A sample puzzle from Southwestern president’s ‘Seinfeld’ of classes

Southwestern University President Edward B. Burger likes to think. He likes to get students thinking. And he likes puzzles. Hence, his new course: “Effective Thinking and Creative Puzzle-Solving.” He calls it the “Seinfeld” of classes because the course “was about nothing,” as he put it during an interview.

As part of the class, students were given three puzzles a week. I asked for an example.

“I really shouldn’t,” Burger said. “They had to sign a confidentiality agreement so I could use them next year. I don’t want all the answers out. I’ll give you one. It’s the first easy one they got. It’s called ‘Who’s Who:’

“One afternoon on a college campus over a hundred miles from Georgetown, two students — a math major and a philosophy major — were talking. ‘I am a math major,’ said the one with black hair. ‘I am a philosophy major,’ said the one with red hair. Given that at least one of these students is lying, what color hair does the math major have?”

2 UT regents, 2 former board chairmen side with Wallace Hall in admissions records lawsuit

First, the state attorney general sided with University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall Jr. in his court battle to obtain records of an investigation into admissions improprieties. Now, two frequent Hall allies on the Board of Regents and two former chairmen of the board have thrown in with him.

Regents Alex Cranberg and Brenda Pejovich, along with former chairmen Charles Miller and Gene Powell, filed a friend-of-the-court brief Thursday backing Hall’s lawsuit against UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven. The chancellor contends that Hall is not entitled to see confidential student records of the investigation into favoritism in admissions at UT-Austin.

“The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (‘FERPA’) does not trump the need for individual regents to have access to such information for purposes of fulfilling their duties and responsibilities as Regents of the UT System,” lawyers for the four wrote in the brief. “While universities’ misapplications of FERPA to avoid disclosing negative or embarrassing information to the press have become increasingly common over the past several decades, this is the first time an educational institution has invoked FERPA against its very own regent. ”

McRaven’s lawyers contend that Hall is seeking “unfettered access” that does not meet the federal standard of “legitimate educational interest” to warrant granting him access to private student files underlying the admissions investigation.

New York City-based Kroll Associates Inc., which was hired by the UT System, found that then-UT President Bill Powers sometimes ordered students admitted, despite subpar academic records, at the urging of legislators, regents, donors and other influential people.

“That a regent has a legitimate educational interest in personally identifiable information for purposes of admission standards and for assuring that UT’s employees are behaving in an honest and above-board way should be unquestionable, but the UT System has taken the novel position that Regent Hall does not have a legitimate educational interest,” the brief by the two regents and two former board chairmen said.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a friend-of-the-court brief in March urging the 3rd Court of Appeals to rule in Hall’s favor. Hall appealed to that court after Scott Jenkins, a state district judge in Travis County, threw out his lawsuit, essentially agreeing with the chancellor that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over this sort of dispute.

Hall hopes to get a final ruling in the case by Feb. 1, when his six-year term on the UT board ends.

A&M’s John Sharp engages in self-deprecating and Longhorn humor

Aggie in Chief John Sharp, otherwise known as chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, couldn’t resist poking fun at an in-state rival on Monday when he announced plans for upgrading research and adding an education center at the system’s Riverside campus a few miles west of the College Station flagship.

The moment came in the opening passages of his speech at a meeting of transportation industry officials at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

First, though, Sharp engaged in a bit of self-deprecating humor, declaring that he would “stick to the script” that was written for him at the insistence of system officials who implied that “perhaps some of the speeches I give folk around here are not completely factual.”

Then, true to form, he went off-script.

 

“I give Aggie speeches, as I like to tell people, which are short and to the point, as opposed to Longhorn speeches which have a point here and a point here and mostly bull in between,” Sharp said, gesturing to the left and right. “So we’ll get right to this.”