• UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa reasserts opposition to handguns on campuses in letter

    UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa reasserted his opposition to allowing concealed handguns on System campuses in a letter sent to Gov. Rick Perry.

    Cigarroa said he respects the Texas Legislature’s authority to decide on the issue and acknowledges that not everyone may agree with his conclusion.

    “Both supporters and opponents of permitting concealed handguns on university campuses believe their approach will make campuses safer,” Cigarroa said in the letter, which was sent Tuesday. “I believe that, on balance, the permitted presence of concealed weapons will contribute to a less-safe campus environment.”

    Bills in both houses of the Legislature have been filed that would allow concealed handguns on college campuses and could be topics of discussions at hearings this week. Cigarroa drafted a similar letter in the last legislative session, and it shortly preceded rumors of his firing.

    Cigarroa's letter comes on the heels of various entities voicing their opinions on the issue. Last month, Faculty Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing guns on campus. Martha Hilley, music professor and council chairwoman, said the decision to once again affirm the faculty’s stance was simply to remind legislators that faculty views concerning weapons on campus have not changed. 

    “The squeaky wheel gets the oil,” Hilley said in February. “There are two bills that have been filed, and we’re very worried. Not speaking as the chair but speaking for myself, I don’t want to be scared when I come to work. That’s just it, plain and simple. This is just to reaffirm.”

    President William Powers Jr., who has previously expressed public opposition to concealed carry laws on campus, said continuing to affirm the idea of keeping guns out of the University is something that is protective of all students, not just faculty.

    “My view is clear,” Powers said at the council's meeting in February. “My view is aggregate safety. Friday night comes once a week. Mixing alcohol and youth and firearms is not conducive to overall safety. On campus, I think our employees agree with that, and that’s not a new point for me.”

    Powers also co-authored a letter earlier this year as a member of the executive committee of the Association of American Universities that urges President Barack Obama and Congress to take action to prevent gun violence in the U.S. by focusing on gun control, care for the mentally ill and media violence.

    Invest in Texas, a student lobbying effort coordinated by the Senate of College Councils, Student Government and Graduate Student Assembly, advocates letting each university determine its own gun policy.

    In his letter, Cigarroa outlines several of his concerns in allowing handguns in campus including potential increases in suicides and accidental wounds. He states that campus law enforcement officials are concerned about being able to distinguish between “the good guys from the bad guys” during an incident in which multiple guns are present. And he states a concern among hospitals and university labs of a potential gun discharge in the presence of gases and chemicals.

    Cigarroa also sent the letter to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; House Speaker Joe Straus; Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso and chairman of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety committee; and Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston and chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice committee.

  • Dryer malfunction sparks apartment fire in West Campus

    A fire sparked in a West Campus apartment complex Saturday afternoon, seemingly caused by a clothes dryer.

    Maia Wintrob, resident of Centennial Condominiums on 26th and Nueces Streets, said the fire began in the dryer of her third floor apartment.

    “My roommate was doing laundry, and she went home to Houston. I guess she put it on 90 minutes instead of the regular [amount of] time,” Wintrob said. “It smelled like gas. I went to shut it off … and then like five minutes later it starts smoking and I see flames underneath.”

    Wintrob said she then pulled the fire alarm, grabbed her dog and laptop and ran out to the staircase of the complex. Firefighters arrived on the scene and carried a fire hose up the three flights of stairs.

    “They acted really fast. It only took them five minutes to get here,” said Ian Chen, biology senior and resident of Centennial Condominiums.

    Chen said he was surprised to see the smoke because fire alarms in the complex had gone off in the past week without there being an emergency.

    “Because I stayed up really late last night, I was woken up by the fire alarm for my first day of Spring Break. This actually happened two or three days ago, so I thought it was a false alarm,” Chen said. “So, I took like three minutes to get dressed and come out and then I realized it was real.” 

    The number of apartments affected by the fire and what exactly caused it is still unclear, though firemen carried the dryer out of the apartment complex.

  • UT System General Counsel Barry Burgdorf resigns from post

    Barry Burgdorf, UT System vice chancellor and general counsel, has resigned.

    Burgdorf, who has served since 2005, could not be reached for comment, but Dan Sharphorn, associate vice chancellor and deputy general counsel, said Burgdorf is leaving to pursue other endeavors.

    “He saw opportunities come along, and he has decided to explore them,” Sharphorn said.

    According to system spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, Burgdorf told UT System chancellor Francisco Cigarroa that he is leaving to pursue a career in the private sector.

    “The chancellor is proud of the work Barry has done here,” LaCoste-Caputo said. “He is sorry to see him go, and wishes him well.”

    Rumors of Burgdorf’s departure appeared in late January on an online forum dedicated to UT news and discussion. According to documents obtained by The Daily Texan through the Texas Public Information Act, Paul Casey, System information security analyst, sent a link to the post, which said Burgdorf had been fired, to Lewis Watkins, chief information security officer, three days after the unattributed information was posted.

  • Check out what route students took to vote in the elections last week

    In campus-wide elections at the end of February, a total of 7,623 students voted to elect their new leaders. Students made their choices online at utexasvote.org, reaching the site from various online sources. The top three sites include the direct address, Google and Dean of Students. The data collected includes all DOS sites.

    Elections decided positions for student government, Texas Student Media, University Unions board & Student Events Center, the University Co-op, Graduate Student Assembly and The Daily Texan editor in chief.

    Here are the Top 10:

    1) utexasvote.org - 21,241

    2) google.com - 6,140

    3) deanofstudents.utexas.edu - 4,878

    4) facebook.com - 3,418

    5) shingofogel.com - 995

    6) bealonghorn.utexas.edu - 927

    7) m.facebook.com - 836

    8) utsg.org - 785

    9) twitter.com - 448

    10) utexas.edu - 439

    Data provided by the Election Supervisory Board.

  • UT Senate of College Councils president elect Ryan Hirsch resigns

    Senate of College Councils president-elect Ryan Hirsch resigned from her position Wednesday night.

    Hirsch, a neuroscience and pre-med junior, also left her post as current executive director of Senate because of personal and family matters, according to current Senate president Michael Morton.

    Morton said the organization will have to go through the election process again, starting with nominations March 21 and voting April 4.

    “She handled this situation very professionally,” Morton said. “This was entirely on her own accord. This was strictly to do with personal reasons. There is no other factor involved or any inappropriate behavior.”

    Senate elected Hirsch on Feb. 22. Vice president-elect Kiefer Shenk and finacial director-elect Philip Wiseman will not be officialy appointed until after the new president is elected.

    “Students deserve a seat at the table,” Hirsch said during her speech to the councils. “We must continue to grow and develop to better address student concerns and create policy to better the academic lives of students.”

    Morton said Hirsch has not made it clear if she will continue as a part of the organization.

    “We would love to have her come back to the organization when she is ready,” Morton said. 

    Hirsch has not replied for comment.

    This story has been updated after its original posting.