From Thursday through Saturday evening, politicians, media representatives and the politically-interested from all backgrounds will gather in downtown Austin to consider today’s pressing issues. For the eighth consecutive year, the Texas Tribune Festival offers the promise of bringing communities together to engage in meaningful discussions.
Story by Zoya Zia and Swetha Berana
The festival is thematically organized into several tracks, all of which present topics and overall questions that impact the public. Ahead of the festival, ORANGE Magazine has looked at some of the events within these tracks and previewed their relevance to the Longhorn community at large.
Students in the University of Texas system are well aware that the state’s coffers are quickly being drained when it comes to spending money on full-time students, of course. Besides the $2,000 decrease (counting for inflation) in state education financing over the past decade and a half, students have also seen a $3,000 tuition hike and downsizing of several key programs. Unsurprisingly, these issues arise from the fact that unlike for K-12 education, there is no state mandate for higher education funding, which makes it an easy target for budget cuts.
The newest chancellor of the UT system, J.B. Milliken, will address these issues at this year’s Texas Tribune Festival. With a unique background in law and 16 combined years of experience with both the University of North Carolina and University of Nebraska systems (as senior administrator and president, respectively), both students and faculty alike are sure to gain further insight into what their new chancellor’s plans are to maintain and increase- the calibre of Texas’ public universities.
Criminal Justice and The Law
The devastating Marjorie Stoneman-Douglas school shooting earlier this year left not only grief in its wake but also a paradigm shift in many Americans regarding both the protective and destructive capabilities of firearms. A Quinnipiac poll conducted from Feb. 16 to 19 found that the share of respondents saying it was “too easy” to buy a gun increased from 59 to 67 percent from November, but the share saying that more guns would make the public safer only fell from 37 to 33 percent.
Both sides of the debate will be represented at this year’s Texas Tribune Festival. Those on a thought-provoking set of panels include March for Our Lives leader Chris Grady (a survivor of the Marjorie Stoneman-Douglas shootings), Sandy Hook Promise founder Nicole Hockley (who lost her son in the shooting), and former state representative and concealed-carry proponent Suzanna Gracia Hupp (survivor of the 1991 Luby’s mass shooting), among others.
Diversity and Immigration
Texas is already a majority-minority state. In the context of a country that is expected to become majority-minority by 2055, some people still undervalue the love, traditions and familial connections of those who may come from different backgrounds. An estimated 3 percent of Texas public school students are undocumented and many of the classmates, friends and coworkers in communities across the state are likely to be impacted by the increasingly stringent immigration.
Providing a personal perspective to this issue, graduate biomedical assistant and the Dream Scholarship recipient Emilin S. Hernandez Reyes will discuss her story on a panel with notable DACA recipients. These individuals are living examples of the spirit, dream and soul of immigrants, who are also America.
Infrastructure and Natural Resources
As global temperatures continue to soar and lead to a devastating array of consequences for human and animal life, the environmental impact of climate change will only become more and more stated for communities around the world. This year, several countries have suffered from extreme weather conditions that led to widespread destruction. From a record-breaking heat wave, earthquakes and flooding in Japan to an active hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean, more lives are put in danger as a result of climate change.
Tying a global issue to a state-wide context, a panel at the Texas Tribune Festival will showcase how climate change will affect all aspects of existence. Jason Bordoff, former senior director for energy and climate change at the National Security Council, will provide a governmental perspective on the topic. As director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe will discuss her research. Michael Webber, Josey Centennial Fellow in Energy Resources and associate professor at UT, will moderate.