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.

Trump’s Mirror on Democracy

Feb. 12, Rita Kirk, director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility and professor in Corporate Communication & Public Affairs at SMU Dallas, for a piece analyzing the tendencies and paths of populists. She counts President Donald Trump among them. Published in The Hill:  http://bit.ly/3bwK9mt 

President Donald Trump is a populist. He draws his strength from those who are angry with the way our government is working and tired of the pablum offered in lieu of authentic answers to problems real people face. In that sense, he provides a great service to our republic. He holds a mirror to the politics-as-usual crowd and what is seen is not pretty.

When James Madison University professor Dr. Dan Schill and I conducted the CNN focus groups for the 2016 election, our very first observation was that voters were angry. Some were angry about medical coverage, others over military benefits, some over issues like abortion, still others over tax burdens. Anger united them. . .


Coverage of Bryant tragedy left some ugly marks

Feb. 3, Tony Pederson, Professor of Journalism at SMU Dallas, for a piece lamenting the insensitive way some social media and news organizations cover breaking big stories such as the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and others in the helicopter crash. Published in the Austin American-Statesman: http://bit.ly/386vRGY 

The controversy over the suspension and rapid reinstatement of a Washington Post reporter after a social media firestorm over coverage of Kobe Bryant’s death illustrates all too well news in the digital age. In the hours after the report that the NBA legend had died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles, reporter Felicia Sonmez sent a tweet with a link to a story on a years-old sexual assault allegation.

Bryant in 2003 was accused of assaulting a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado. The criminal charges were dropped. A civil lawsuit resulted in an undisclosed settlement. Bryant maintained the sex was consensual. It should be noted that Bryant in 2001 had married Vanessa Lane, the mother of his four children. One of the daughters, Gianna, 13, also died in the crash Sunday, as did seven others. . .



We all need to be deepfake detectors — but especially social media platforms

Jan. 30, Jared Schroeder, assistant professor of journalism at SMU Dallas specializing in Free Speech/First Amendment topics, for a piece advocating that social media platforms and their users redouble efforts to thwart and halt deepfake videos. Published in The Hill: http://bit.ly/2RDtd60 

A quality deepfake video clip, released at the right time, could almost certainly swing an election result.

The technology needed to create these deceptive video clips — which convey people saying or doing things they never said or did — has peaked just as primary voters and caucus-goers register the first results of the 2020 presidential election in the coming days and weeks.

It’s obvious something should be done to safeguard our election process from such powerful disinformation, especially during a time when our social media communities are awash in intentionally false and misleading political information. . .


The Texas Railroad Commission must tap the brakes on oil and gas production

Jan. 5, James Coleman, associate professor at SMU Dallas with a specialty in energy law at Dedman School of Law in Dallasfor a piece encouraging The Texas Railroad Commission to tweak regulations to curb wasteful practices – burning off an over-abundance of natural gas at an alarming rate. Published in the Dallas Morning News: http://bit.ly/2N1HWov 

By James Coleman

Texas is now the center of history’s biggest oil and gas boom. This boom, like past booms, is cementing the U.S. as the world’s superpower. But as in those earlier booms, our regulators may need to slow production slightly to preserve our natural resources and the health of our oil industry.

Texas producers are now draining so much oil and natural gas that there aren’t enough purchasers to use all of the gas. Oil and gas often come from the same well. The industry sells the oil but cannot build pipelines fast enough to get all the new gas production to distant gas consumers. As a result, producers are burning off, or flaring, more and more gas — wasting this clean burning gas, which is prized by consumers and industry around the world. . .


Evangelicals shouldn’t be defending Trump in tiff over editorial

Dec. 26, Stephanie Martin, assistant professor of communication and public affairs at SMU Dallas, for an op-ed chastising Evangelical Christian leaders who steadfastly side with Trump rather than consider reasoned criticisms from their own ranks (Christianity Today). Published in The Hill: http://bit.ly/37GX02W 

When “Christianity Today” issued its editorial last week calling for Donald Trump’s removal from the American presidency, I thought evangelicals — including prominent leaders — would sit up and take note.

What I did not expect was for them to rebuff the magazine’s call utterly.

Franklin Graham, son of the magazine’s founder the late Billy Graham, told The Washington Post that his father would have been “embarrassed” by the editorial. “For Christianity Today to side with the Democrat Party in a partisan attack on the President of the United States is unfathomable,” he added in a Facebook post. . . 


The danger of Nikki Haley and Rick Perry saying Trump’s presidency was ordained by God

Dec. 20, Stephanie Martin, assistant professor of communication and public affairs at SMU Dallas, for a piece challenging Evangelical Christians to be more discerning , Today: http://bit.ly/2MfPdRr

When former Energy Secretary Rick Perry made headlines last month on Fox News for saying President Donald Trump is “the chosen one” who was “sent by God to do great things,” it wasn’t the first time someone argued that the commander in chief was commissioned on high.

Nor was it the last. Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Christian CBN News that Trump’s election made plain “that everything happens for a reason … I think God sometimes places people for lessons and sometimes places people for change.”

The Perry and Haley TV interviews exposed the ongoing tension in American political culture between those who believe that divine purpose underwrites everything that happens in politics and those who see human agency at work. . .


How the death penalty fails Texas

Dec. 1, Rick Halperin, director of the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program, for a piece along with co-author Roger Barnes about Texas being “ground zero” in the U.S. for carrying out capital punishment. Published in the Dallas Morning News:  http://bit.ly/37XAwM4

Thus far in 2019, there have been 20 executions carried out in the United States.

Eight of them have been in Texas.

There are four more executions scheduled in the country by year’s end, and one of them is to be carried out in Texas. Since the death penalty in the U.S. was reinstated in 1976, there have been a total of 1,510 executions. A staggering 566 of them have been in Texas.

In other words, Texas has been ground zero for capital punishment for over 40 years. . .


Bridging the economic divide in Dallas is a moral imperative. SMU, Toyota and Dallas ISD are responding

Nov. 26, Stephanie Knight, SMU Dean of the Simmons School of Education and Human Development, for a piece explaining how SMU and collaborators at Toyota and Dallas ISD can mitigate the opportunity divide with a new West Dallas STEM school project. Published in the Dallas Morning News: http://bit.ly/2KWKRhs

The chairman of the Dallas Citizens Council wrote in The Dallas Morning Newsearlier this month that the city must act boldly to eliminate inequities in struggling neighborhoods. Fred Perpall challenged the community to make it a moral imperative to bridge the divide in incomes, health and education by better distributing opportunities.

Southern Methodist University understands this challenge and believes the university’s role is to provide knowledge and research to improve people’s lives. That’s why we are collaborating with Dallas ISD and Toyota to create a new pre-kindergarten-through-eight-grade school focused on STEM, science, technology, engineering and math, in West Dallas, an underserved area in the city. . .