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The Brief: Nov. 17, 2015

Three Texas universities — Texas A&M University, the University of Houston and Trinity University — are facing federal scrutiny over their handling of sexual violence allegations.

Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.

The Big Conversation

Three Texas universities — Texas A&M University, the University of Houston and Trinity University — are facing federal scrutiny over their handling of sexual violence allegations.

But as the Tribune's Matthew Watkins reports, the Texas A&M case is getting particular attention. He writes:

Such federal inquiries have generally been spurred by accusations that universities didn’t do enough to punish students accused of rape or harassment.

But at least one of the Texas campuses currently under review — Texas A&M — is being investigated for the opposite: a claim that administrators went too far when they suspended a male student accused of assaulting a female classmate.

That focus surprised officials at A&M, a university that has been praised by student groups and even NASA for its work to curb sexual violence on campus.

Universities face potentially harsh penalties if they don't take seriously the directive to investigate sexual assault allegations.

"If the universities don’t, they risk violating Title IX, the federal statute that requires schools to provide equal education opportunities to both men and women. ... In the worst-case scenario, the department can cut off federal funding for universities that don’t play by the rules — a potentially crippling move. But it hasn’t gone that far in previous cases," Watkins writes.

Disclosure: Texas A&M University is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. The University of Houston was a corporate sponsor in 2013. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Trib Must Reads

UT/TT Poll: Texans Say Immigration, Terror Are Greatest Threats to U.S., by Ross Ramsey – Before last week’s terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris, Texas voters had illegal immigration and foreign terrorist groups at the top of their list of greatest threats to the U.S., according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Texas Delegation Raises, Shares Big Money, by Abby Livingston – Recently filed campaign finance reports show whether Texas congressional incumbents are building viable re-election operations, and they also reveal how Texans spread their campaign wealth to colleagues.

First Major Iowa Ads Tout Cruz's Debate Performances, by Patrick Svitek – Ted Cruz's presidential campaign is using its first major ad buy in Iowa to highlight some of his most well-received moments in the Republican debates so far.  

Starr: "Little Doubt" Baylor Will Opt Out of Campus Carry, by Matthew Watkins and Madlin Mekelburg – Baylor University President and Chancellor Ken Starr said he has "little doubt" that the private institution will opt out of the state's new campus carry law during The Texas Tribune's daylong symposium on higher education issues Monday.

Dallas County Booking Records Can Be Kept Secret, by Terri Langford – A ruling from the Texas AG has made it harder to access information about the crimes undocumented immigrants have committed in Dallas County — and whether officials turned those offenders over to federal authorities.  

Cruz to South Carolina Evangelicals: I'm One of You, by Abby Livingston – The third-in-the-nation South Carolina primary on Feb. 20 will come at a pivotal point for Sen. Ted Cruz, who's betting big that the Palmetto State's religious and elderly voters will commit to him.

Cruz Lands Influential Iowa Congressman's Endorsement, by Patrick Svitek – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has won the endorsement of Iowa congressman Steve King, an influential conservative in the first-in-the-country presidential caucus state.

Abbott: Texas to Block Syrian Refugee Resettlement, by Edgar Walters – Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that Texas would refuse Syrian refugees after a terrorist attack in Paris killed more than 120 people.  

The Day Ahead

•  U.S. Sen Marco Rubio, R-Florida, will headline a fundraising event this evening in Lubbock at the home of Texas Tech University System Regent John Steinmetz.

•  Hillary Clinton will speak at a grassroots organizing event in Dallas at the Mountain View College Gymnasium at 1:15 p.m.. Clinton is expected to discuss why she decided to run for office and the issues she would address as president. 


Condemned man’s lawyers stop helping, cite ‘false hope’The Dallas Morning News

Pflugerville mosque vandalism sparks fears of Muslim backlashAustin American-Statesman

Obama: Ted Cruz’s religious test for refugees is ‘shameful'The Dallas Morning News

UT faculty approves resolution opposing guns in ‘educational spaces'Austin American-Statesman

Ken Paxton's office blocks release of his booking videoHouston Chronicle

Susan King suspends Senate race, citing depressionAustin American-Statesman

Ted Cruz is now the favorite (or close to it) in the Iowa caucusesThe Washington Post

State education board member proposes fact-checking textbooksSan Antonio Express-News

Congressmen push for solution to Fort Hood juvenile prosecutionsAustin American-Statesman

Fate of HERO now up to the next mayorHouston Chronicle

Rival campaigns starting to fear Ted CruzPolitico

Lawyer: Twin Peaks chaos stops if first biker gets immediate trialHouston Chronicle

Statement: Judge Julie Kocurek intends to return to the benchAustin American-Statesman

Experts question Abbott's authority to block Syrian refugeesHouston Chronicle

Quote to Note

 "We adhere to Judeo-Christian principles and stand ready to help those in need, but not at the expense of the safety and security of our own people." 

– Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick echoing Gov. Greg Abbott's declaration that Texas would refuse Syrian refugees after a terrorist attack in Paris on Friday.  

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A series of conversations about Bridging the Digital Divide on Dec. 4 at the Houston Community College, West Loop Campus. 

•    A conversation about Houston & the Legislature: What's Next? on Dec. 15 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston

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