A UT Austin tower Bill Leissner ‘IN.th a s S EDITORIAL The Rod of Knowledge “Texas holds imbedded in its earth, rocks and minerals which now lie idle because unknownresources of incalculable industrial utility, of wealth and power Smite the earth, smite the rocks with the rod of knowledge, and fountains of unstinted wealth will gush forth! ” It wasn’t exactly “The unexamined life is not worth living,” but that’s what Colonel Ashbel Smith said at the 1883 ceremony when the cornerstone \(and the Texas was laid. Ashbel Smith’s quote, buried in Ronnie Dugger’s Our Invaded Universities, was prophetic in more ways than one. For a hundred years the university would be sustained by vast oil wealth secured by the million acres of mineral rights in West Texas. When that wealth played out, the university would turn to predatory capitalist William Cunningham to raise enough money to keep it in business. It is unlikely that Cunningham’s personal business dealings with Jim Bob Moffettwho followed Colonel Smith’s advice to “smite the earth”were the direct cause of U.T.Austin President Robert Berdahl’s resignation last year. Cunningham’s salary as a Freeport board member and his Freeport stock options had been widely reported. If Berdahl made a mistake, it was in assuming that there could be a negotiated agreement about the limits of the Chancellor’s power. When it was clear that there was none, he left. The University of Texas at Austin is a lesser place because of his departure. And the office Berdahl resigned is smaller than the one he assumed three years ago. It was diminished by Cunningham’s crude exercise of power, and the Moffett Molecular Science Building, named in “honor” of Cunningham’s patron and business associate, Jim Bob Moffett, stands as a monument to that raw exercise of power. J. Frank Dobie described the U.T. Tower as the “permanent erection of an impotent administration.” The Moffett building might lack the phallic thrust of the Tower, but it stands for something: there are no erectile problems with Cunningham and Moffett. Perhaps the only way to enlarge the diminished office of the presidency, if Bill Cunningham is to remain chancellor, is to fill it with a man larger than him. Someone like former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. Reich is a philosopher princeenough of a philosopher to have established a well-deserved reputation as a scholar and enough of a prince \(by Machisucceeded in Bill Clinton’s court. And his name has at least been suggested to the search committee looking for someone to replace Berdahl. Conflicts between authority and intellectual freedom are not exactly new. Harvard’s first president, Dugger writes in Our Invaded Universities, was fired for heresy on infant baptism. Once the authority and orthodoxies of the church were displaced by corporate interests, corporations set out to purge universities of critics of corporate misconduct. Until the last legislative session, professorial tenure provided professors some protection from such purges. Although there is some poetic justice in public demands that the harshest strictures of the state’s new tenure law be applied to one of the most embarrassing defenders of the prerogatives of wealth and class,Law School Professor Lino Graglia, it’s already obvious that the new tenure law could be incompatible with academic freedom. U.T. Regent Tony Sanchez, a Bush appointee, is already calling for a commission to investigate Graglia’s teaching methodsand for Professor Graglia’s suspension until the commission makes some sort of ruling. Angered by Graglia’s comments about the deficiencies of black and Hispanic culture, Sanchez told a student rally, “I want the man and his message brought before this commission so they can be investigated thoroughly.” In this issue, Michael King looks at the Graglia controversy and Michael Erard suggests that in relation to the current assault on tenure, what’s good for Ford is not good for the University of Texas. L.D. 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 26, 1997 …400.10$141400.0100111111.0.11011.0110
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