Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Meaning of the Hall of Flags

If we are going to be successful in bringing back the flags without danger of going through this again in the future, it's meaning needs to be made clear in a very public way. My first thought is a new bronze plaque in the Hall stating exactly what it represents. As a starting point for discussion on what should be on this plaque, I propose the following three points previously posted on the petition site:

1. It represents the fact that our students come from the entire planet. We value, no so much diversity, but those who wish to become responsible engineers who contribute to their society, not just technically, but morally as well.

2. It represents the influence of The College of Engineering - University lack of reputation notwithstanding - around the entire world. I have always found influence to be more valuable than reputation.

3. It is reminder that becoming an engineer entails the acceptance of responsibility to make the entire planet a better place, not just to improve one’s home country.

We also need to make it clear that it is not UTA's Hall of Flags, but the College of Engineering's Hall of Flags. Non-CoE students may not request their country's flag be added. In recent years, the Hall has been identified with International Week much more closely than it should have been. This association must be broken completely, and the CoE should no longer take part in the IW festivities.

As I said, this is a starting point, not an end point. The exact wording will take some serious discussion, as the flags represent a lot of things to each of us. We just need to boil it down to a nice, simple statement.

Comments welcomed!!!

Possible Censoring of Entries

Entries on this site may be censored.

Since the purpose of this site is to discuss what needs to happen to bring the flags back, political arguments are not germane and will be removed. The same applies to tirades against any particular flag, person, organization, etc. I will be the sole judge.

Should it become necessary to censor an entry, the removed wording will be replaced with an ellipsis.

This blog is not a mobocracy as is the petition site. We have a lot of work to do and we don't need the distractions of those consumed by hate. This is my sandbox, I make the rules, and those who don't like them may go and pound sand in their own sandbox!

Those who wish to accomplish the objective are welcome and safe from attack by the bomb-throwers here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

How to Join this Blog

I was reminded today by a friend that, although I restricted the membership of this blog to those with a verifiable connection to the College of Engineering, I didn't bother to tell anyone how to ask to join!

Actually, it's pretty simple. Just send an email to UTAAlum@charter.net with your name and verifiable connection to the UTA College of Engineering.

For faculty and staff, it's easy: I need just your department and position and UTA email address;

For students, your name and UTA email address;

For alumni, it's a bit more work: name, department, degree and year of graduation, and current email address;

For former students (ie, didn't graduate from here: name, department, degree program and years here, and your current email address.

This information will be verified before you are extended and invitation to join, so for alumni and former students it may take a day or two. Faculty, staff and students should be pretty quick, and I'll just use the people locator on the UTA website.

I should add to this that your UTA email is the one to which the invitation will be sent. If you wish to use a different email, feel free to use whatever you wish after you're registered. For those without a UTA email address, I'll use whatever you send once you are confirmed.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Engineering Students Stage First Counter-Protests!

Early on the morning of Friday, May 12, enterprising College of Engineering students took the time and trouble to produce 8 1/2 x 11 paper copies of all 123 flags that had been removed, then taped them to the walls of the Hall of Flags. Campus security - with some regret, apparently - dutifully removed the flags, but did not complete the removal until about 9:30 that morning.

Interestingly enough, this was never reported in the media. Are we surprised?

The Rape of the Hall of Flags

In the dark of night, on the night of 6-10 May, 2006, University of Texas at Arlington President Spaniolo had the flags that have been present in the College of Engineering's Hall of Flags for years removed. This is the end result of numerous protests by Americans of Vietnamese extraction and Vietnamese expatriates from all over the State of Texas, and organized by some who are not even Texas residents, much less connected to UTA.

The protests resulted when the International Students' Organization on campus began using the current flag of Vietnam to represent Vietnamese national students. Until then, the flag of the now-defunct Republic of Vietnam (old South Vietnam) had been used. This was clearly an ill-advised move on the part of ISO, but has nothing to do with the College of Engineering. Shortly after the initial ISO fiasco, students from the current (Socialist Republic of) Vietnam who recognize the new flag as the flag of their nation, requested their flag be hung with the other 100+ flags representing students who have attended the College of Engineering in the past. Although frequently claimed by the Americans of Vietnamese extraction, the old flag was never removed from the Hall of Flags.

The rules for the Hall of Flags, which was started in 1988 are simple:

1. Any College of Engineering international student may request the hanging of his country's current official flag. This is normally done once a year, during the International Week celebration, but is not an ISO function.

2. Only one student request is required.

3. Once flags are hung, they will not be removed.

4. American students (which includes the vast majority of students of Vietnamese extraction in the college) are represented by the flags of the State of Texas and/or the Flags of the United States of America.

5. There are no other rules or qualifications.

The flags themselves simply represent the students. Had they represented politics, as claimed by the protestors, none could be hung, as every flag hung would offend some. This act is simply political correctness run amuck.

Although Spaniolo initially backed leaving all of the flags in place, he backed down after 19 Texas legislators threatened to block funding for a long-overdue and badly needed new engineering building. The legislators were led by one Hubert Vo, State Representative from Houston, aided chiefly by Representative Toby Goodman of Arlington. These men, when their requests were rebuffed resorted to the potentially illegal ploy of threatening the new building's funding.

Spaniolo's response was to remove ALL of the flags rather than just the Vietnamese flag. (This is still supposed to be a country where all are equal, and his view was that removing only one was an act of discrimination against one group of students.)

This act was done under cover of darkness, apparently after students - who might have objected - were excluded from the building. This was also in the middle of final exam week. Many students reported being extremely upset at the action.

By Thursday night, students of the College of Engineering had already implemented a website for discussion of the issue and for the collection of signatures for an online petition. This website was quickly commandeered by the protestors, led by Tom Ha ("chair of the Dallas Vietnamese-American Community") and Michael Do ("President of Vietnamese Veterans Association of Austin"). From what we can tell at this point, Tom Ha has no connection to the College of Engineering; we have confirmed that Michael Do has no connection.

Because the ringleaders have hijacked the original forum, this form is being established for these express purposes:

* Suggestions on how to get this travesty reversed.

* Logging of events as they occur.

* Encouraging and reporting counter-protests.

Please note that, to prevent another case of hijacking, this forum is moderated. You will have to become a member, and membership will not be approved unless you can prove to the moderator's satisfaction that you have a legitimate connection to the UTA College of Engineering - staff, faculty, student or alum.

The moderator is a 1978 graduate of the IE department.