush’s “New Way Forward” is a bid to end the endemic violence in Baghdad by deploying 17,500 more U.S. troops and thousands of additional Iraqi troops and police and adopting new rules of engagement. How al-Maliki might bring about political reconciliation, another aspect of Bush’s plan, also is unclear. There’s intense skepticism that he can move beyond his Shiite base and deliver his half of the bargain, as even a senior Bush aide acknowledged Wednesday. “There is obviously skepticism, and the president has made that very clear to this (Iraqi) government: People are skeptical — your people are skeptical, our people are skeptical. I will support you, but you need to perform,” said the ofﬁcial, brieﬁng reporters anonymously under White House ground rules. Larry Diamond of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution said Bush should have demanded action from the Iraqis before pledging additional U.S. troops and money. “They’ve made commitments many times before, and they aren’t delivered upon,” said Diamond, who served as a democracy adviser in postwar Iraq. “The deadlines and goals are constantly slipping — and they’re like mush.” (Youssef reported from Baghdad. McClatchy Newspapers correspondent Leila Fadel contributed from Baghdad.)
Professor, alumnus’ research featured in journal Science By Paul Rangel The University Star A Texas State alumnus who recently graduated from the Population and Conservation graduate degree program and an associate biology professor have recently been published in a well-known scientiﬁc journal. The article, which was published in the journal Science, outlined research conducted by Zachariah Gompert and adviser Chris Nice. It focused on a rare form of speciation — the process by which new species arise — known as homoploid speciation in a group of butterﬂies, Gompert said. “My paper provides the best molecular evidence to date that a process referred to as homoploid hybrid speciation can occur,” Gompert said. Gompert studied butterﬂies from the Lycaeides group, which demonstrated that the hybrid butterﬂy was isolated from its parent species. This process, normally only seen in plants, is known as homoploid hybrid speciation, which allows the hybrid to adapt to its environment and become a new species. “The research involved a great deal of molecular work, some ecological ﬁeld experiments, looking at the preference of the female butterﬂies to lay their eggs on different host plants, and a whole bunch of
computer time to analyze all of the data,” Gompert said. Gompert worked in Nice’s lab for two years as an undergraduate and another two as a graduate student. Gompert and alumna Lauren Lucas were the ﬁrst two students to graduate from the Population and Conservation graduate degree program in December. Gompert has since been accepted to Cambridge University to pursue his Ph.D. in fall ‘07. Nice said the project was a continuation of one he has been working on for a long time. However, Gompert made the project his own and took it in some new directions, Nice said. “Our demonstration of hybrid speciation in animals highlights an overlooked mechanism for the generation of biodiversity in animals,” he said. “Future research may very well uncover other examples. We really worked closely together and Zach brought many new ideas and insights to our work.” This recent publication is one of two Nice and Gompert have produced. The ﬁrst was a similar piece that studied the endangered North American Karner Blue Butterﬂies. Both pieces are available on the biology department Web site. Currently, Gompert has planned to travel, starting with India, where he is now, then to Nepal after which he hopes to
y paper “M provides the best molecular evidence to date that a process referred to as homoploid hybrid speciation can occur.”
-Zachariah Gompert researcher alumnus, population and conservation graduate degree program
pursue his Ph.D. in the United Kingdom, Gompert said. “Zach has become a remarkable evolutionary biologist who is very skilled in the theory and practice of molecular genetics,” Nice said. “He is really one of the best students we have had in the department of biology during my time.” While attending Texas State, Gompert has received a 3-year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a College of Science Outstanding Graduate Student Award, along with several departmental scholarships.
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Non-embryonic stem cell discovery rouses political, legislative issues By Catherine Clabby McClatchy Newspapers RALEIGH — The researcher who this week disclosed ﬁnding a new class of stem cells in amniotic ﬂuid has been thrust into the Congressional debate over federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Opponents to experiments using embryonic stem cells — including the Catholic Church — are hailing Dr. Anthony Atala’s discoveries as proof that alternate stem cells sources are adequate for research. They are urging Congress to reject newly revived legislation to expand federal funding for research using embryonic cells. But backers of two new bills in Congress that would boost embryonic studies have publicized a letter Atala wrote to two U.S. House representatives this week. In his letter, Atala said his work should not derail efforts to widen embryonic stem cell research. “It is essential that National Institute(s) of Health-funded researchers are able to fully pursue embryonic stem cells research as a complement to research into other forms of stem cells,” the doctor-scientist wrote. Scientists all over the world are rushing to develop medical treatments using stem cells — biological treasures that can develop into any cell type in the body, fueling hope that they may one day be harnessed to cure diseases and reverse paralysis. Research had focused on two types: Embryonic cells, which have been strictly limited by President Bush for use in research; and tissue-speciﬁc cells, also known as adult stem cells, which are less versatile than their younger cousins. Atala, whose discovery was published Sunday, may have discovered a new class of stem cells in amniotic ﬂuid, the liquid cushioning a developing fetus, and in the placenta, the organ that nourishes the fetus. The cells resemble embryonic stem cells, he says, because they duplicate quickly and can make multiple cell types such as bone, muscle and fat. Independent of Atala, opponents to embryonic stem cell
Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer MEDICINE MAN: Dr. Anthony Atala displays a sample of protein keratins extracted from human hair that Elizabeth Howse is preparing for use in constructing scaffolds for tissue engineering Friday at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine in Winston-Salem.
studies quickly embraced his ﬁndings as a “moral” alternative to embryonic studies, which usually require the destruction of very early-stage human embryos. The Vatican and anti-abortion groups hailed Atala’s ﬁndings and reiterated their condemnation of using embryonic stem cells. At the urging of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which helps fund his lab, Atala spelled out his own position to U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and Michael Castle, R-Del., who have sponsored a bill that would expand funding for embryonic studies. Their measure, which could be voted on Thursday, includes several restrictions. It conﬁnes funding to studies that use embryos produced as part of fertility treatments and are scheduled to be destroyed. It also calls for the people who produced the embryos to grant consent for their use in research. Atala said Wednesday he was unaware that Castle sent a copy of his letter to James C. Greenwood, a former Pennsylvania Congressman and president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in Washington, D.C. That group, which repre-
sents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions and other research outﬁts, favors Castle’s bill. BIO posted Atala’s letter on its website and the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine found himself in the news again, after making international headlines earlier this week. “Some members of the House are genuinely undecided on this. An issue such as this could have swayed them to vote against the bill. We needed this to make clear this paper was not a reason to vote against the bill,” Greenwood said. Atala said it was not his intention to enter a political debate in a high proﬁle way, and said he was surprised when he found he had. He said he could not predict whether it could have impact in Washington. That’s outside his expertise. “I don’t keep up with political venues,” he said. “I’m just doing the science.”
✯ FYI For the full text of Atala’s letter, link to: http://www.bio.org