Fisher v. University of Texas: Update

It’s been more than a year since the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas. If you’ve been following the story, you already know that ruling was a cliffhanger, more like the middle of a story than the end. Instead of announcing a final, unassailable decision, the Court made an unusual choice. The justices sent the case back to a lower court, ordering the 5th Circuit to take another look at the arguments and the facts.

On Tuesday afternoon, the 5th Circuit announced its decision, a 2-1 ruling that upholds the current system of admissionsat The University of Texas. That tells us how this chapter of the Fisher story ends. But we also know that the story continues – perhaps with a new appeal to the Supreme Court, and almost certainly with future lawsuits by other plaintiffs against other schools.

If you haven’t been following the case closely, here’s what you need to know.  In 2008, a young woman named Abigail Fisher brought a lawsuit challenging the use of race in undergraduate admissions at The University of Texas. At the time,Fisher v. University of Texas was the latest in a long line of cases examining the use of race in university admissions – in California, in Michigan, and nationwide. It was also the third major case looking at the role of race and admissions at UT. Fisher’s case moved quickly through the district court, then reached the 5th Circuit; both upheld the university’s admissions policies. Fisher appealed to the US Supreme Court, which took the case and heard oral arguments in the fall of 2012.

In May of last year, KLRU aired a documentary called Admissions on Trial: Seven Decades of Race and Higher Education, an award-winning project that was co-produced by Villita Media and directed by Lynn Boswell. Our goal was to provide clear and unbiased context for the Fisher case by exploring the history of race and admissions at The University of Texas, and by examining the debate about race in admissions nationwide. Less than a month after our initial broadcast, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Fisher. Remanding the case to a lower court sent a clear signal that Fisher was not yet over, and a strong message that this story is one that will remain important for a long time to come.

In the year since Admissions on Trial first ran, this story has continued to develop rapidly. The Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action at state universities, which had been passed by voters as a constitutional amendment. Edward Blum and the Project on Fair Representation – backers of Abigail Fisher’s suit – have begun seeking plaintiffs to challenge admissions at three more universities. And people across the nation have continued to talk about many of the hottest hot-button questions surrounding higher education, including defining equality of access, ensuring that students who enroll in college graduate, and figuring out how students who are accepted to college can afford to attend.

These questions impact a wide variety of people: applicants and admissions officers; students and their parents; activists and university administrators; employers and society as a whole. People with a wide range of opinions have told us they believe questions about the role of race in admissions matter so much simply because education matters so much – as a door to opportunity and a foundation for life-long success. Fairness, we have been told, is crucial. The difference comes because the definition of that fairness can vary so widely.

KLRU plans to examine this latest development in the Fisher case with an updated documentary – a look at recent events and an exploration of what’s likely to come next as the debate about race-conscious admissions evolves. The project will include a website and lesson plans to expand the project’s impact and reach. We hope you’ll join us as we continue our work on this important topic.

KLRU NewsBriefs: Two very different Austin museums mark milestones

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This weekend during PBS NewsHour we have two different indoor activities you can check out: the Harry Ransom Center’s WWI exhibit and the South Austin Pop Culture Center.

On Saturday we peak inside SouthPop, a non-profit museum dedicated to preserving Austin’s music history and the art surrounding that industry. SouthPop’s director Leea Mechling told us this history is more important for residents to know than ever.

“This place is important to give context of Austin’s culture to people who have lived here for a long time and for people who have just moved here. The era of the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s was really a building time of Austin’s unique culture,” Mechling said.

SouthPop is celebrating 10 years this Summer. It is located on South Lamar and is open Thursday through Sunday 1 – 6pm.

Our Sunday story takes you inside the Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas campus. To commemorate the centennial of the start of World War I, the museum is presenting The World at War: 1914-1918. Some might be surprised to hear about an historical exhibit at the Ransom Center, and curator Jean Cannon said that’s what makes their exhibit unique.

“We have great holdings for literature so a lot of the items that you’ll see in the gallery are diaries or letters and items that give a very personal moment of living between 1914 and 1918,” Cannon told us.

The exhibit runs through August 3. The Harry Ransom Center is free and open to the public.

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm. 

KLRU NewsBrief: East Side Company Puts New Spin on Compost

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This Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend we’ll preview a Central Texas Gardener story about an East Austin company offering a fossil fuel-free way to compost.

Since 2012, East Side Compost Pedallers has cycled through 5 neighborhoods to collect residential and commercial compostables. Residential customers pay $4 a week, each opting to spare the landfill and instead nourish their neighborhood farms and urban microgrowers.

East Side Pies pays the Compost Pedallers to pick up their vegetable scraps. They say they’ve even attracted more customers as a result.

“We have a lot of vegetable scrap and instead of it going into a dumpster it goes back into soil and our local community and gets more food for everybody. The fact that we’re taking several hundred pounds of waste out of the landfill I think more than makes up for the small cost that we pay,” Randall Holt of East Side Pies told us.

East Side Compost Pedallers recently won the Austin Green Business Leaders Communication and Outreach award.

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend. An extended version of “Will Pedal for Compost” will air during Central Texas Gardener on July 12 at noon.

KLRU NewsBriefs: Austin’s First Public Montessori School & Huston-Tillotson Receives Largest Donation Ever

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This weekend during PBS NewsHour we have two East Austin education stories.

On Saturday, we’ll introduce you to one of Austin’s newest charter schools and the city’s only public Montessori school: Magnolia Montessori for All. Founder and Principal Sara Cotner told KLRU about why she chose to locate the school in East Austin.

“In Austin there are more than 20 Montessori schools and they’re all private and they’re all west of I-35. East Austin is this beautiful opportunity where there’s a lot of diversity, a lot of different kinds of families, a rich history of commitment to the community,” Ms. Cotner said. “We feel really honored that we were able to find land that was available here and connect with families who were really interested in this vision.”

The school opens August 4th with 3-year-olds through 3rd graders in portable classrooms. They plan to add a grade level every year through 8th grade. Construction is still underway at the site.

On Sunday, we’ll air our conversation with Ada Anderson, an Austin Civil Rights pioneer who donated $3 million this week to Huston-Tillotson University – the largest gift the school has ever received. The funds will be used to build the Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center (pictured above), a facility which will serve students and surrounding residents. It is named for Mrs. Anderson’s daughter.

“We all know more and more the need for mental health and the plans for the building just fit so perfectly to what [my daughter and her husband] did,” Mrs. Anderson told us. “There are a lot of people [in East Austin] who don’t have a lot of money who I think will be served there so that’s one of the really exciting things to me.”

HT tells us work will begin on the new building very soon.

These stories air on KLRU at 6:30 on Saturday and Sunday evening during PBS NewsHour Weekend. 

 

Imagine One Austin Information Series Starts Monday

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You may have heard Austin’s city government is undergoing a makeover, and in November voters will elect a completely new City Council from 10 new districts, and a new mayor. KLRU is committed to educating Austin voters about their city government so they can make informed decisions about who to support and be fully engaged in their communities.

With that in mind, we’ve teamed up with Leadership AustinThe Annette Strauss Institute for Civic LifeCommunity Impact Newspaper, the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and The League of Women Voters of the Austin Area to organize the Imagine One Austin Information Series, a free, seven week crash-course about Austin and the region’s most pressing issues.

The ImagineAustin Comprehensive Plan will be used as the framework for this series with participation from both city staff and community leaders. The first session on Monday, June 30 is focused on Demographics and Existing Plans.

More Information:

Consecutive Monday evenings (June 30 – August 11) from 6:00 – 8:00 pm
LCRA Dalchau Service Center (3505 Montopolis Dr)
Admission: FREE

  • Session I (June 30) – Demographics and Existing Plans
  • Session II (July 7) – City Utilities, Budget, and Capital Planning
  • Session III (July 14) – Economy
  • Session IV (July 21) – Conservation, Environment, and Recreation
  • Session V (July 28) – Land Use and Transportation
  • Session VI (August 4) – Housing, Neighborhoods, and Public Safety
  • Session VII (August 11) – Health and Human Services

You can register to attend here.

KLRU NewsBriefs: Celebrating Juneteenth with Bell County History

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This week during PBS NewsHour Weekend, we’ll air excerpts from Juneteenth Jamboree, a 30 minute special about Bell County’s African-American history.

On Saturday, we introduce you to some famous names who have called Bell County home, including “Mean Joe” Greene and Alvin Ailey. Stephanie Turnham of the Bell County Museum told us Ailey’s first creation of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958, “Blues Suite,” was inspired by his early childhood in Rogers, Texas.

“It starts out with the train whistle, way in the background and, of course, that tells us that work is over for the day. So, all of these characters come out to this juke joint, or whatever you want to call it, and light up the night,” Turnham said. “Alvin remembers beautiful women dressed up and men with their .38 Specials and that sort of thing.”

On Sunday, we hear why Killeen is known as one of the most diverse cities in Texas – thanks in large part to Fort Hood. When it was called Camp Hood during World War II, the all African-American 761st Tank Battalion was stationed on post. Also known as the Black Panther Battalion, the group included baseball legend Jackie Robinson.

Racial segregation policies of the times initially kept them out of the conflict overseas, but the 761st, nonetheless, achieved a superior combat rating and were deployed to the European theater, where they performed with precision and bravery. Today, a monument on post is dedicated to them.

Wilbert Byrd, President of the Central Texas Memorial Chapter of the 761st Tank Battalion & Allied Veterans Association tells us that before the memorial was built, the group was largely forgotten.

“They said the 761st? Who? Everybody knows about the Tuskegee Airmen, everybody knows about what they did, but nobody had ever heard of the 761st Tank Battalion even with all the things that they had done,” Byrd said. “We think we came up with something that was not only appropriate, not only was it elegant, but it was simple and it did what we wanted to do, it informed the public about the 761st Tank Battalion and their exploits during WWII.”

You can see both of these stories during PBS NewsHour weekend this Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm. You can see Juneteenth Jamboree tonight, June 19 at 7:30pm and Tuesday, June 24 at 10:30pm.

KLRU News Briefs: Hole in the Wall Turns 40, Artists Beautify North Austin Fence

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KLRU News Briefs are back this weekend during PBS NewsHour after two weeks off. This weekend we’ll hear from a group of local artists who decided to use art to beautify their North Austin neighborhood and about a birthday celebration kicking off this week for the Hole in the Wall’s 40th anniversary.

On Saturday night tune in for an excerpt from the Arts in Context Short Beautiful Fences, the story behind a mural on a fence along Lamar Boulevard between Payton Gin and Rundberg.

“I started out just [painting] “Beauty Will Save the World” in black and white, just the lettering, knowing it would be tagged,” Artist Rigel Thurston tells us. “The people who tagged it…it was too perfect. So, the idea is to include the first round of taggers because they’re part of this neighborhood too.”

On Sunday, the owner of The Hole in the Wall, Will Tanner, tells us about the 40th anniversary party that kicks off on June 19. Plus, he talks about how the bar has evolved over the past four decades.

“The Hole in the Wall is this great place that’s been here a long time and it’s had to change a lot to survive, but I think what has been kept from the past is what makes us great,” Tanner says. Ultimately [this] is a place for like minded, and maybe even not like minded, people to come and enjoy themselves and enjoy live art…eat good food and drink great local beer and just spend some of your life.”

You can find out more about the lineup of bands performing during the celebration here.

KLRU News Briefs air this Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm during PBS NewsHour Weekend. 

 

Civil Rights on KLRU 6/17, 6/24

In honor of the new show Freedom Summer: American Experience, KLRU is featuring special programs on the Civil Rights Movement. Look forward to two nights in June for these moving stories.

Tuesday, June 17
Austin Revealed: Civil Rights Stories - 7:30 p.m.
Start local: see interviews with prominent Austin citizens about their experience during Austin’s civil rights period, the effect of segregation and what gentrification has meant to the city.

Freedom Riders: American Experience - 8:00 p.m.
Depriving African-Americans of transportation was a key way of oppression until a group challenged the segregation in 1961. Interviews from the freedom riders themselves are featured in this awe-inspiring documentary.

Independent Lens: The New Black – 10:00 p.m.
Centering on the historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland, this film takes viewers into the pews, onto the streets, and provides a seat at the kitchen table as it looks at how the African American community grapples with the divisive gay rights issue.

Tuesday, June 24
March – 7:00 p.m.
The revolutionary March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mind-blowing “I Have a Dream” speech took a lot of work to accomplish, and caused the turning point of the Civil Rights Movement. This documentary excavates the foundation of the monumental protest in honor of its 50th anniversary last year.

Freedom Summer: American Experience – 8:00 p.m.
Over 10 weeks in 1964 known as the Freedom Summer, more than 700 student volunteers in Mississippi joined with organizers and local African Americans in a historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in the nation’s most segregated state, with the goal of challenging the Democratic Party at the national convention in Atlantic City. The campaign was marked by sustained and deadly violence, including the notorious murders of three civil rights workers, countless beatings, the burning of 35 churches, and the bombing of 70 homes and Freedom Houses.

Austin Revealed: Civil Rights Stories – 10:00 p.m.

Juneteenth Jamboree: Texas’ African American – 10:30 p.m.
Focusing on the African-American experience in Bell County, Juneteenth Jamboree 2014 features stories about plantation life in mid-1850s Salado, the “Black Panthers” tank battalion in Killeen, important historical figures and much more.

KLRU News Briefs: Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Boardwalk to Open June 7, 2014

This weekend during PBS NewsHour we take a look into the new Boardwalk that is opening right on Austin’s very own Lady Bird Lake. The call to action was made by The Trail Foundation in 2007. The first task they had to overcome was funding, which they partially achieved with the 2010 mobility bond package. The Trail Foundation then committed $3 million in private funds in order to match the public money that was put into it.

The hard work and effort that was put into the boardwalk is very visible as Marty Stump, Project Management Supervisor for the City of Austin, proudly boasts about during his interview.

“It is really the result of a lot of people working over a long, long time, and obviously the construction nearing completion is very exciting for the department,” Stump states. “And, I know a lot of the trail users are anxious to get on the trail.”

The Trail Foundation speaks highly about the hope for an “increased distribution” that the Boardwalk will allow for trail users. Susan Rankin, the Executive Director of The Trail Foundation, shows how pleased she is with the finished product.

“It is really different to be out over the water… it is totally different than the experience of walking or running on the trail,” Rankin attests. “It’s going to be a beautiful, beautiful destination.”

The opening of the new Boardwalk is occurring on June 7, 2014. It will start at 10am and includes entertainment, music and a ceremonial ribbon cutting, followed by a festive march across the Boardwalk itself.

This story airs on KLRU Saturday, May 24, 2014 during PBS NewsHour Weekend. 

KLRU News Briefs: Texas Quilt Museum & Love Your Block, Austin!

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This weekend (May 17-18) during PBS NewsHour Weekend, we take a look inside the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange and hear about Love Your Block, Austin!, a mini-grant program being offered by the Austin Mayor’s Office.

The Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange is drawing visitors from all over the world. It was founded by cousins Karey Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes, who have also written books about quilting and who founded the International Quilt Association and annual festival in Houston.

Museum Manager Julie Maffei said many people don’t realize how valuable an old quilt they own might be.

“We get a lot of, ‘Oh my God what did I do to my family’s quilt?’ And we’ve heard every kind of horror story there is, from dogs having puppies on them to wrapping water heaters with them in the winter, to using them to move furniture,” Maffei said.

The museum is also becoming well known for melding the art of quilting with the art of garden design. Tune in to KLRU’s Central Texas Gardener for an extended version of this story or find it on the CTG Blog.

Love Your Block, Austin! is offering $500 to $1,000 improvement grants to neighborhood groups in under-served areas of Austin. The application deadline is June 1 and so far the city has only received one completed application. 10-20 groups can get the funds.

“Love Your Block, Austin! is an amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to do an improvement that they can do on their own in the neighborhood,” Grant Coordinator Nevena Pilipovic-Wengler said. ”It’s a really flexible application and it’s a flexible process, it can take place on private and public property. We at Mayor Leffingwell’s office just really believe in this program and believe that it can fund great improvement projects and really encourage people to apply by the deadline of June 1.”

Pilipovic-Wengler told us a few groups are interested in funding community gardens between schools and neighborhood associations. In our story we speak to Ortega Elementary School PTA President Hilda Villalobos Alvarez about her community garden application.

If you have a project you think would be a good fit you can apply on the city’s website: austintexas.gov/loveyourblock.

KLRU News Briefs air locally every Saturday and Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30pm.