The perspectives in Opinions represent the viewpoints of the individual authors and should not be interpreted as reflecting University positions or policy.  Authors include SMU faculty, students, staff and board members.  SMU embraces freedom of expression and welcomes opportunities for the exchange of diverse viewpoints, pledging to maintain the University as a home to civil discourse.

Is Virginia’s Move to Abolish the Beginning of the End of the Death Penalty in America?

Feb. 28, Rick Halperin, director of the SMU Dallas Human Rights Program, for a piece chronicling the history of capital punishment in the U.S. following the news that the Commonwealth of Virginia was soon to abolish the death penalty. Published in History News Network under the heading Is Virginia’s Move to Abolish the Beginning of the End of the Death Penalty in America?: https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/179360

Given all the crises the nation has been dealing with in the last year, it is easy to overlook a major human rights accomplishment and advancement that is occurring right before us.

The impending abolition of the death penalty in Virginia is indeed an historic moment in this country’s human rights history.

It continues a long trend over several decades in which numerous states throughout the country reached similar conclusions to end the barbaric practice of state-sanctioned executions.  Of course, as a Southern state and the former capital of the Confederacy, Virginia’s move is all the more noteworthy. I do expect the trend to abolish the death penalty in America to continue, but not anytime soon in other Southern states.


Energy efficiency is the forgotten fuel to prepare Texas for climate extremes

Feb. 24, Eva Csaky, executive director of the SMU Dallas Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity, for a piece advocating for better energy efficiency in Texas to avoid circumstance such as the severe weather that devastated the electrical power grid. Published in the Houston Chronicle (print) with the heading Energy efficiency is the forgotten fuel to prepare Texas for climate extremes: https://bit.ly/3nrxObB or http://bit.ly/3uwf1gk

During the historic winter storm that nearly toppled the Texas grid, Texans were asked to conserve energy in the hope of avoiding blackouts. Quickly it became apparent that they were being asked to do the impossible. Indoor temperatures rapidly dropped into the 30s and 40s as outages hit, and during the periods in which heat was on, temperatures barely climbed into the 50s in many homes. Calls for residents to “conserve energy” proved to be paradoxical considering that many of the buildings lack sufficient insulation and other necessary features to do so.


Resist Temptation to Sell Short-Sellers Short

Feb. 22, Hemang Desai, an accounting professor in the SMU Cox School of Business, along with Quinton Mathews, who provides research to investors, for a commentary defending the role of short-sellers in light of the GameStop episode in January. Published in Inside Sources under the heading Resist Temptation to Sell Short-Sellers Short: https://bit.ly/2NMyfNZ

The U.S. House Financial Servies Committee held hearings last Thursday on the GameStop saga. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle broached the prospect of additional regulation of short selling. Should Congress follow through with such action following two more scheduled hearings, that may do more harm than good, because it could make our capital markets less efficient — especially if based on a poor understanding of the role of short-sellers.

It was suggested short-selling hurts “ordinary investors and families.” Such a characterization of short selling is misguided. Short-selling practitioners make easy scapegoats since they profit when the share prices of targeted companies go down. But this oversimplification obscures the important and positive role short sellers play in our capital markets. If anything, their actions are an important mechanism by which stocks are prevented from deviating significantly from their fundamentals.


Math Learning Loss During COVID-19: A Problem Can Be an Opportunity

Feb. 11, Annie Wilhelm, associate professor of mathematics education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at SMU Dallas, for a piece offering solutions for Math Learning Loss and some outdated math teaching strategies. Published in Inside Sources with the heading Math Learning Loss During COVID-19: A Problem Can Be an Opportunity: http://bit.ly/3d4AeIg

I am the parent of two children and an associate professor of math education. Like all parents, my husband and I scramble to figure out how to do our jobs, plus care for and educate our children. As a math educator, I know data indicate school math learning progress of most students has been adversely affected by the pandemic. However, this problem can also be an opportunity to tackle imperfections of traditional ways of engaging kids in math.

“Improvement science” can drive organizational change during great challenges. I’ve witnessed this while collaborating with Toyota and the Dallas Independent School District to design the West Dallas STEM School (opening this fall) and while participating in a Networked Improvement Community of Texas universities, dedicated to improving teacher preparation across the state.


Why pretend senators can ‘do impartial justice’?


Jan. 20, Chris Jenks, professor at Dedman School of Law, SMU Dallas, for a piece advocating the U.S. Senate do away with an “oath of impartiality” in the highly political impeachment trial. Published in The Hill under the heading Why pretend senators can ‘do impartial justice’?: http://bit.ly/2LGvRrz

One of the first events that would occur at a Senate trial of Donald Trump is that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts would administer an oath for the senators to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws” as they sit in judgment. 

If the Senate tries Trump, this oath-taking should not happen.

Why shouldn’t senators take such an oath? Because such a trial would be for the Senate to determine whether Trump incited a mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, killed five people including a police officer and injured dozens more, occupied the Senate floor and forced Congress to evacuate. Senators were the victims of Trump’s alleged misconduct and, as such, cannot possibly “do impartial justice.” The House and its members were equal victims and they impeached Trump — but did not take an oath to be impartial before doing so.


Here’s to hoping Joe Biden remembers his ‘you can’t eat equality’ line

Jan 18, Robert Lawson, who directs the Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom in the Cox School of Business at SMU Dallas, for a piece reminding incoming President Joe Biden that he once said: “You can’t eat equality.” Published in the Orange County Register and affiliates of the Southern California News Group with the heading Here’s to hoping Joe Biden remembers his ‘you can’t eat equality’ line: http://bit.ly/392fmPv

Hillary Clinton’s defeat by Donald Trump in 2016 generated a lot of soul searching among Democrats confused about how they could lose to such a loathsome creature. Predictably, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of the growing left-wing of the party called for more efforts to fight inequality, social injustice, racism, globalism, and whatever other –ism of the day motivates their always-outraged, activist followers on any given day.

Clinton seemed content to put on her tin-foil hat blaming the nefarious forces of Russian Facebook bots instead of her own lackluster campaign. Meanwhile, among the Democrats, only Joe Biden seemed to get it. The then-vice president correctly diagnosed the problem to be that the Democrats had run too far to the left blaming racism, sexism, and inequality for every problem in America and had lost touch with the party’s traditional jobs and opportunity message. At one point he quipped, “you can’t eat equality. You know?”


No, the Constitution does not allow President Trump to pardon himself

Jan. 17, Dale Carpenter, constitutional law professor at SMU Dallas Dedman School of Law, for a piece arguing that President Trump does not have the right to pardon himself. Published in the Washington Post section, Made By History with the heading No, the Constitution does not allow President Trump to pardon himself: http://wapo.st/39M3QGK

Now that the House of Representatives has impeached President Trump for a second time, this time on an allegation of inciting insurrection against the U.S. government, the potential consequences for his words and actions are becoming clearer. He might be convicted in the Senate and disqualified from holding future federal office. Aside from the Senate trial, he might also be tried in federal court on a range of charges related to the attack on the Capitol.

All of this once again raises the question: Can he pardon himself? He tweeted in 2018 that he had the right to do so, but does he?

Not according to the words, history or structure of the Constitution. In fact, such an action would erode foundational legal principles in our republican form of government. No person can be a judge in his own case. Nor is the president, unlike an absolute monarch, above the law.


Trump ‘accountable?’ Easier said than done

Jan. 12, James Hollifield, professor of political science and director of the Tower Center at SMU Dallas, along with co-author Donley Studlar, professor of political science emeritus at West Virginia University, for a piece outlining the complexities and difficulties of removing President Donald Trump from the White House before the Jan. 20 Inauguration. Published in The Hill under the heading Trump ‘accountable?’ Easier said than done: http://bit.ly/3ij54xr

In the current controversy over President Trump’s challenge to the Electoral College vote and the attack on the U.S. Capitol, we hear a lot about accountability. But what does this mean in the context of U.S. political institutions that divide authority among three branches of government, and how can Congress hold the president accountable? 

Many observers, foreign and domestic, often are confused about the lines of authority in American government. In parliamentary systems, the direction is clearer. The elected legislature chooses the political executive, led by the prime minister and the legislature and parliament can remove the executive, either informally through internal party checks or formally through a majority vote of no confidence. The reasons for the removal of the government may be legal, including corruption, incompetence or simply policy differences. If a successful vote of no confidence occurs, the government steps down, to be replaced, perhaps after a caretaker government, through a general election or legislative (intra- or inter-party) negotiations.