The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, April 16, 1987, Image 1

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he Battalion
)1.82 No. 137 GSPS 045360 14 pages
College Station, Texas
Thursday, April 16, 1987
Speaking out atA&M
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i Davidv.
m! iFollow The Bouncing Ball
the comtifl
natetimeioM Several students play Hag rugby in the grassy area between Clements
sbantrecotil Hall and the Albritton Bell Tower. The game is similar to flag foot-
Photo by Doug La Rue
ball, and the ball carrier is “tackled” by removing a flag that hangs
from her waist.
fort to learn
ed to refits
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m to ifsiSt
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nsurance premiums to increase
or A&M faculty, staff members
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By Amy Couvillon
Staff Writer
I Insurance premium increases and a different
noethod of setting premiums for Texas A&M fac-
iltv and staff for 1987-1988 were tentatively ap
in' ed at a meeting of the System Employee
Benefits Advisory Committee Wednesday.
■ The meeting was a planning session for SE-
lAC to gel input from faculty and staff before
pey meet April 24 to agree on official premium
|tes for 1987-1988.
Premium rate increases are needed, SEBAC
[hairman Larry Wilson said, because medical
dins in the last year ($19,386,651) exceeded
|piemiums paid ($16,215,543) by 20 percent.
I “We are in the hole,” Wilson said.
I He mentioned other factors, such as medical
Illation and increased usage of the plans, that
iso must be considered.
I Wilson said he was impressed with the turnout
pi faculty and staff. The committee’s meetings
Isually get about a dozen people, but about 75
pculty and staff members showed up Wednes-
|ay to express opinions and give suggestions to
Ihe committee before the new premium rates are
|ffkia(Iy set. A microphone was set up in the
Iront of the room so spectators could voice their
I “We are extremely glad that you are here,”
filson told the crowd. “We see this as evidence
lat our process is working.”
If the committee’s plans are made policy, pre
mium rates will go up about 28 percent for A&M
employees and staff. The yearly premium for an
employee with no other dependents on his or her
insurance plan would go from $66.01 to $84.97.
Premiums for those employees who include de
pendents would increase proportionately.
Retired employees, whose rates would increase
only 4.4 percent, would not be affected as much
because the committee tentatively approved a
major restructuring of the process in which pre
mium rates are set. The process would “return
retired employees to the employee group for
premium rating purposes,” Wilson said.
Mary J. Hurley, a member of the committee
and A&M associate director of insurance and re
tirement programs, explained what this means.
Beginning in the early 1980s, she said, retired
employees were considered to be in a lower-cost
group because many of them had Medicare,
which could pay for much of the expenses that
the A&M plan would have had to pick up.
“In the first couple of years that the plan was
in place,” Hurley said, “we were able to give re
tirees with Medicare a premium rate that was
something less than what employees were pay
ing, for the same level of coverage — in recogni
tion of the fact that Medicare was going to pay
for a lot of their expenses.”
However, as it turns out, retired employees —
even those with Medicare — generally use their
A&M benefits more than regular employees.
They are using more medical services, and more
expensive services, which has caused their rates
to go up. Retired employees are now paying
about a third more in premiums than regular
“Retirees on their fixed incomes . . . are going
to have continued accelerated premium increases
that may be, in general, harder for them to bear
than for the normal population,” Hurley said.
“So maybe now is the time to bring that group of
2,100 back into the group (of A&M faculty and
staff members using the benefit plan) and spread
that risk over all 14,000 people participating.”
A&M’s medical plan is contracted out to a pri
vate insurance firm, Lincoln National. There was
some talk at the meeting that A&M should
change carriers and give other insurance compa
nies a chance to put in a bid to run A&M’s plan.
Wilson said A&M’s insurance plan has not
been re-bid in five years. If the medical plan was
re-bid, the committee would write a letter to all
eligible insurance companies in Texas — about
600 — and give them an opportunity to put in a
bid. But the committee did not decide at
Wednesday’s meeting to do this as of yet.
Kenneth Livingston, personnel officer for the
Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, came to
the microphone and supported opening A&M’s
plan to bids, saying it could be beneficial in terms
of costs.
“I would encourage you to consider re-bidding
as a strategy to validate or confirm what’s been
suggested,” he said.
Senate OKs
$39.9 billion
state budget
Clements calls spending plan
'giant step in wrong direction'
AUSTIN (AP) — The Texas Sen
ate passed a $39.97 billion state bud
get Wednesday, with backers admit
ting it would require a larger tax
increase than Gov. Bill Clements has
agreed to approve.
Clements immediately dubbed
senators “budget busters” and called
their spending plan “a giant step in
the wrong direction.”
Passage came on a 28-3 vote, after
a debate marked by sharp Demo
cratic attacks on the Republican gov
ernor’s smaller budget.
The Senate plan calls for spend
ing about $2 billion more in 1988-
89, an increase of 5.4 percent over
current state spending levels.
It is $3 billion higher than the
$36.9 billion, two-year budget Clem
ents proposed, a plan that already
would require a $2.9 billion tax in
crease to fund.
Clements has vowed to veto any
spending bill that exceeds his “bot
tom line,” and on Wednesday the
governor said the Senate bill would
require a $6 billion tax hike that vot
ers don’t want.
“The average working men and
women of our state are saying no to
that tax increase,” Clements said.
“The budget busters prevailed today
in the Senate. Bait I am confident the
people of Texas ultimately will pre
“We will keep spending under
control, adequately fund essential
services and turn our efforts to what
the people of Texas really want —
jobs, jobs and more jobs.”
Sen. Grant Jones, D-Temple, the
bill’s sponsor, began the debate by
acknowledging that the plan exceeds
the governor’s limit. But Jones ar
gued, “The proposals the governor
is making for spending will not ad
equately meet the needs of Texas.”
Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, the Demo
cratic leader of the Senate, said that
despite exceeding the governor’s
spending limit, the Senate-passed
budget still had shortcomings. But
he said it is about all that can be ex
pected given the state’s current eco
nomic problems.
“What’s bad about it is it doesn’t
adequately address human services
or education,” Hobby said. “It’s the
best that can be done under adverse
economic conditions.”
Some lawmakers suggested that
passage of the bill put the Senate on
a collision course with the House
and the governor.
House Speaker Gib Lewis, D-Fort
Worth, said the Senate’s budget
probably was too high to win appro
val in his chamber.
“I just think it’s in excess of what
we need,” Lewis said. “And I think
it’s a great deal higher than will be
passed here in the House.”
House Appropriations Commit
tee members said they hoped to
complete work on their spending
plan before the weekend, and Lewis
said he has discussed the budget
fight with the governor.
“He (Clements) said again, ‘I will
veto any tax bill beyond the $2.9 bil
lion.’ I believe him,” Lewis reported.
Bob Davis, Clements’ budget di
rector, said the governor’s plan still
is the only one that will balance.
Oliver North
with papers
Lt. Col. Oliver North was fired last
November, he and his secretary de
stroyed so many documents their
White House shredding machine
broke down under the load, govern
ment investigators have been told.
The shredder got backed up and
jammed as North and his secretary
Fawn Hall shoved memos and other
documents into it, a source familiar
with the Iran-Contra investigation
said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, sources said that in
vestigators for both independent
counsel Lawrence E. Walsh and con
gressional committees have obtained
a wealth of material from North’s of
fice, including a record of his tele
phone calls, meetings and other con
tacts, and original versions of four
documents altered by his secretary.
These sources said the alterations
appeared to be an attempt to conceal
North’s program for raising money
and supplying arms to the rebels op
posing Nicaragua’s government.
The sources, who were familiar with
the investigations, spoke only on
condition of anonymity.
In a fresh disclosure, sources said
Hall had turned over to North docu-
mfents she removed from his White
House office on Nov. 25, the day he
was fired by President Reagan.
Investigators also have copies of
those documents, sources said.
With congressional hearings on
See North, page 14
Classes after noon
cancelled for Friday
By Amy Couvillon
Staff Writer
Classes are cancelled at Texas
A&M after noon on Good Friday
in accordance with a resolution
passed in the Texas Legislature,
according to a Tuesday mem
orandum from President Frank
E. Vandiver.
“Gov. (Bill) Clements has
signed legislation today that au
thorizes state agencies to operate
with reduced staff, but remain
open, on Friday afternoon of this
week,” Vandiver wrote.
The memo continued as fol
• Unit administrators can re
lease individuals under their su
pervision at noon, but must keep
the offices open until 5 p.m.
• Staff who remain until 5
p in. are to be awarded compen
satory time.
• Staff paid monthly shall be
treated as usual for working dur
ing holidays or on weekends.
• Optional or compulsory ac
tivities may be scheduled on Fri
day afternoon, but absentees may
not be penalized.
“I am keenly sensitive to the
problems and confusion this late
announcement may create,” Van
diver wrote. “Also . . . given the
uncertainty already created by va
rious rumors and the lack of time
for usual consultation, announc
ing these policies immediately is
really the only alternative left to
The resolution awarding the
half-day off was passed in the
House last week. It passed in the
Senate Monday and was signed
by Clements Tuesday.
Kathy Lewis, personnel direc
tor for The Coordinating Board,
Texas College and University
System, said this state holiday is
determined on a year-by-year ba
“Usually they’ll do this every
other year,” she said. “It has been
done every time the Legislature is
in session.”
A representative from the of
fice of the author of the resolu
tion, Rep. Bob Richardson, R-
Austin, said that “all state agen
cies” includes state universities,
but that it’s up to the head of the
agency whether to observe the
Lewis said state universities
don’t normally follow usual state
holiday schedules because of
spring and semester breaks, so
the decison whether to observe
the holiday is usually up to the in
dividual university.
Texas A&M’s wind tunnel being used
in space shuttle escape experiments
Photo courtesy of Texas A&M wind tunnel
A model of the space shuttle is tested at the Texas A&M wind tunnel near Easterwood Airport. White
smoke from a smoke wand is used to gauge airflow over the shuttle’s wings.
By Debbie Monroe
The space shuttle Discovery de
velops a problem within minutes of
launch, and the mission director at
the Johnson Space Center in Hous
ton orders the crew to evacuate the
orbiter. Astronauts hurriedly blow
the hatch off the side of the shuttle
and, using rockets clipped to a har
ness, launch themselves one-by-one
out of the craft. Within seconds, par
achutes open and the crew floats
safely away from the damaged
This kind of crew escape system
exists only in the minds of NASA en
gineers, but testing being done at the
Texas A&M wind tunnel is helping
to make it a reality.
Because of the Challenger acci
dent, getting crews quickly out of a
shuttle has become a top priority at
NASA, Paul Romere of NASA’s
Johnson Space Center said. Ro-
mere’s project is one of many escape
systems being developed for use
aboard the shuttle.
Romere leads a group of engi
neers who are working to answer ba
sic questions about the system — how
will the rocket react when ejected
from the orbiter, and what will the
astronauts go through as they leave
the ship?
“We’re worried about where this
rocket will go when it’s jettisoned,”
Romere said. “If the rocket’s not
pointed in the right direction, you
could effectively drag the guy over
the doorsill.”
Using a scale model of the space
shuttle and delicate wind tunnel in
strumentation, the NASA group will
graph wind-flow patterns around
the orbiter, he said, information that
will give the escape system designers
a map to work from.
“(The database we’ll create) will be
fed into the trajectory programs that
we’ll be using to see if it’s even feasi
ble to do this type of escape,” Ro
mere said.
But there are a number of prob
lems they could face, he said. Since
the 300-pound hatch is not made to
open during flight, it would have to
be blown from the shuttle, and could
possibly fly back and hit a wing. To
simulate wing damage, Romere’s
group will remove sections of the
leading edge of the left wing, and
then, in the wind tunnel, test the
craft’s maneuverability. For the crew
to escape, it is essential for the or
biter to be capable of controlled
“If you’re going to do this ejec
tion, you have to be in a controlled,
gliding flight,” Romere said. “If
you’ve sustained damage to the lead
ing edge, you still want controlled
gliding flight or you’re not going to
get out.”
Because of the variety of prob
lems that could arise during orbiter
See Tunnel, page 14