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Regents move on Texan Austin The University of Texas Board of Regents has launched the most serious attack ever on The Daily Texan. Another committee of Texas newspaper editors has been set up to look into the relationship between the Austin student newspaper and the U.T. Department of Journalism. That is to say: the regents are making another bid to strip the Texan staff of its editorial powers. Frank Erwin, Jr., tipped the regents’ hand recently in Dumas, where he appeared at a high school convocation and then at a Chamber of Commerce news conference. According to the Amarillo Globe-Times, Erwin “hinted that the free-wheeling campus journal might be brought under faculty control similar to that exercised at the University of Missouri.” The Amarillo daily said Erwin called the Texan a “disgraceful operation” and “totally irresponsible.” The former regents chairman said it is “intolerable” that students who want to buy season tickets to football games have to purchase the .Blanket Tax, which includes a $4.10 subscription to the Texan. ERWIN’S ATTACKS on the Texan usually have a direct relationship to the amount of bad publicity the Texan has been giving him or the university. This year the paper’s well-researched revelations about the million-dollar chancellor’s residence \(Obs., and the board of regents. Erwin was ignominiously called before a Senate investigating committee and asked to explain about the cost overrun. In a snit, he ended up allegedly returning an alleged $600,000 foundation gift rather than revealing the name of the alleged donor. Nobody embarrasses Frank Erwin that way and gets away with it. At least, nobody ever has before. The threat to the Texan is especially severe this year because the newspaper’s 50-year charter is up for renewal. The regents do the chartering and they’re asking an editors’ committee if it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring the Texan under closer faculty control. The journalism faculty is none too happy about the prospect of having to run the Texan. A five-man committee from the journalism faculty unanimously recommended that the Texan be rechartered along the lines of the existing charter and the Texan has endorsed the idea. Regent Jenkens Garrett, who called for the editors’ study in January, said, “A journalism department without a working relationship with a newspaper is like a drama school without an auditorium or a 8 The Texas Observer chemistry department without a laboratory.” Actually, the journalism department does have a working relationship with the Texan. Students in reporting courses get Texan assignments. \(The Texan Students in editing labs used to edit’ Texan copy, but the journalism department changed the course. And students who run for the Texan editorship, an elective’ office, are required to have completed a’ healthy number of journalism courses. The only problem seems to be that enrollment in the journalism department has been increasing at an unmanageable rate. A total restructuring of the Texan is not necessary to remedy the situation, according to Texan editors and the journalism faculty. The Texan has a censor of sorts. He watches for libel and personal attacks and other violations of the Texas Student Publications handbook. But student editors decide what stories to pursue and what editorials to print; that’s the rule as far as the regents are concerned. I know, because I was editor last time the regents set up a committee to investigate the Texan. Willie Morris, who has done time as editor of the Texan, the Observer and Harper’s, said that when he was on the Texan his editorial freedom “stopped at the wellhead.” He got into trouble with the regents in 1955-56 for writing editorials critical of the oil and gas industry. A decade later, I had to fight Frank Erwin and his friends for the right to criticize the war in Vietnam. IT WAS 1965 and American forces had started bombing the North. Lyndon Johnson was in the White House and Frank Erwin was national democratic committeeman from Texas as well as vice-chairman of the board of regents. The University of Texas was, to many people’s way of thinking, “Lyndon Johnson’s University.” Only some kind of comsymp would criticize Lyndon Johnson’s war from the hallowed halls of HIS university. Kaye Northcong, they called me. Jeff Jones, a socialist and a long-haired, dirty-talking Yankee to boot, is just finishing a term as president of the UT-Austin Student’s Association. It’s hard to believe that only six years ago the New Left, in the form of the SDS, was banned from campus. I was something of -a fellow traveller to the now moribund SDS. I let SDS members write columns for the editorial page and criticized the city council for denying them parade perinits. That made me a radical in the eyes of the UT administration. \(I was penniless when I ran for editor and the SDS kindly printed my campaign literature for free. We had to keep it a secret, because it would have destroyed me at the polls if my sinister relationship with this “irresponsible element” had been made public. Radical types would slink up to me during the campaign and confide, “I’m going to vote Editorials quoting George Kennan and John Kenneth Galbraith to the effect that the Vietnam war might not be such a good idea after all infuriated Erwin. The excrement finally hit the ventilator when I was out of town accepting for the Texan a Pacemaker Award, the highest award given by the Associated Collegiate Press. While I was gone, Jean Etsinger wrote an editorial concerning the rumor that some dolls boobytrapped by the Viet Cong had reached the United States. The Viet Cong is “not likely to achieve any more by killing off innocent GI brats in our country than American forces will by continuing to fire on villages of women and children in theirs,” Jean wrote. Erwin exploded. “If I see another editorial like this in the Texan, there won’t be an editorial page,” he told a handful of cowering administrators. I returned to face a closed meeting of the Texas Student Publications Board of Directors. They wanted me to write a retraction to “save” the Texan. Some journalism faculty members on the board also expressed fear that Erwin wouldn’t give them funds to build a new communications building if the Texan didn’t stop printing such outrages. I agreed to write a “clarification,” which pacified the board. \(The clarification simply restated what the editorial in question had said, adding that it had not been the writer’s intention to imply that killing women and children was a part of American military strategy. How naive we ERWIN AND the regents were not pacified. I soon was summoned to Dallas to appear before a committee of 13 publishers and editors of major Texas dailies.* Regents Chairman W. W. Heath asked the committee to arrive at some conclusion on the proper relationship between the Department of Journalism and The Daily Texan. “If the Texan’s not to be a laboratory of the Department of Journalism, should the editor enjoy freedom to editorialize not only on student and university affairs but on local, state and national affairs of a controversial nature, without any obligation to produce The committee members were Robert Jackson, chairman, N. Dwight Allison, Clayte Binion, Richard Brown, Jack Butler, William L. Donnell, Charles E. Green, Charles Guy, William P. Hobby, Jr., Ed Hunter, Charles Kilpatrick, Jack Krueger and Tommy Thompson.