Tower Center Team Chairs Graduate Seminar at ASHE Conference

School of Education – SOE - Dean Dr. Michael McLendon – Barfield Drawing Room - Burleson Quadrangle – 06/26/2015

Dean Dr. Michael McLendon, Baylor University

Tower Center Senior Fellow Dr. Michael McLendon is chairing a preconference seminar with the assistance of Tower Center Executive Director Luisa del Rosal and Program Specialist Olisa Dellas for the 41st annual Association for the Study of Higher Education Conference.

The Graduate Student Public Policy Seminar, in  Columbus, Ohio Nov. 9-10, is exclusive to graduate students who have been nominated by their advisors through an application process. The seminar runs like a think tank, according to del Rosal, with a focus on discussion.

“This is a great opportunity for graduate students to learn from prominent public policy scholars for universities around the nation,” del Rosal said.  “We come together for two days of discussion, ideas sharing, policy and a bit of practice at our workshop session.”

Students accepted into the seminar are all PhD candidates and will have the opportunity to talk about their research with a panel of experts. Follow Luisa del Rosal on Twitter for Conference updates at @LuisaMdRB.

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Brexit judgment proves exclusion of Parliament from Article 50 is illegal

The High Court of Justice ruled Nov. 3 that Parliament must vote in order to activate Article 50, which would begin the process of the UK leaving Europe. Tower Center Fellow and constitutional law expert Sionaidh Douglas-Scott responded in a statement on Queen Mary University of London’s website.

Douglas-Scott said allowing the UK government to enact Article 50 without a vote from Parliament goes against the strengthened, independent democracy voters were seeking in the June referendum.

“That would be extremely undemocratic, and democracy is what we are constantly told the EU referendum was about,” Douglas-Scott said.

The UK government said it will appeal the court’s decision, though Douglas-Scott says it will be hard to overturn.

Read her full response here.

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Fairooz Adams | Identity Politics and anti-Assimilation in the U.S.

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Fairooz Adams, class of 2018, published two essays in the University Honors Program’s publication Hilltopics. The first looks at the push for political correctness on college campuses and the second addresses the importance of assimilation for immigrants in the U.S.


Adams examines a wave of student activism that has broken out in reaction to alleged racism on campuses such as Yale University, the University of Missouri and the University of Oklahoma. Adams argues this activism has resulted in an assault on free speech on campuses across the nation.

“Young college-aged liberals in particular have embraced the movement to create socially hypersensitive utopias on college campuses,” Adams wrote.

Read his full essay here.


Adams talks about the importance of assimilation for immigrants in the U.S., something that he argues is necessary for the long-term stability of the nation. Adams says the lack of immigration culture in places like Europe has lead to increased violence in those regions.

“Assimilation and social cohesion are critical components of a nation’s success,” Adams wrote. “For a country to remain intact, its citizens must share a common affinity for one another. That is nationhood.”

Read his full essay here.

Tower Center Scholars PortraitsFairooz Adams is a pre-law junior majoring in political science, and intending to major in international studies and communication studies. Adams is president of SMU College Democrats, cofounder and Secretary of the United Students Association, Dedman Senator and Vice Chairman of the Student Concerns Committee in Student Senate, and Chairman of the Organizations Committee for Not On My Campus, as well as an AIPAC campus liaison. He is the treasurer of the Young Democrats of Denton County. Upon completion of his undergraduate career, Adams intends to attend law school and later enter public service.

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Tower Scholar Interviewed on Al Jazeera

Tower Scholar Kovan Barzani, class of 2017, was interviewed on Al Jazera about canvassing in North Dallas. Barzani is managing Jim Burke’s campaign to be elected as Texas State Representative for District 114. Burke is running against Jason Villalba, who is serving his third term. The district hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1971, according to Barzani.


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Victoria Farrar-Myers | Social Media’s Influence on Elections

Tower Center Senior Fellow Victoria Farrar-Myers was part of a panel for the McCuistion episode “How Social Media and Technology Influence Elections” Oct. 30.

Farrar-Myers talked about the research she did for the book she edited “Controlling the Message: New Media in American Political Campaigns” during the 2012 presidential election.

“Social media really affected at the margins,” Farrar-Myers said. People used social media to reinforce what they believe, and it hardened their positions. She also found that while it’s essential for campaigns to have a social media presence, the fundamentals of campaigns, i.e. having a clear message and a ground team, haven’t changed.

Watch the episode here.

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Adam Levine | How Political Rhetoric Engages and Demobilizes Citizens


Adam Seth Levine, professor of government from Cornell University, gave his talk “How Political Rhetoric Engages and Demobilizes Citizens”  at the Tower Center- Latino Center for Leadership and Development joint policy forum Oct. 28.

Conventional wisdom about political rhetoric leads people to believe talking about problems increases engagement. Levine argues that political rhetoric is self-undermining. While it leads to increased concern about problems, it also inflames them and decreases political activism.

He used Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign as an example. At the third presidential debate, Trump would not commit to accepting the election results if he loses. He has repeatedly claimed that the election is rigged, and Levine argues that this hurts his campaign.

In his research, Levine found that telling people their voice isn’t being heard, doesn’t make them want to participate. Instead it serves as an anti-Get out the vote effort for Trump.

This theory holds true with other political rhetoric. Talking about economic insecurity in a campaign reduces financial and time donations to causes. “When you tell people they’re poor, they don’t want to spend money on your cause,” Levine said.

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Latino Catholics more likely to vote Democratic than Protestants


Latino Public Policy postdoc Alicia Reyes-Barrientez presented on her dissertation, “Divided by Faith? An Examination of Religious Affiliation as a Determinant of Group Consciousness Among Latinxs” at the Tower Center Oct. 26.

Reyes-Barrientez found that Latinos have historically voted Democratic, with the Democratic Party receiving 58 percent of their vote on average from 1977-2014. The Republican Party has received only 19 percent on average, with the years 2000 and 2004 as an exception when George W. Bush received more than 40 percent of the vote.

According to a Pew Research poll, 55 percent of Latinos in the U.S. identify as Catholic, and 22 percent are Protestants. In her research, Reyes-Barrientez looked at four sub-groups to better understand how religion affects voting habits: evangelical Catholics, mainline Catholics, evangelical Protestants and mainline Protestants, with the evangelicals being more religiously traditional.

While these groups share traditional values that should align them with the Republican Party, such as being pro-life and anti-gay marriage, they vote Democratic because that Party is perceived as what is best for the group. The more connected Latinos feel to each other, the more likely they are to vote Democratic.

This means, Reyes-Barrientez argues, that Catholics, and even more so evangelical Catholics, are most likely to vote Democratic; belonging to the Catholic Church enhances group consciousness and promotes political unity among Latinos.

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Q&A | Life as a Scholar and Athlete


The Tower Center sat down with Tower Scholar A.J. Jeffries to discuss his experience with the Tower Scholars Program and the SMU men’s soccer team. Jeffries is majoring in economics, history and public policy with minors in philosophy and public policy and international affairs. His directed research project is with Hunt Mexico looking at the cross-border electricity trade between the U.S. and Mexico.

You will be the first HCM Tower Scholar to graduate from the Program this December. How will you use the minor in your career?

Tower Scholars PortraitsMy interests are varied, and I hope to indulge as many of them as possible en route to a fulfilling life.  The beauty of the Tower Scholars Program is that no matter what I do, the lessons I take from it will be applicable.  Over the course of the Program I did not learn specific, narrow information like military configurations on the Korean peninsula that bind me to a very small area of policy.  Instead, I learned how to take a problem and analyze it in a number of ways to find solutions that would be viable in different circumstances.  That problem solving, policymaking experience will be vital.

Working with role models like Dr. Victoria Farrar-Myers, former director of the Program, also provided an invaluable experience, as she showed me a model of professionalism that I hope to emulate over the course of my professional life.  Finally, the connections I have made during my time as a Tower Scholar will give me a leg up in many industries, and the bonds I have formed with members of my cohort will make me part of an elite, eight-person class of top professionals across a variety of industries.

What role has being a part of the SMU men’s soccer team played in your college experience?

For me, being a student athlete is not part of the “college experience.”  Really, all it did was limit the college experience.  Instead of spending late nights studying or hanging out with friends, I had to go to bed early and be up for practice every morning.  My schedule was busy enough that many weekend nights were spent at my desk trying to get ahead on homework.  I am not complaining.  Soccer is my favorite thing about almost every day, but the myth of sports participation shaping a “college experience” rings false. Sports are an addendum to the experience, offering knowledge and experiences that the college experience does not encompass.

What skills have you acquired as a competitive athlete that translate into your daily life as a student, and will soon translate into your life as a professional?

Discipline, perseverance, and adaptability.  Discipline tends to be a trait that is frequently challenged in college.  The myriad temptations offered by a college campus are hard to avoid, but as a soccer player I had to choose between having fun in the moment or being able to perform to the best of my abilities on the field the next day.  On the field, discipline can mean not talking back to referees, while in the workforce it can mean not talking back to bosses.

After tearing my ACL five times in the past six years, I have needed a great deal of perseverance to keep playing.  That same perseverance pushed me to keep working on classwork even when I was tired or frustrated, and it will drive me to overcome obstacles in my professional career as well.

Finally, adaptability is key on the soccer field.  Over the course of my soccer career, I have played almost every position on the pitch, each time ready to take on the new challenge.  After I graduate, that willingness to learn new things and the ability to use my skills in new fields will make me successful in any profession I choose.

Is there a specific accomplishment as a student athlete you’re most proud of?

My proudest moment as a student athlete is when people tell me they didn’t realize I was one.  There is an unfortunate, pervasive stereotype about student athletes that we are a bunch of muscle-bound dunces; many people automatically expect less from us.  It brings me enormous joy to defy those stereotypes, so if I have changed one person’s view of student athletes I am very proud of that.

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Tower Chair Josh Rovner | No-fly zones in Syria won’t lead to political settlement

Tower Chair Joshua Rovner was quoted in the Guardian’s article “Why Hillary Clinton’s plans for no-fly zones in Syria could provoke U.S.-Russia conflict” Oct. 25.

Washington has debated no-fly zones in Syria for five years, a tactic Hillary Clinton defended in the third presidential debate.

“I wish this would be the kind of leverage she seems to hope it is, but I don’t see why this would pose a serious threat to Assad or Putin,” Rovner said. “It’s accepting a lot of new costs with very few benefits.”

Read the article here.

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Student Blog — Claire Huitt | China’s Evolving Economy and Society


Claire Huitt interviews Dr. Andrew Walder after his lecture at the Tower Center Sept. 29.

China of the last four decades, with its heavily centralized bureaucracy and its exponential economic growth, is a far cry from the first three decades of the People’s Republic of China, yet the remnants of the Maoist era still greatly affect post-Mao China. Mao’s policies and campaigns such as the Anti-Rightist Movement, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution profoundly influenced China’s development. In his talk at the Tower Center Sept. 29, Dr. Andrew Walder, a prominent sociologist from Stanford University, found that precedents set by the Cultural Revolution have helped further China’s development through political reform.

Four conditions for reform

The delegitimization of Maoism, and Deng Xiaoping’s gradual and experimental economic reform were made possible by four circumstances that necessitated such change: (1) The Cultural Revolution destroyed the bureaucracy of the Party. China had been reduced to a military dictatorship, a disorganized mess, that greatly contrasted the long-established Soviet bureaucracy. (2) China was so backward it was falling behind competitors. (3) Deng Xiaoping was an established authority within the Party because of Mao’s initial support. (4) The extremism of the Cultural Revolution led Mao to denounce the USSR and strengthen China’s relationship with the U.S.

China’s bureaucracy destroyed

Paradoxically, one reason the Chinese Communist Party survived was due to the massive failure of the Cultural Revolution. Walder juxtaposed these circumstances against the conditions of the Soviet Union to show just how different China and Russia were in the 1970s. Russia was industrialized and bureaucratic while China faced starvation and a lack of education. “If asked which communist power would be a modern economic power you would have said Russia; you would have been wrong,” Walder said.

The bureaucracy of the CCP was not rebuilt until after Mao’s death in 1976. The Party was held together only by the military from 1967 to 1973. Education “missed an entire generation” of Chinese youth. Simply put, China was left longing for something new after the trauma of the Cultural Revolution. They had nothing to lose and were therefore open to large-scale reform. Conversely, the Soviet Union rested upon a strong central bureaucracy. For them, political reform was too risky.


The second condition, China’s “backwardness”, also encouraged economic reform. China was a flat line of economic growth in comparison to major powers of the time. Its economy was comparable to that of India, Pakistan or Bangladesh especially during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Market failure created a need for a “second economy.” This economy was a self-reliant and informal system that highlighted China’s underlying entrepreneurial spirit. It was also during this time that the guanxi economy began to spread. Local officials would host unofficial markets for goods.

The Chinese were relying on technology transported from USSR in the 1950s. There had been no technological advancements or upgrades since the Great Leap Forward. Additionally, Chinese research and development was destroyed by the rustication of intellectuals and the lack of academic exchanges with the outside world. In comparison, the Soviet Union was the second largest economy until 1988 when it was surpassed by Japan. It was a strong military power with advanced scientific technology and high economic growth rates.

New leadership

The third condition was China’s leadership. The last years of Mao’s life gave Deng Xiaoping the power he needed for future market reform. He became identified for rebuilding the party state. Deng had strong revolutionary ties and was largely regarded as a national authority. He is historically noted as the father of the revival of China and market reform. In contrast, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader at the time, was a relatively new member of the Party and a weak leader. When the USSR began to slip, Gorbachev lacked the authority or power to save the Soviet Union or the Party.

Turn to the West

The fourth and final condition necessary to bring about modern Chinese success was the “turn to the West”. After the Sino-Soviet split and Richard Nixon’s visit to China, the CCP helped forge an anti-Soviet coalition alongside the United States. This led to technological investment by the West from both Japan and the U.S. As a result, the Soviet Union was increasingly isolated, ultimately leading to the collapse of the USSR. By turning to the West, China opened itself and its economy to the world, ushering in a new era of Chinese growth.

China has nearly come full circle in less than half a century. Today, China is highly centralized with great economic success and nationalism. The CCP’s modern obsession with stability comes from the Mao Era’s history of instability. This leaves today’s leaders, particularly Xi Jingping, thinking that reform is nearly impossible. Like the Soviets in the 1970s, there’s a lot to lose. After almost 40 years of strong bureaucratic management, heavily integrated vested interests block reform despite Xi’s Anti-Corruption Campaign.  With enormous wealth for those connected to the system, heavy financing from state banks, and general income inequality, there’s little impetus for further change.

claire_huitClaire Huitt is a senior at Southern Methodist University triple majoring in public policy, economics, and political science with a focus on international relations and the Asian Pacific. She is a Bauer Scholar in Political Science, Hamilton Scholar, Engaged Learning Fellow, a representative of IGNITE Women in Politics, Chair on Asian Pacific Relations with the Tower Center Student Forum, Dedman School of Law Pre-Law Scholar, New Century Scholar, and a member of the University Honors Program. After graduation Claire intends to attend law school and pursue a career in international law and foreign affairs.

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