The Big Conversation

An incident earlier this week on the campus of Texas A&M University where students visiting from an inner-city Dallas charter school were harassed with racial slurs is spurring an investigation.

The Tribune’s Matthew Watkins reported that two black students in a group of about 60 juniors from Uplift Hampton Preparatory “were approached by a white woman wearing Confederate flag earrings. … the white woman showed the students her earrings and asked them what they thought about them. Then a group of ‘white male and female students’ began taunting the students ‘using the most well-known racial slur that's directed toward African Americans,’” according to state Sen. Royce West, whose district includes the school.

Campus police called to the scene did not charge anyone. Watkins wrote that “the responding officer told people at the scene that the harassers were expressing their First Amendment rights, according to West. University officials are now reviewing the incident, West said.”

A&M President Michael Young promised in an e-mail that the matter "will be thoroughly investigated to the fullest extent possible" with West calling for strong discipline, if not the expulsion of the A&M students.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Watkins reported that Uplift Hampton officials said they were disappointed by the incident but appreciative of the university administration’s response.

“The charter school is devoted to helping economically disadvantaged students get into college,” Watkins wrote. “Many come from families with no experience in higher education, and campus tours are their first encounters with universities.” 

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

Trib Must Reads

Old Rivals Meet Again in Dallas House Race, by Morgan Smith — Bennett Ratliff lost his Dallas-area Texas House seat to Tea Party-backed Matt Rinaldi in 2014, and is running to win it back in a March 1 GOP primary that parses the definition of conservative.

Martinez Fischer, Menéndez Square Off Again, by Alexa Ura — On major issues there's little daylight between San Antonio Democrats Trey Martinez Fischer and José Menéndez, but their rematch for a Texas Senate seat couldn't produce a greater divergence of styles.

Analysis: Raising College Tuition, Deflecting the Blame, by Ross Ramsey — With some Texas colleges and universities talking about raising tuition prices, the legislators who gave up that responsibility 16 years ago are wondering whether they should take it back.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Congressional Black Democrats Unload on Bernie Sanders, by Abby Livingston — All four black Texas congressional Democrats went to bat in a big way Thursday for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton amid her increasingly hostile nomination fight with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.

Ted Cruz Uses Humor Against Rubio, Trump in South Carolina Ads, by Patrick Svitek — In two new ads, Ted Cruz's campaign mocks his two leading Republican rivals. One ad depicts a support group for former Marco Rubio voters. The other shows children playing with a Donald Trump action figure.

Texas Regulators Eye Deceptive Electricity Pricing, by Jim Malewitz — Texas regulators say they’re ready to crack down on power companies that try to rope consumers into buying electricity plans that are pricier than they appear.

Families Accuse Bank of Laundering Gang Money, by Julián Aguilar — The families of several U.S. citizens murdered in Mexico filed a lawsuit this week against HSBC Holdings and its subsidiaries alleging the company supported various drug cartel activities by laundering millions of dollars for gangs.

Texas Regulators Uncertain on Hunt Deal, by Jim Malewitz — With a deadline for action looming, Texas regulators are struggling to make up their minds about the finer points of the Ray L. Hunt family’s $18 billion proposal to buy and reshape Oncor, the state’s biggest electric utility.

Ted Cruz Adds to Home-State Support as Texas Primary Nears, by Patrick Svitek — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is bolstering his home-field advantage with fewer than three weeks until the Texas primary, unveiling a raft of new endorsements from lawmakers in Austin and detailing his organization across the state for the March 1 nominating contest.

More Than 40 Texas Democrats Endorse Hillary Clinton, by Jamie Lovegrove — Hillary Clinton’s campaign is boasting the added support of more than 40 Texas officials as it continues to increase its focus on the Lone Star State.

Elsewhere

In Democratic Debate, Hillary Clinton Paints Bernie Sanders’s Plans as Unrealistic, The New York Times

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Secretary of State visits RGV to address border issues, McAllen Monitor

UT-RGV physicists played role in breakthrough discovery, San Antonio Express-News

HISD to rename 3 schools named after Confederate figures, Houston Chronicle

UTMB to work with Brazil on Zika vaccine, Houston Chronicle

GOP rivals will be years behind Cruz in Texas, Houston Chronicle

Feds to give go-ahead for nuclear plant expansion, Austin American-Statesman

Texas to let Baylor keep sex assault records private, The Associated Press

Holding Back the Flood, Texas Observer

Why it takes two years for a case to go through overworked U.S. immigration courts, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

"Mexico got him to do it because Mexico wants to keep the border just the way it is because they’re making a fortune and we’re losing.”

— Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, ripping into Pope Francis' upcoming trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, which he believes shows a lack of understanding about immigration by the pope.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

•    Live Post-Primary TribCast on March 2 at the Austin Club

•    Protecting Houston Before the Next Big Storm on March 3 at San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center in La Porte.

•    A Conversation with Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner on March 10 at the Austin Club

•    A Conversation with Sen. Carlos Uresti and Rep. Poncho Nevárez on April 13 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine

•    A Symposium on the Texas Economy on April 29 at the University of Houston