BREAKING: Trinity University Postpones Spring Semester Until Jan. 31, 2022

While enjoying their winter break, Trinity University students received an email this morning notifying them of the new plan for returning to campus for the spring semester, which was scheduled to begin on Jan. 12, 2022. As of this morning at 11:16 am, Wed. Dec. 29, the spring semester will not begin until Jan. 31, 2022. 

In an email from Tess Coody-Anders, the Vice President for Strategic Communications and Marketing at Trinity University, students learned that the decision was made due to the “dramatic increase” of positive COVID-19 cases in the Trinity community. Throughout the winter break, students have been responsible for self-reporting any positive COVID-19 diagnoses or any close contact with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. Trinity’s Nerve Center has taken these numbers into consideration when making this decision in an attempt to keep students, faculty, and staff safe and healthy. 

One of the concerns of the university is how contagious the Omicron variant of COVID-19 seems to be. If the virus spreads quickly among students, faculty, and staff on-campus, the university is concerned that it will be overwhelmed and not able to properly accommodate individuals who must quarantine on-campus for their own safety or the safety of their families or roommates. 

When asked to comment, Coody-Anders said that the academic calendar for the Spring 2022 semester is being adjusted and that faculty will adjust their syllabi accordingly. Students’ spring break will not be changed, postponed, or canceled. The decision to start the semester should not interfere with athletic events or activities, and the university is doing all that it can to protect students, faculty, and staff from COVID-19.

Article updated 12/20/2021 to include comments from Tess Coody-Anders, VP for Strategic Communications and Marketing at Trinity University.

Texas Takes a Baby Step Toward Election Integrity

This article is a repost and was originally published on July 19, 2021 by Capital Research Center.

Following the lead of several other states in the wake of the 2020 election (and the public distrust of elections that ensued), Texas passed its own legislation restricting the use of private money in elections.

According to research conducted by Capital Research Center, the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) gave $33.5 million to Texas county election offices across 117 different counties. Election administrators in these counties applied for CTCL grants and used the money for COVID-19 safety measures including drive-thru voting, mail voting sorting assets, polling place rental expenses, labor expenses and hazard pay, personal protective equipment, and voter education and outreach.

The most money (over $15 million) was granted to Dallas County, and the smallest amount was just over $47,000 given to Maverick County. Our own Bexar County received $1.9 million from CTCL. While CTCL claims the money was purely for COVID-19 relief for elections offices, Public Interest Legal Foundation tracked the 14 counties with the most significant donations from CTCL and found that blue-leaning counties received far more COVID-19 aid than red-leaning counties. Public Interest Legal Foundation also found that the total amount of money granted by CTCL in Texas could be over $36 million.

CTCL-funded counties gave President Joe Biden 69 percent of his Texas votes and former President Donald Trump only 25 percent of his votes. Of the $33 million to $36 million donated to various Texas counties, counties that voted for Trump received about $0.55 per capita from CTCL, while counties that voted for Biden received an average of $3.22 per capita.

In addition to the $350 million Mark Zuckerberg donated to CTCL, the nonprofit is also funded by left-leaning funding organizations like the Democracy Fund, Knight Foundation, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 2283 on June 12, 2021. The bill prohibits the joint elections commission, county elections commissions, and county elections boards from accepting private donations of $1,000 or greater without the written consent of the secretary of state. Before giving consent, the secretary of state must get the unanimous approval of the governor, lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the house of representatives. Donations less than $1,000 need only the written consent of the “relevant political subdivision.” While HB 2283 decreases the influence of private funding on elections, it does not fully ban private funding in elections altogether. Six other states have already passed laws fully banning “Zuck Bucks,” so why is Texas holding back?

With as much private money as flowed into Texas during the last election, it is not surprising that a bill like HB 2283 passed. The surprise is that Texas passed one of the weakest bills banning private funding in elections.

HB 2283 limits the amount of money that groups like CTCL can donate to Texas counties. It is a fine solution while those in power in Texas are staunchly opposed to private funding in elections. However, if Texas is one day run by politicians who support private funding in elections, HB 2283 will do little to protect Texas elections.

When compared with bills passed in other states, Texas’s HB 2283 falls short. Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, North Dakota, and Tennessee all passed laws fully banning private funding in elections. Unlike Texas, these states left no loopholes for future administrations and election officials to abuse.

HB 2283 falls short not only of the standard set by other states but also of expectations the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) created for the 2021 session. In 2020, RPT established election integrity reform as a top priority for the 2021 legislative session. The omnibus bill (SB 7/HB 6) of election reforms did not get through both the Senate and the House before the end of the 2021 session. As a small consolation prize, Texans must satisfy themselves with HB 2283 among several other smaller bills that touch on election integrity.

Admittedly, HB 2283 is a first step, a response to the 2020 election rather than a means to protect future elections. While public scrutiny into CTCL’s influence over the 2020 election may prevent it from interfering in future elections, it is probably too weak to prevent other organizations from doing the same in 2022 or 2024.

A second bill (HB 3) has since become the focus of a political circus, with Texas House Democrats fleeing the state to prevent the quorum required to vote on legislation.

IRS Grants Tax-Exempt Status to Christians Engaged

On July 7, 2021, Christians Engaged released a statement that the IRS had reversed its decision not to grant the organization 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. On May 18, 2021, the IRS denied Christians Engaged nonprofit status because “the bible [sic] teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican] party and candidates.” 

Christians Engaged is an organization that “provides nonpartisan religious and civic education, focusing on encouraging and educating Christians to be civically engaged as a part of their religious practice,” according to a statement released by First Liberty, which appealed to the IRS on behalf of Christians Engaged. 

501(c)(3) organizations are required not to be affiliated with any political party or overtly political. They cannot urge their members to support or oppose legislation, nor can they use a substantial portion of their funds for lobbying purposes. 501(c)(3) organizations also cannot endorse or publicly oppose any political candidate. However, according to the IRS guidelines, 501(c)(3), nonprofits can take a stand on divisive issues, so long as they do not use their stance on particular issues to endorse or oppose candidates.

In May, Christians Engaged was denied 501(c)(3) status because it allegedly “instruct[s] individuals on issues that are prominent in political campaigns and instruct them in what the Bible says about the issue and how they should vote. These issues include the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, and biblical justice,” according to a letter sent to Christians Engaged from the IRS. The IRS claimed that these issues are “associated with political party platforms.” Thus Christians Engaged is ineligible for nonprofit tax status. 

However, the IRS reversed its decision in July after First Liberty appealed on behalf of Christians Engaged. 

In a statement thanking First Liberty and various congressmen and senators who supported Christians Engaged, founder Bunni Pounds said that “This is a victory not only for Christians Engaged but for every Christian organization around America that teaches the Bible and cares about the future of our great nation.”

Point: Pornography Poses a Danger to Society

It is within the powers of a state government to protect its citizens from the dangers porn and the porn industry present. States should protect citizens, and right now, citizens need protection from porn.

Pornography is a danger to our society, and it should be highly regulated, if not banned entirely. Not only is it bad for the consumer, but it also preys on vulnerable members of society. The porn industry and consumers of porn are not simply engaging in a bad habit that doesn’t harm anyone. The production and consumption of porn actively does evil both to those taken advantage of by the industry and to the consumer and his or her interpersonal relationships. Because of the negative effects of porn, it is within the power of the state to regulate it to protect its citizens from further harm and exploitation.

The porn industry is linked to human trafficking. Although porn does not cause human trafficking and human trafficking existed before pornography, the two are related crimes. First, though, we have to establish what constitutes human trafficking. For the purposes of this article, I will be focusing on sex trafficking, but there are two other subcategories of human trafficking–organ trafficking and forced labor. Sex trafficking can take many forms and is defined as any commercial sex act which an individual engages in as a result of force, coercion, or fraud by Human Trafficking Search.  Any minor working in the sex industry, according to the US Department of Justice, is a victim of sex trafficking regardless of the presence–or lack thereof–of force, coercion, or fraud. Force is a kind of human trafficking that many people first think of when they think of sex trafficking. Usually, that is when someone is taken and physically forced to engage in commercial sexual activities. Fraud is when someone is misled or deceived into engaging in such activities, such as being told that partaking in commercial sexual acts will help them advance a career in acting or dancing, or that in exchange for doing this one act, the trafficker will get them a job or a promotion, depending on the circumstance. According to the US Department of Justice, “the coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological.” In an article by Beautiful Dream Society, the kinds of coercion tactics that sex traffickers employ can include “threats, lies, blackmail, intimidation, humiliation, and debt bondage.” While a person may agree to participate in commercial sex activities, they are doing so only out of fear of the trafficker or because they have been coerced into doing so. To recap, sex trafficking is when an individual engages in a commercial sex act as a direct result of force, coercion, or fraud. 

According to a study from the Journal of Counselor Practice, the porn industry creates increased demand for trafficked individuals. In addition, according to the study, much of pornography that is legally available online is produced illegally through force, coercion, or fraud, which takes advantage of trafficked individuals. In an interview with NBC-2, Julie Franklin, the chief operating officer of the Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Naples, FL, said that “Those taking part in watching porn, which they believe is something passive and private in their own home, do not know the background of the performers and are not educated on the very fact that many are being coerced or forced to act out these sexual scenes.” 

Franklin also said that many individuals who are trafficked into the porn industry had been sexually assaulted since they were children, and this makes them especially vulnerable to predators in the porn and human trafficking industries. The porn industry and sex traffickers both prey on already vulnerable individuals, as they are easier to traffick. 

There are many instances of anecdotal evidence of the porn industry taking advantage of women by publishing and profiting from videos of young girls and women being raped or otherwise exploited. Traffickinghub is one of the largest and most well-known entities fighting against the porn industry for “enabling, hosting, and profiting from videos of child rape, sex trafficking, and other forms of non-consensual content exploiting women and minors,” according to their petition. On Traffickinghub’s website, countless stories have been shared of children being taken advantage of by the porn industry and the link between human trafficking and pornography. 

On stoptraffickingdemand.com, they report that even porn actresses who initially consented to being filmed in porn movies had their contracts violated and were sexually and physically abused on set. These are not the marks of an industry that does its best not to take advantage of those who work in it. Although women are the most vocal about their experiences in the porn industry, I’m sure that there are cases of men also being abused. Vulnerable members of our society are being taken advantage of and abused, and the porn industry profits off that abuse by selling porn to consumers. 

Porn isn’t bad only because of its ties to sex trafficking. Its influence on the way porn-viewers interact with others and view others also make porn and its widespread consumption a danger to society. Porn commodifies sex and the people participating in sex. It encourages viewers to see actors and actresses on-screen as sex objects existing only for the viewer’s own sexual pleasure. By routinely consuming content in which people are turned into mere objects of sexual gratification, it stands to reason that viewers of porn may eventually view people around them as objects of sexual pleasure as well, rather than independent human beings. This is problematic because we should view human beings outside of how useful they are to us, and especially outside of what sexual gratification they can give to us. 

Viewing individuals only as sexual objects leads to problems in which people do not care about one another as human beings. In a 2010 study conducted by G.M. Hald et al., they found a positive correlation between “pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women in nonexperimental studies” (Hald et al.). The study also found that there are statistically significant correlations between attitudes supporting violence against women and the use of both sexually violent porn and non-violent porn. The study found that there is a stronger correlation between attitudes supporting violence against women and the consumption of sexually violent porn than between such attitudes and the consumption of non-violent porn. The consumption of porn is correlated to attitudes supporting violence and aggression towards women. While porn may not be the sole cause of these attitudes, it does offer a commodity and a space in which such attitudes are allowed, if not encouraged. 

Porn can also negatively influence romantic relationships. There have been many studies linking porn consumption to reduced satisfaction and function in romantic relationships, both in married and unmarried couples. In a 2009 study conducted by Maddox, Rhoades, and Markman, they found that couples who have never viewed porn had lower rates of infidelity than couples who only watch pornography together. In addition, the study found that individuals who did not view pornography had better communication and higher dedication to their partner than individuals who did view porn either by themselves or with their partner. 

Beyond the harmful effects porn has on society and interpersonal relationships, it also affects the individual viewer negatively. In Sam Black’s The Porn Circuit, he explains the chemicals which are released while having sex or watching porn. Black explains how when couples have sex, they can “experience a high, an alertness of sexual pleasure, and the deep calm afterwards (norepinephrine, endorphins, and serotonin). With each sexual embrace [they] are emotionally bonding to [their partner] (oxytocin and vasopressin). Over time a craving for sex is transformed into a desire for one another (dopamine).” When viewing porn, a person has no other individual to connect with, so they connect with the pornographic content they’ve just viewed. This chemical process encourages porn viewers to connect with porn and to continue to view more and more porn rather than to connect with a new non-porn individual.

But worse than the problems porn can cause to individuals and interpersonal relationships is the problem of how easily accessible porn is on the internet. On average, a child’s first exposure to porn is at the age of eleven. Oftentimes children accidentally find porn sites by accidentally typing a URL incorrectly or clicking on the wrong link. That happened multiple times in one of my classes my freshman year of high school when students were trying to find Kahoot.it to play a Kahoot as a review session. Porn is widespread and easy to find on the internet for free. It’s too easy to find, so easy to find that children are being exposed to porn. CHILDREN. Even if you argue that porn is okay for adults to watch as we must allow people to use free will and make their own decisions, I think we can all agree that it is unacceptable that children can so easily watch porn, especially if it’s an accident.

But just because porn is bad doesn’t mean that the government has any business banning it, or so one might be inclined to think. Some might argue that the publication and viewing of pornography is an expression of free speech, which is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. However, there are several kinds of speech which the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled exempt from free speech protections. One of these is obscenity. 

In Miller v. California, the SCOTUS ruled that obscene speech if 1) the average person, with contemporary values, considers the content to be appealing to “prurient interests,” meaning that the content has or encourages an excessive interest in sexual matters 2)  the material depicts or describes “in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law” and 3) the material as a whole “lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” 

Pornography is “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” By its own definition, pornography fails the first part of the obscenity test established in Miller v. California

Since we are in the state of Texas, I will refer to the Texas Penal Code for the second part of the test. According to the state of Texas, something is considered obscene if there are “patently offensive representations or descriptions of ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated, including sexual intercourse, sodomy, and sexual bestiality;” or if there are “patently offensive representations or descriptions of masturbation, excretory functions, sadism, masochism, lewd exhibition of the genitals, the male or female genitals in a state of sexual stimulation or arousal, covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state or a device designed and marketed as useful primarily for stimulation of the human genital organs.” Pornography is, again, a material containing “the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimlate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” Pornography is obscene material because that is the point of porn, and thus porn fails the second part of the test.

The third part of the test is another one in which porn fails. Porn is meant to be viewed and enjoyed for erotic feelings and sexual gratification. It is not meant to be an expression of art or aesthetically pleasing. Let’s be honest; no one watches porn for the plot or the greater value it adds to their life, other than its potential necessity for sexual gratification. Porn doesn’t belong in an art museum because of its inherent value, and it isn’t being used in biology or anatomy classrooms to aid in education or scientific research. Porn doesn’t add serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value to anyone’s life, and thus it fails the third part of the test SCOTUS established in Miller v. California

And yet, the Supreme Court has refrained from considering porn obscenity. So perhaps an argument on the First Amendment is not the one to make for stricter regulations on porn. Instead, let’s think about the porn issue in terms of state police powers. Utah recently passed a bill requiring cellphones to have a built-in block on pornography in an effort to protect children from accidentally exposing themselves to porn. At the federal level, a similar bill was ruled unconstitutional. However, it might be within Utah’s state police powers to enact such a bill within the state. States are supposed to have more power than the federal government to enact laws and protect their citizens because states are better equipped to attend to state needs than the federal government. 

I would argue that it is within a state’s police powers to severely restrict access to pornography. The highest burden on the state in cases involving infringement on individual liberties is Strict Scrutiny, in which 1) there is a sufficiently important governmental interest and 2) there is no more infringement upon liberty than strictly necessary. 

The majority of this article has been spent discussing how bad porn and the porn industry is. The porn industry takes advantage of women and children and profits off exploiting them. Porn itself is damaging to relationships and to the people that watch it. Porn is easily accessible by children, oftentimes by accident. Because of these major problems porn causes, the state has a sufficiently important governmental interest in regulating porn and limiting access to it. 

Now, the best way to completely get rid of porn and the negative impact it has on our society is to completely ban it. But that won’t happen anytime soon, and something even worse would probably take its place if the federal government decided to ban porn completely. Besides, it would be impossible to simply ban porn, as the government has no business snooping into people’s private lives to make sure no one is watching any porn in the privacy of their own homes. But what the state can do is regulate the sale of porn and the websites which profit off it through sales or advertisements. The state can and should impose regulations making it far more difficult to produce porn, and it should impose regulations making it more difficult to access porn. Users should have to prove that they are over 18 before being able to access porn sites. Depending on the state and the citizens living there, it would be within the state’s power to create a law like Utah’s, which compels phones and other technology to have a built-in restriction to keep users from accessing porn sites. 

Some might say that a crackdown on the porn industry and viewers of porn is harsh and an infringement on individual liberties. But a crucial part of government is protecting its citizens. That’s why we have laws regulating the sale of alcohol and tobacco products, as well as something as commonplace as driving. It is within the powers of a state government to protect its citizens from the dangers porn and the porn industry present. States should protect citizens, and right now, citizens need protection from porn.

Congressman Chip Roy Zooms to Trinity University

Local Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) met with students at Trinity University to discuss conservative issues in Congress and in their district.

On Tues. Mar. 2, 2021, Congressman Chip Roy (R-Texas) came to Trinity University to speak to students. The event was run and sponsored by the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) chapter. 

Nathan Darsch, Class of 2022 and Chairman of YCT at Trinity University, said that he “asked Congressman Chip Roy to speak at the meeting because he is what we need more of in Congress.” Darsch also said that Roy “is a true conservative who will put his principles before party and I wanted my members to see that there are people genuinely fighting for conservative values and trying to make life better for future generations. My hope is that by listening to Congressman Roy it will encourage my members to help get more people like him elected in the future.”

Roy spoke about Texas Independence, COVID-19, and the importance of preserving individual freedoms. Roy spoke to the students for about 30 minutes, and then spent the last 30 minutes of the meeting answering questions in a Q&A format. Attendees of the event asked questions about COVID-19 relief bills, upcoming gun control bills, and fiscal responsibility (or lack thereof) of the United States government. 

When asked about fiscal responsibility and the government’s infringement of individual freedoms, Roy asked his audience to consider one important fact: “You cannot fund the people who are taking your freedom away and expect to have freedom.” Roy told students that states should use their power to keep the federal government in check, especially states like Texas that have citizens whose freedoms are being infringed by the federal government. The government’s primary function is to protect its citizens, and state governments should protect their citizens even from the federal government if it is necessary.

Roy made sure to clarify that he did not support a physical uprising–nor does he condone the the events at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021–but he did say that states should take legal action against the federal government if things get out of hand and it is necessary to do so in order to protect the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. 

Students who attended the event felt positively about Roy and his talk. Joseph Burrhus, Class of 2024, said that “Our meeting with Congressman Chip Roy was both inspiring and educational. He was able to communicate powerful arguments and explanations about important issues while also expressing his passionate love and devotion toward the country and the people he serves.” When asked about how the event influenced his views of YCT or his desire to attend future meetings, Burrhus said “After the meeting with Chip Roy, I feel more incentivized to go to YCT meetings because they are a great opportunity to learn about different issues, why they are important, and what can be done to fix them.”

Emma McMahan, Class of 2021 and a former officer of YCT, also enjoyed the meeting. She thought that Roy’s “ introductory speech in the beginning of the meeting reeled me into the discussion because he was obviously passionate about his beliefs, decreasing federal spending, for instance.” McMahan also commented on YCT’s friendly relationship with Roy, for whose campaign many YCT members from Trinity University have volunteered to blockwalk and phonebank. “I think YCT having a close connection with a U.S. Congressman like Chip Roy is a good thing because it gives us a good reputation as a conservative club.”

Ellis Jacoby, Class of 2024, also enjoyed the event. When asked about his reaction to Roy’s talk, he said that Roy “was really interesting and gave me some insight into how Congress really works. His explanation on how few chances he has to propose amendments to bills really shows how little influence individual Congressman have over the bills that Congress passes.” Jacoby also mentioned that Roy’s “level of concern for our national debt and his calls to have us hold our members of Congress accountable definitely encouraged me to do more to influence my representatives.” 

The event encouraged members of YCT to interact more with their local government and representatives, and to keep fighting for conservative values. The small event enabled for personal discussions and connections between club members and Roy, and students enjoyed the experience to meet with their Congressman and hear his opinions on important conservative issues. 

40 Days For Life Returns to San Antonio

On Feb. 17, 2021, the 40 Days For Life Campaign will return to San Antonio. The campaign aims to end abortion in San Antonio by asking volunteers to spend an hour or two in silent prayer on the sidewalk outside of Planned Parenthoods.

On Feb. 17, 2021, the 40 Days For Life Campaign will return to San Antonio. The campaign aims to end abortion in San Antonio by asking volunteers to spend an hour or two in silent prayer on the sidewalk outside of Planned Parenthoods. 40 Days For Life starts on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent for many Christians, and they ask the whole community to join them in prayer and fasting, even while not actively on the sidewalk. 

According to Tammy Villasenor, the coordinator of the local San Antonio campaign, “40 Days for Life has made a difference here [in San Antonio]. Our volunteers have made extraordinary sacrifices to expose the abortion industry and to protect children and their mothers from abortion.” In the 40 Days For Life press release, the organization shared how much of a difference their campaigns have made in the last 14 years. The first campaign in San Antonio in 2007 saw a 40% reduction in abortions. The new Sidewalk Intern Program, implemented in 2020, provides 50 life-affirming gift bags a week to clients entering the abortion facility. In addition to this, the spring campaign for 2021 already has 596 registered volunteers contributing hundreds of hours of service. 

Cathy Nix, the program director of San Antonio’s 40 Days For Life Campaign, encourages everyone who supports the pro-life movement to volunteer just an hour of their time on the sidewalk. “Each prayer, each person matters in this fight for the protection of the unborn.  Grab a friend, set an hour, and then just go!  Imagine that there was a toddler in the street, and they were going to get hit if you didn’t step in and save them.  Your prayers and your presence save lives just as sure as this.  40 Days for Life is the most effective pro-life campaign ever.  It is peaceful, it is prayerful, and it is very successful.  We would love to see you out there as part of the solution – the beginning of the end of abortion.  Don’t be afraid!  God will truly bless your efforts,” Nix said. 

40 Days For Life is a peaceful “non-denominational initiative that focuses on 40 days of prayer and fasting, peaceful vigil at abortion facilities, and grassroots educational outreach,” according to the campaign’s press release. Rather than antagonizing or harassing Planned Parenthood workers or clients, the 40 Days For Life “campaign will feature a peaceful 40-day prayer vigil in the public right-of-way outside Planned Parenthood at 2140 Babcock Rd.” To avoid confrontation and to ensure that the campaign remains as peaceful and effective as possible, “All prayer vigil participants are asked to sign a statement of peace, pledging to conduct themselves in a Christ-like manner at all times.”

However, 40 Days For Life is not the only group to lead pro-life campaigns on the sidewalk. According to Nix, “Other groups come to the sidewalk and do things differently.  40 Days for Life doesn’t own the sidewalk, so the public right of way is sometimes occupied with abortion victim signs or people with bullhorns.  This is not OUR way, but freedom of speech is a right, and it works both ways.  When faced with this challenge, we usually keep our distance and continue to do what we have come to do.” When asked about the 40 Days For Life campaign, Nix said that “Only trained Sidewalk Advocates and Interns are supposed to speak to the clients.  The Prayer Partners are silent, and they sometimes hold signs that say, ‘Pray for an end to abortion.’ This is what we do… Often when others see the effectiveness of the 40 Days for Life model, they come and join us.  It is best to lead by example.” 

“40 Days for Life has generated proven life-saving results since its beginning in 2004 in Bryan/College Station, Texas,” said Shawn Carney, president of 40 Days for Life. “During 26 previously coordinated campaigns, over 1000 communities have participated in this effort. More than 1,000,000 people—representing some 20,000 churches—have committed to pray and fast. And we know of over 17,000 unborn children whose lives were spared from abortion during 40 Days for Life campaigns.”

On Feb. 13, 2021, from 3:00-4:00 pm, 40 Days For Life is holding a socially-distanced opening rally featuring an opening and closing prayer from Bishop Emeritus Michael Pfieffer, as well as a talk from pro-life speaker Joe Calver on the “Role of Men as Pro-Life Advocates.” The rally takes place at 2202 Babcock Rd 78229. 

For information about 40 Days for Life in San Antonio, visit: http://www.40daysforlife.com/SanAntonio.

For assistance or more information, please contact Catherine Nix at cathy@sacfl.org or (210)668-1993.

Cover image taken and provided by Angelique Lopez.

Social Class in “Emma” and “Clueless”

Emma is not about Emma, but about class issues, social structure. It is a study of the interactions between individuals from various social classes and the rigid rules of society that constrain all interactions. Those are very difficult things to convey on-screen in a way that stays true to the plot while also keeping the audience’s attention.

Emma is one of my favorite Jane Austen novels. Despite its rather large cast of unlikable characters, the novel is delightfully clever and funny.  I enjoy watching as Emma Woodhouse grows up from a shallow and spoiled girl into a woman whom not only her friends and neighbors admire, but the reader as well. Her character growth is exciting to watch, and the reader cheers her on as she slowly grows and changes into a better person.

Although Emma Woodhouse is not entirely likable, she always tells herself that she is doing what is best for those around her. She involves herself in matchmaking for her friends and neighbors in Highbury. While the novel is, technically, about Emma, it is moreso about the society in which Emma and her neighbors live and the various codified interactions they have with those of different social classes. Emma is a novel about social structure and class, and the conflicts that arise when living in a society as stratefied as Regency-era England. 

Emma (2020) is the most recent adaptation of the classic novel. However, it struggles to compete with Clueless (1995), an adaptation of the novel set in the modern world and focused on the love-lives of privileged teenagers in Los Angeles, California. Although Anya-Taylor Joy is a good actress and does an admirable job in portraying Emma Woodhouse, Emma does not have a likable protagonist. This is, perhaps, the way in which the film stays closest to the source material. For most of the 2020 movie, Emma is an unlikable character, much as she is at the beginning of Austen’s novel.

I can’t lie. Emma is an aesthetically pleasing movie. Director Autumn de Wilde is most known for her photography, and her eye for a pleasing picture makes itself known in the film. The colors, sets, and cinematography are beautiful. The eye-catching costumes contrast beautifully with the neutral and more sedate backgrounds. 

But the theme of the movie feels all wrong. Admittedly, I couldn’t get myself to finish the movie. Although it felt like a waste of the $3.99 I paid to rent the movie, I had to turn off the movie three-quarters of the way in. I thought the movie was terrible. While the plot points were true to those in the novel, it all felt like it lacked Austen’s wit and humor. Sure, there were funny moments, and I appreciated how the score made several scenes ironic and laughable. 

But it lacked the distinct charm and relatability which makes both the novel and Clueless such classics. The characters are written and portrayed in such a way that it is difficult for the modern audience to relate to them, but at the same time, they’re not so antique-feeling that one can see them as charming vestiges of a long-gone era. 

Emma is a difficult story to elegantly and successfully adapt for a modern audience. At its core, Austen’s Emma is about social class. Miss Harriet Smith is potentially of high enough social status to marry the vicar, Mr. Eliot, but certainly not of the right social status to marry Mr. Knightley. Emma Woodhouse is of too high status to ever consider marrying Mr. Eliot, but of the right status to consider either Mr. Knightley or Mr. Churchill. And this list of overlapping social statuses goes on and on and dictates most–if not all–of the novel. 

An adaptation must handle these class issues in a way that makes sense to its audience. Emma features potential couples who are not only ill-suited because of their incompatible personalities and temperament, but also because of their vastly different social standing. 1995’s Clueless handles this issue by setting the scene in a system of semi-rigid social classes with which we are all familiar: Hollywood-imagined high school, riddled with stereotypical divisions of social standing. 

The newest adaptation of Emma does not handle this issue as elegantly. The social classes are unclear, although they are alluded to and somewhat illustrated by showing the differences in clothing, manners, and homes. Mr. Knightley does allude to Harriet Smith’s social standing when he tells Emma why the girl is foolish for turning down her first proposal. Still, he never exactly explains why, or that Mr. Elton is somewhere on the social totem pole below land-owning members of society like Mr. Knightey but above tenant farmers like the Martins. 

Emma is lacking a quality that I cannot explain in words. Unlike Pride and Prejudice (2005) or even Mansfield Park (1999), Emma does not make itself easily relatable to its audience. The struggles Emma and the other characters face do not become the struggles of the audience. Throughout the movie, I was struggling to make myself care about the plot and about each of the characters, and I’ve read Emma multiple times because I love it. 

Emma is, in my opinion, a much more difficult story to adapt to the screen than any of Austen’s other novels. Emma is not about Emma, but about class issues, social structure. It is a study of the interactions between individuals from various social classes and the rigid rules of society that constrain all interactions. Those are very difficult things to convey on-screen in a way that stays true to the plot while also keeping the audience’s attention. 

Clueless is able to do this so much more easily than Emma because of its modern setting. We are all familiar with the social structure and rules of hierarchy in Cher Horowitz’s life. Rather than being confused or annoyed at the ways societal expectations nudge characters in particular directions, we understand without the film having to deviate into a long-winded explanation. Emma lacks this ease, and honestly, it makes the film difficult to watch. 

Get to Know TU Clubs

This semester is a very strange one to be a tiger, especially for first year students. Rather than being able to attend the annual Student Involvement Fair and being overwhelmed by students handing out fliers, goody-bags, stickers, and cookies, the Class of 2024 attended an online zoom session with various clubs after watching their self-made introductory videos.

To help Tower readers–especially freshmen–find their niche on campus, I’ve interviewed officers from four different clubs to explain their club, how it enhances student life at Trinity University, and why new students should attend their meetings.

Tigers for Life is dedicated to discussing various pro-life issues on campus, educating members and Trinity students, and volunteering and engaging in activism to support the goals of the Pro-Life Movement. According to club president Angelique Lopez (Class of 2022): “Tigers for Life enhances student life at Trinity by bringing more diverse conversations about topics that are important yet a lot of people are uncomfortable talking about. By having weekly meetings and frequent information tables, we seek to educate and spread awareness about end-of-life issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, In Vitro Fertilization and embryonic stem cell research. In addition, Tigers for Life seeks to enhance student life at Trinity with its new Pregnant on Campus Initiative which aims to make Trinity more inclusive to pregnant and parenting students. Hopefully, with this initiative, we can help end the stigma against pregnant and parenting students and eventually be able to provide some kind of financial aid for those students.

“If students are interested in learning more about end-of-life issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, IVF and embryonic stem cell research, or would like to volunteer helping women with crisis pregnancies, Tigers for Life is a great group to join and welcomes both pro-life and pro-choice students. 

“Tigers for Life remains dedicated to our mission of defending the value and dignity of all human lives this semester, whether on or off campus. In accordance with this mission, the health and safety of our members, classmates and community are of utmost importance given the circumstances this fall. For the time being, we are hosting all club gatherings virtually, but we will adjust our plans in accordance with university guidelines to come and with our members’ circumstances and wishes.” Tigers for Life holds weekly meetings via Zoom every Thursday from 6-7pm.

The Young Conservatives of Texas is the only politically-oriented club on campus for Conservative students. They focus on discussions about both conservative philosophy and policy and often volunteer on various local campaigns. According to the current president, Nathan Darsch (Class of 2022), “YCT enhances student life at Trinity by giving students a place to listen to and be part of more conservative discussion that otherwise wouldn’t have been on Trinity’s campus.

“Any Trinity student can come to our meetings and join us in our discussions. We are actively looking for conservative or libertarian students that believe in the ideas and ideals laid out in the Constitution and by the Founding Fathers.” To keep their sense of community during COVID-19, YCT will “be holding meetings and many of our social events over zoom. Despite having to do most things over Zoom, we hope to still be able to do a few activities on and around campus so that club members can work together and feel like they are part of the community,” said Darsch. YCT holds its weekly meetings every Tuesday from 6-7pm via Zoom.

This semester is the first semester in many years in which Trinity University has had its own chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). Club founders Zachary Neeley (Class of 2021) and Timothy Yen (Class of 2022) founded YAL “to provide an on-campus home for libertarian students at Trinity that could serve the two-fold purpose of talking about issues libertarians care about in a libertarian setting and acting as a way for libertarians to get to know each other in an open and friendly environment,” said Neeley. He and Yen both expressed that they had attended meetings held by YCT, but did not feel that they could talk about libertarian issues they cared about in the majority-conservative meetings. 

Yen said that YAL enhances student life at Trinity because their “approach to campus politics is very simple: cooperation. We want to engage with other clubs on campus, both political and non-political, in the areas where our values and positions overlap. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, but the paradigm of libertarianism, which I like to summarize as ‘don’t hurt others, and don’t take their stuff,’ can be applied to daily life as well. Recently, there has been a project called ‘The Trinity Way’ where students anonymously submit complaints and stories about their experiences at Trinity. I think many of these problems can be fixed using the libertarian framework of resolving issues outside of institutions of authority. We understand that we are not policymakers, but we would like to bring attention to certain issues that we care about as libertarians, such as the war on drugs and the atrocities in Yemen enabled in no small part by the United States.” 

While YAL is primarily made up of libertarian members, Yen said that YAL “welcome[s] all political ideologues to our meetings. We plan on being transparent with our meeting topics, so if anyone may be interested in a certain issue, or perhaps debate us on an issue, they are more than welcome to join us for those meetings. Libertarians have internal debates too, and we’d love to have Trinity students, both those who identify as libertarians and those who don’t, to weigh in.”

YAL holds weekly meetings via zoom from 5-6pm CST. In addition to this, Yen said that “We also have a GroupMe chat, where we often talk about politics, but we also try to build a community by talking about music, sports, and our lives outside of politics. We actually have a lot in common besides politics, and I feel very lucky that we have the infrastructure to continue our friendship and community while we are not together geographically. Additionally, we engage our members by giving them the opportunity to vote on what kind of posts we put on our Twitter (@TrinityYal) and Instagram (@yalibertytrinityu).” 

The Catholic Student Group (CSG) at Trinity does its best to foster in students both a deep love for Christ and a greater understanding of Catholic teachings. According to the current president, Alex Jacobs (Class of 2020), “CSG enhances student life at Trinity in several ways. First and foremost, we bring the sacraments to campus, primarily the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist. The power of these sacraments is eternal life, which is the greatest life enhancement you could possibly get. Although only a minority of the students on campus actually take advantage of these sacraments, the grace contained in them is the grace of Christ, which is infinite, and so their effects are not limited only to the people who receive them. The people who receive the sacraments on campus become beacons of light, through which God shines his grace on the rest of the campus.

CSG accepts all interested members, particularly “both Catholics and people who are interested in Catholicism. We have opportunities to learn about the faith and can provide any truth-seekers with ample resources to bring that search to term. We will have Mass regularly at 5pm in Parker Chapel. Furthermore, we plan to have some zoom events as well as some random outdoor gatherings with small numbers of people. We also have Bible studies that people are always welcome to join. Some of our zooms will be speakers.”

County Commissioner Candidate Falsifies Campaign Contribution Reports

Christine Hortick, a candidate for County Commissioner in Bexar County, has raised over $7,000 in political contributions to her campaign. According to members of her opponent Trish DeBerry’s Finance Committee, at least 17% of that money comes from falsified donation claims. 

The DeBerry Campaign first noticed the discrepancies in Hortick’s campaign contribution reports when Daniel Ortiz, a member of DeBerry’s Finance Committee, was notified that he had erroneously been listed on the report. “This is extremely upsetting,” said Ortiz. “I am shocked to find my name on Ms. Hortick’s campaign report. I have thrown my full support behind Trish [DeBerry] and, until this morning, had very little information about her opponent. I should be removed.” In addition to Ortiz, Brad Carson and Debra Guerrero were also listed as financial supporters of Hortick’s campaign, despite both stating that they have never supported, nor even met Hortick. Hortick claims to have received $1,250 in total from these three individuals. It begs the question: how many other campaign contributions have been falsified on Hortick’s report?

It is a felony to falsify governmental records. Hortick, or at least members of her campaign, allegedly committed a felony in falsifying this information to further her campaign’s success. When asked about Hortick’s campaign contribution reports, DeBerry said: “a complaint should be filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.” DeBerry also said that a complaint should be leveled against Hortick with the Bar Association because, as a practicing attorney with her own private practice, she should be held accountable for such a discrepancy happening under her nose. 

“The fact that it was riddled with errors makes me wonder if she even reviewed the report. It’s sloppy and unprofessional”

-Trish DeBerry

The campaign contribution and expense reports made 30 days before the election are some of the most important documents to a candidate’s campaign. “The fact that it was riddled with errors makes me wonder if she even reviewed the report. It’s sloppy and unprofessional,” DeBerry said. “This tells voters that my opponent is not to be trusted. If she can’t manage $7,000 in campaign contributions, how is she going to handle a $2B Bexar County budget?”

Assumption Seminary Attacked and Vandalized

Trespassers smashed doors and the image of Jesus Christ on the cross in an attack on Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, TX

Between 10 and 11pm on Thursday, Sep. 24, 2020, Assumption Seminary in San Antonio was attacked and vandalized. Although no one was injured in the attack, trespassers managed to crack the entrance doors to Lopez Hall, which is serving as the Discernment House for the San Antonio Archdiocese. This is a dormitory where men can live while discerning whether they are called to enter the seminary and the priesthood. Gilbert Valadez, one of the men living in the Discernment House, said that “I had just finished getting groceries and food and arrived at the seminary. Had I not made the stop to buy food, I am certain I would’ve run into the intruders.”

The doors to Lopez Hall, taken by Alexander Jacobs

In addition to merely smashing some doors and breaking some windows, the vandals smashed the feet of Jesus on the Crucifix outside of the main chapel in the seminary. They also put a black jersey over Jesus’ head. Alexander Jacobs, a Trinity University student (Class of 2020), who currently lives in Lopez Hall in Assumption Seminary said that “there has been a significant increase in the desecration of Catholic Churches and statues. Statues of Mary have had their heads chopped off, statues of Jesus have been destroyed, and the Lord Himself present in the Most Holy Eucharist has been desecrated. The next thing is for them to attack the clergy themselves.”

Feet of Jesus on the Crucifix at the main chapel, taken by Isaiah Ringen

In the last several months, several churches have been attacked and vandalized. Statues of Jesus Christ have been destroyed or beheaded, the Eucharist has been stolen or desecrated, and statues of the Virgin Mary have been beheaded and crushed as well. Jacobs also said that “The attack [last night] is the first of its kind that I’ve seen, where someone goes and directly attacks a seminary dorm at night when people are sleeping. While this is an outrage, it’s also very sad, because for the people who are doing this, they are unknowingly damning themselves to hell for all eternity. I pray for their conversion so they don’t have to face God in this miserable state.” 

Cover image taken by Isaiah Ringen