• Task force announces recommendations for statues on Main Mall

    Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory Vincent speaks to media at a June press conference held in front of the Jefferson Davis statue. Vincent addressed vandalism of Confederate statues.
    Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory Vincent speaks to media at a June press conference held in front of the Jefferson Davis statue. Vincent addressed vandalism of Confederate statues.

    The Task Force for Historical Representation of Statuary recommended the relocation of Confederate statues on campus or the addition of explanatory plaques on the statues in its final report to UT President Gregory Fenves earlier Monday.

    The task force submitted five recommendations, four of which call for the relocation of various statues, including the statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, from the main mall. The recommendations call for the statues to be moved elsewhere on campus or to museums in Austin. One recommendation proposes leaving the statues but adding explanatory plaques.  No alternatives call for the removal of the statues from campus.

    “As we acknowledge contributions of those with Confederate ties, we should also strive to tell the complete history of Texas and the South,” the report read. “Doing so would enable tangible outcomes for ‘teachable moments’ like this current one.”

    The task force, which included UT students, faculty and staff members, looked at the intent of the statues in the Main Mall on campus, studied racial controversies surrounding the statues, and provided alternatives to leaving the statues as they are. In the report, the task force said it aimed to accommodate changing times, while not ignoring the past.

    “Rather than maintaining a one-sided interpretation of the past, UT Austin should take its cues from the various groups of students who attend this university and who want to ‘change the world,’” the report said. “The Confederate statues, therefore, are not only symbols of a now largely controversial neo-Confederate past; they are also powerful symbols of how that past continues to structure the present.”

    Fenves first announced the creation of the task force June 24, a day after the vandalization of the statues of Davis, Robert E. Lee and Albert Sydney Johnson.  

    The issue received renewed attention following the shooting of nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17. Student Government President Xavier Rotnofsky and Vice President Rohit Mandalapu then released a petition calling for the statue’s removal.

    Click here to read the full report.

    This blog post has been updated since publication for clarity.

  • Attorney General Ken Paxton indicted in Collin County jail

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was officially booked in a Dallas-area jail on Monday morning for charges of misleading investors.

    Paxton was photographed and finger printed before being released with a bail totalling $35,000, according to the Collin Country court records. Paxton is facing two first-degree security frauds and a third-degree charge for failing to register with the state securities board, according to the indictment.

    According to CBS News, Paxton admitted to violating state securities law for not disclosing to regulators that he was receiving commissions for referring law clients to a financial planner.  Paxton paid a $1,000 fine and his aides said this was administrative oversight and the criminal investigation was a political hit job, CBS News reported.

    Following this incident, Texas for Public Justice filed a criminal complaint against Paxton with Travis County prosecutors.

    The case was eventually referred to the Texas Rangers where they have since found other security violations Paxton did not admit to in 2014, according to the Houston Chronicle.

    On Monday afternoon, Ken Paxton's attorney Joe Kendall released a statement saying Paxton will not plead guilty and will seek a trial by jury.

    "In the meantime, the Attorney General is returning to Austin to focus on his work on behalf of the citizens of Texas," Kendall said in the statement.

  • Paxton indicted on felony charges

    A grand jury has indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton on accounts of fraud and failing to register with the state securities boards.
     
    These charges will be present by the grand jury in McKinney, Texas, on Monday where Paxton is expected to turn himself into the Collin County jail.  Paxton faces a third-degree charge for failing to register with the state securities board and first-degree security frauds.
     
    In Paxton’s first-degree security frauds, he is accused of misleading investors in McKinney-based technology company Servergy. According to the accusation, Paxton in 2011 led the investors to put more than $600,000 in Servergy and failed to tell them he was making a commission on their investment and misrepresenting himself as an investor in the company.
     
    For the first-degree sentence, Paxton could serve a life in prison or a sentence of 5–99 years. A third-degree sentence is a punishment of 2–10 years.
     
    Texans for Public Justice Director Craig McDonald said this is a time to make sure state laws are being protected.
     
    “It’s time to determine in a court of law if Attorney General Paxton violated the very state laws that he is supposed to uphold and defend,” McDonald wrote in a public statement on the group website.
     
    Anthony Holm, spokesperson for Paxton, wrote an op-ed July 27 for the Austin American-Statesman discussing his concerns of the legal system and fairness under the law.

    “If society continues to overlooks this witches’ brew of jury tampering, media leaks, and freshman prosecutors, we may wake up to find the office of the Attorney General of Texas at the mercy of two criminal defense attorneys who take checks from the very drug cartel leaders and child molesters the attorney general tries to imprison,” Holms said in his op-ed.   
     
    While Paxton prepares for a criminal trial, he does not have to step down from his statewide position. He can continue working, just as then-Gov. Rick Perry did after facing two indictments in August 2014.

  • Davis task force receives an extension

    The task force assembled to review the Jefferson Davis statue has asked President Gregory Fenves for an extension, so it will release its recommendations by August 10.

    The task force originally planned to release its options by August 1.

    University spokesperson Gary Susswein said the task force needed the extension to review all of their options and information they received.

    "They needed extra time to go through all of the options and review all of the public input that has been submitted," Susswein said.

    Leslie Blair, communications director for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said the chair of the task force Gregory Vincent will answer questions from the media at 2 p.m. in the Flawn Academic Center once the report has been submitted.

    To read about the full controversy around the statue, click here.

  • Appeals Court clears Perry of one of two indictments

    On Friday, the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals dismissed one of two felony charges against former Gov. Rick Perry.

    Perry was indicted on charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of official capacity after being accused of threatening to veto funding to the Travis County Public Integrity Unit unless District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned after she was arrested for drunken driving. She refused, and Perry vetoed the funding.

    The court sided with Perry’s lawyers that the state’s law concerning coercion of a public servant “violates the First Amendment and, accordingly, cannot be enforced.”

    It upheld the charge against Perry for abuse of official capacity.

    The ruling comes as Perry is running in a crowded field for the Republican nomination for president. Perry can make an appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for the remaining charge.

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