• Choose hope over fear in special election

    In light of this University's shenanigans (I recently referred to the conduct as befitting a banana republic), I had to vote again today in Student Government executive alliance elections.

    After initially ignoring them in the first round, I spent a significant amount of time in the last couple days considering the ticket of Daniel Chapman and Austin Robinson. Their original campaign consisted of strange humor juxtaposed with an erudite platform. But in the last couple days, the strategy has gotten much simpler: Abolish SG. It's short, sweet and to the point.

    I must say, that's very tempting for me, as I assume it is for countless other students frustrated with the frivolity of SG. It's a noxious institution that, at times, seems utterly unconcerned with anything other than ensuring the Plan II students who monopolize their slots get into good law schools or land plush consulting gigs at Deloitte.

    That's our reality.

    But I ended up sticking to my greater principles and once again voting for the ticket of Kallen Dimitroff and Jesse Guadiana. Basically, I decided to pick hope over fear.

    I'm seldom an optimist. I'm usually about the most cynical person in the room. But I have to think that SG can do something, anything, to improve the lot of students. I just can't give up and support burning it all to the ground.

    The Texan Editorial Board — in backing the ticket of Kevin Helgren and Binna Kim — lauded the prospect of a "culture change" within SG. But in filing frivolous complaint after frivolous complaint against their chief opponent, Helgren-Kim appear resigned to continuing the same toxic culture that has dominated the rolling calamity that has been this year's election. (Dimitroff-Guadiana has also filed complaints against competitors, though they have had more merit than Helgren-Kim’s complaints, which have recently revolved around sandbags and chili pepper outfits).

    Indeed, it has been Dimitroff-Guadiana that most wants to change things for the better. The ticket is optimistic about the future. I can think of no other word for people so resiliently sanguine about what SG is and should be. And their sangfroid in the face of competitors who want to get rid of the institution they have done so much in is nothing short of commendable.

    There is a tremendous amount of SG experience under the belts of this ticket. Unlike last year, I find this to be a positive for the campaign. Dimitroff in particular, with four years in and around SG, has very strong opinions about what the group she has dedicated so much time and energy to should be. It has not lived up to her expectations, and she wants to do something about it.

    There's a word for that: hope. And, despite my cynicism, I'll choose hope over fear every time.   

    Horwitz is a government senior from Houston. He is a senior columnist. Follow Horwitz on Twitter @nmhorwitz.

  • Depression deserves our fight back

    In my time at The Daily Texan, I’ve constantly dealt with abusive trolls attacking my ideas. In my first month, I wrote a column dealing with the environmental costs of climate change. One commenter suggested I kill myself to cut down on emissions.
    While I usually take those remarks in stride, I don’t always possess that strength. Last weekend, a longtime troll responded to a tweet of mine about the Republican debate by telling me to “go grab a rope, find a high ceiling fan and a chair” and “go make the world a better place.”
    I consider myself lucky to have been in good company that night. In my yearslong battle with depression, I had never encountered an event I was less ready for.
    To call every day a battle is to wear out a cliché that tells individuals struggling to make it through that which they might lose. Every day is a hill. Some hills are taller than others, and I have not had the right gear every day.
    If I’ve learned anything since beginning my walk, it’s that I cannot drag myself uphill. Depression can never be fought entirely alone. Even worse, it makes reaching for help all the harder.
    The summer after my freshman year of college, I almost failed to make it up that hill. I found myself suffering from a panic attack at my parents’ home, miles from anyone I knew, while my parents were out of the country. For nearly a week, my thoughts raced while I sat perfectly still for hours on end.
    I count that summer as a victory. From the lowest point that I can remember, I forced myself to climb upward day by day. I continue to walk on today.
    Depression is no constant. I’ve gone months without issue to collapse, inconsolable. I’ve learned that I have to acknowledge its looming risks in a proactive manner but also that each challenge will be different from the last. What brings me down next time will probably be something I’ve never seen before.
    Such an emotionally complex problem does not necessarily have to have complex roots and solutions. Researchers consistently find that subtle changes in policy affect suicide rates greatly. Access to lethal force — say, a gun — makes an individual more likely to successfully commit suicide.
    On the flipside, individuals with greater support from their families are less likely to commit suicide. Studies show that family acceptance is a strong predictor of mental health consequences among LGBT youth.
    Even worse, studies suggest that suicides seem to have a domino effect, making others in danger more likely to commit self-harm. When a dear friend of mine recently wrote about her struggle with depression, she identified the suicide of an athlete at the University of Pennsylvania as impacting her greatly, even after she was seeking help.
    These studies, taken together, paint a picture of suicide not as a tragic, unpreventable event, but as something that can and should be stopped.
    Beyond sweeping policy change, individuals need to take seriously how much they can help their friends in their climbs. Having a strong support group was a luxury I did not have for years, but as I’ve fought through some of my most difficult days, I’ve found it to be something I’ve needed to build more and more.
    If your friends show any signs of withdrawing, reach out. It might just save a life.

    Chase is a Plan II junior from Royse City. He is an Associate Editor. Follow Chase on Twitter @alexwchase.

  • Professor rally against campus carry too little, too late

    On Thursday, Gun-Free UT held a rally on the Main Mall protesting campus carry, which was widely attended by professors and corresponded with a recent petition by professors banning guns from their classrooms. It was countered by a protest by members of College Republicans and Young Conservatives. Although well-intentioned, the Gun-Free rally missed a crucial point in this issue: Campus carry is coming and has a firm Aug. 1, 2016 arrival date. The time for all-out protest came and went, long ago.

    Some Gun-Free UT rally attendees expressed hope that the demonstration would inspire administrators to change the law. While the rally will surely inspire some response from some governing agency, and although administrators have parroted nearly unanimous opposition to the absurd law, it is not within their power to dictate the law. If Gun-Free attendees wish to influence the implementation of campus carry at UT, the first step is recognizing that the battle over campus carry is over, and frankly, the entire campus population opposed to campus carry lost their chance.

    The inevitability of campus carry’s implementation has not be open to debate since Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in June, but the battle may have ended even before that. Campus carry has been a hot-button topic for months in Texas, the fifth state to legalize concealed carry on college campuses. Texas experienced a Republican sweep in the 2014 election. In the Tea Party era, once-moderate politicians and leaders have flocked to the poles of their respective parties, because primary voting bases largely consist of the party’s most radical. In many ways, students gave this decision away nearly a year ago when they decided not to turn out on Election Day.

    This does not mean that students, faculty and staff members did not have every opportunity to prevent the passage of this bill between Election Day and Abbott’s signature. Between social media campaigns from student activist groups, a petition signed by student leaders from across the state and one poorly attended campus rally in April, Longhorns tried to block the legislation — it just didn’t become a popular cause until it was too late.

    Administrators cannot retroactively block campus carry, and professors cannot personally prevent firearms in the classroom, like they say they will — because campus carry is the law now.

    I am as unhappy about it as any rally attendee. I am also completely supportive of campus engagement as the working group deliberates on this issue. But if the law’s opponents want to make an impact on the implementation of campus carry at UT, they need to stop fooling themselves that this law is presently reversible, and they need to devote their presence to the working group’s public forums first and foremost.

    Smith is a history and humanities senior from Austin. She is the editor-in-chief. Follow her on Twitter @claireseysmith.

  • UT System should remedy AAU sexual assault study's shortcomings

    According to the results of a survey released last month by the Association of American Universities, roughly one in four women will experience sexual assault during their time in college and one in five women at UT.

    That’s deeply troubling. But what’s almost as troubling is that, because of the survey’s limitations, we still know next to nothing about what sexual assault looks like at UT — meaning that we also know next to nothing about how to prevent it.

    The survey did include some useful details. For instance, it’s helpful for law enforcement to know that sexual assaults are more likely to occur off-campus. But for the UT System’s four-year study to provide more specific results, it needs to revise the AAU’s methodology.

    Despite its large sample size, the AAU survey still doesn’t tell us how many students are actually victims of sexual assault. As President Greg Fenves wrote in an email to the student body following the survey’s publication, even one assault is intolerable. But any self-reported study, especially one with an abysmal 13 percent response rate, will be distorted by sampling bias, perhaps even beyond the point of reliability.

    There are two simple approaches through which UT could address that problem. The first is to select a random sample of students, then collect enough demographic information to draw helpful conclusions from the data, including breakdowns based on race, age, classification and Greek affiliation. Alternatively, the University could make the survey mandatory by tying its completion to a student’s registration status, as it does with the “Know Your Line” safety module that freshmen must complete.

    The AAU survey gave us the most comprehensive evidence yet that sexual assault is a major problem on college campuses. The UT System will do its students a disservice if it merely parrots that result, without shedding light on any potential solutions.

    Shenhar is a Plan II, economics and government junior from Westport, Connecticut. He is an Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter @jshenhar.