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UT graduate Lakeem Wilson’s debut book, “Natural Born Star,” will feature 46 of Wilson’s photographs and illustrations. Many of his pieces are influenced by his childhood and focus on social justice issues in America.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: The article below has been revised since its original publication. When published, the article included three quotes copied verbatim from a USA Today article titled "Texas student uses visual art to inspire social change." Those quotes have since been removed. The Daily Texan takes all instances of plagiarism seriously and formally apologizes for the violation of our readers' trust. 

Additionally, Lakeem Wilson was misidentified as a cofounder of Red Throat House. He is a contributor.

With a sketchbook tucked under his arm and both hands chock-full of pens, Lakeem Wilson, a recent UT graduate and artist, meanders through Austin streets, stopping only to sketch what he sees: empty park benches, quiet streets and smoking strangers. He fills entire pages before finishing his walk through the city.  

“Drawing and painting is just something I have always done — just this constant focus in my life,” Wilson said. “It has always provided me a sense of comfort because I can turn to it whenever I need to express things I feel.”

Wilson’s debut art book, “Natural Born Star,” contains 46 photographs and illustrations he created while at UT. His work, which ranges from realistic depictions of the commonplace to abstract images, plays with the boundary between reality and fantasy. Wilson explored the personal effects and consequences of political issues, such as racial violence and police brutality, through the works in the collection. Red Throat House — an Austin-based art collective — will release “Natural Born Star” on Feb. 5.   

Wilson said his identity as a black American has influenced his art and contributed to his distinct style. He said he grew up in an impoverished Dallas neighborhood and, while his childhood lacked monetary comforts, it was rich in culture.  

Dave Herman serves as a creative director for the nonprofit organization Preservation LINK, an education agency designed to foster personal growth and artistic expression in youths. In 2006, Herman taught Wilson in a visual literacy program through Preservation LINK. Herman has mentored Wilson ever since and said watching him develop as an artist has been gratifying. 

“It is great to see that he has stayed committed to his craft,” Herman said. “He continued down this path and is now able to celebrate having a body of illustrations connected by insightful observations and social context.” 

Amyn Kassam, cofounder of Red Throat House, helped Wilson assemble his book to make his art more accessible to the public. Kassam, said Wilson’s artistic style stands out to him because it is colorful and playful but grapples with serious content. 

“I find Lakeem’s work compelling because his casual style invites the eye to explore the serious and complicated issues that his illustrations depict,” Kassam said.  

Red Throat House is hosting a book release for Wilson on Feb. 5 at Spider House Ballroom. “Natural Born Star” will be available for purchase at the release and can be viewed online at www.redthroathouse.com. 

Wilson said he intends to become an illustrator and plans to go to graduate school in the fall. He said he hopes to one day inspire other young artists.

Name: “Natural Born Star”

Pages: 50

Genre: Art

Author: Lakeem Wilson

 

The Association of Black Fine Arts Students held its first “Grand Slam Drum Jam” in the Spanish Oaks Terrace at the Jester Center on Friday.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

The Association of Black Fine Arts Students held its first “Grand Slam Drum Jam” at the Jester Center’s Spanish Oaks Terrace on Friday to promote art activism in the college
community.

Lakeem Wilson, studio art senior and president of the organization, said the group is centered around fine arts students but invites all students with artistic passions to join.

“The main goal, which is part of our artist statement, [is to] get artists to exhibit their work and give them an opportunity to express their talents, and also to get a community of people to come and break out of their comfort zone,” Wilson said.

The event began with an icebreaker activity called “Catch the Tempo,” in which the members played instruments the organization created from scratch.

“Everyone makes a music circle,”  Wilson said. “The first person will start it and keep the beat — then we’ll see how the energy gets and how the vibes are.”

The organization also had performers, singers and poets from the University perform. The group hoped these performances would encourage other students to express themselves through art and music.

Jessica Bathea, economics sophomore and the organization’s social media chair, also performed during the event.

“As a performer, my goal right now, in the four years we’re in college, is to [relax] because we’re under all this stress as students and receiving dismal information about the world,” Bathea said. “My goal is to provide people with a sense of joy and relief that is past all the negative news, teachings and government.”

The event also included downtime for members to write on the organization’s “Dreamer’s Wall” or grab the microphone and freestyle. According to Wilson, both options were intended to force people to share what they really feel.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff
Photo Credit: Jack Mitts | Daily Texan Staff

With Student Government elections yielding low turnout in recent years — 14.9 percent of the student body voted in 2013 — campaigns often vie for endorsements from voting blocks to maximize their reach. An in-depth look at the organizational connections of the students registered to each executive alliance campaign this year help shows an identical path candidates are taking towards what they hope will be victory.

“Any organized student group — particularly a network of organized student groups — could be considered a ‘block,’” said Jordan Metoyer, an economics and urban studies senior who has worked on multiple SG campaigns and served as chief of staff in the 2012-2013 administration. “It is impossible to sit down for five minutes with all 50,000-plus students during the designated campaign period. To that end, it would be wise for candidates to tap into networks or individuals with large networks on campus.”

This is the first year that candidates have had to file a list of workers and agents that are affiliated with their campaigns. The Daily Texan contacted and researched 145 students who are noted as campaign agents or workers for the executive alliance teams: Kori Rady-Taylor Strickland and Kenton Wilson-Caroline Carter. There are almost 300 links between the two executive alliances and the various student organizations on campus, many of which overlap across campaigns. About 50 percent of the Rady-Stricklands responded to the Texan compared to about 37 percent of the Wilson-Carter team. The profiles for workers and agents who did not respond are filled out with publicly available information. In all, 37 of the 145 students are not accounted for.

Story continues after the interactive graphic.


Logos courtesy of campaign teams. Photos by Pu Ying Huang. Interactive by Bobby Blanchard and graphic by Jack Mitts. 

Workers and agents tend to be well connected to organizations that the candidates are aggressively pursuing, including multicultural and ethnic groups, spirit groups, SG and Greek organizations. Both campaign teams have more than 60 students listed as workers or agents — an increase from last year, when current SG president Horacio Villarreal said he had about 20 students helping him. Both Rady and Wilson also said they are expecting to be adding even more names to their campaign teams in the future. 

Twenty-two percent of the Rady-Strickland campaign team consists of members of a multicultural or ethnic group on campus, compared with 9 percent of the students in the Wilson-Carter campaign team — a pair that is running with ‘diversity training’ as one of its platform points.

“Our team is definitely pretty diverse,” Rady said. “We have spent a majority of our time making sure we go after students who have never voted in SG elections before. That’s the key.”

Rady-Strickland’s reach into multicultural and ethnic groups is wide, with multiple members in African-American and black student organizations, but, in other multicultural or ethnic groups, the Rady-Strickland campaign has just a single worker or agent. Wilson-Carter’s campaign, meanwhile, overwhelms Rady-Strickland’s campaign in connections to Texans For Israel and other Jewish groups on campus. Like Rady, Wilson said he is trying to reach as many groups on campus as possible. 

“Our agents and workers come from a variety of on campus organizations and different areas on campus, and that really reflects how we want to get more students involved,” Wilson said. “I’ve been able to see how a lot of the same problems effect different aspects of campus, and we’re reaching out trying to build coalitions to solve those problems.”

Both executive alliance campaign teams are more than 20 percent Greek and have another 15 percent of their team connected back to various spirit groups, though there is some overlap between the two groups. Rady and Wilson are both members of the Tejas Club, a group that calls itself an “independent fraternity.” Rady is also in Silver Spurs, while Wilson is in Texas Cowboys, both of which are spirit groups.

One of the major changes this year is a decision by the Interfraternity Council not to endorse a campaign team in 2014. The council is a community that represents 23 fraternity chapters, which accounts for more than 2,300 students. In the past few years, Interfraternity Council-backed president and vice-president teams have been much more likely to win. In the absence of the Interfraternity Council’s endorsement, connections and testimonials from other student organizations may mean more this year than before, and new heavyweight voter blocks have become potentially more influential. The council hosted a meeting Wednesday night inviting all candidates to come speak, and the council members sent out an email detailing candidates’ platforms.

In interviews, both Rady and Wilson said they felt the endorsements they would seek would help their campaigns but not make or break them.

“In the past, the IFC email was pretty important and carried a lot of weight,” Wilson said. “But I think it’s great what the IFC president and his team are doing — where they’re not going to send out a blanket email and they’re actually inviting all of us to go speak at the IFC meeting. We’ve all been given the chance to advocate for our position.”

While both teams will seek endorsements and support, Metoyer warned against assuming too much from just voter block information.

“None of this speculation can be conflated with hard science,” Metoyer said. “These assumptions are made year after year. It helps to have the support of influential campus organizations, but it is not a guarantee of success. When campaigns have attempted to ‘calculate’ the vote in the past, they found themselves unsuccessful.”

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Student Government presidential and vice presidential candidates Kenton Wilson and Caroline Carter have been involved in a total of 19 student organizations in their combined seven years at the University, a feat Wilson believes makes the duo a good fit for the student leadership positions.

“Since I’ve been a part of so many areas on campus, it’s really shown me how Student Government reaches different areas of UT,” said Wilson, a philosophy and government senior.

The team said they talked about running together in late April.

“It was Kenton’s roommate who brought up the idea of running for vice president,” Carter, a marketing and international relations and global studies junior, said. “The idea kind of died away, but when Kenton approached me about running it just kind of clicked.”Wilson and Carter have 18 platform goals, including maintaining bus routes, creating a campus-wide homecoming and adding more opportunities to hear student opinions.

“If leaders in organizations can really voice their concerns, I think that’s huge,” said Carter, a marketing and international relations and global studies senior. “We have so many amazing organizations that, unfortunately, Student Government does not communicate with.”

To give students more opportunities to voice their concerns, Carter said she hopes to create a presidential council allowing presidents of student organizations to meet once a month and discuss logistical issues.

“We’re hoping that will start a conversation about campus climate,” Carter said.

Wilson said he also wants to create a “We The Students Petition,” which would require student government to give a formal response and assess what can be done if a petition were signed by 300 students or more. “In the past, we feel like student government hasn’t done a good job reaching all of its constituents,” Wilson said. “We want to be as transparent as possible.” Carter said being an out-of-state student who has only been in SG for a year gave her a different perspective on ways to transform the organization. Wilson said he admired these aspects when selecting a running mate.

“I was really excited to see the fire she could bring to Student Government,” Wilson said. “I saw her come into the assembly and get elected to the Chair of Student Affairs Committee and immediately started tackling all of her different platform initiatives.”

This year, Wilson served as speaker of the assembly and said he was counseled to only moderate and facilitate others passing legislation, but during his junior year he helped write legislation in support of suicide prevention and legislation in support of healthy vending machines.

Carter said she unanimously passed legislation in support of a campus wide homecoming.

Wilson said his platform’s focus on more specific goals is what differentiates him and Carter from the current executive alliance.

“I think we’re coming in with many strong points that we’ve had many conversations with administrators on campus and we’re going to get it done,” Wilson said. “I’m just looking for quick, tangible changes that can be made to the student experience that will show people on campus that SG is there to work for them.”

Classical archaeology senior Trevor Davis digs into his pizza with his group members at Austin Pizza on Monday night. Pizza is said to be consumed on daily basis by 13 percent of the U.S. population. 

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

America is a pizza-hungry nation, and UT is no exception. University dining venues sold a combined total of 257,392 slices of pizza last semester alone — 6.5 slices for each of the University’s approximately 40,000 undergraduate students.

In a study released Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 13 percent of the U.S. population consumes pizza on any given day — with young people representing the bulk of the consumers. 

Arabic sophomore Maggie Rake said she thinks pizza has a major presence on college campuses because it’s inexpensive and easy to share.

“I probably eat pizza two or three times a week — maybe four if I have a club meeting, since it’s such a common food for groups,” Rake said. “Pizza is a social food.”

Rake said, in her mind, pizza is exempt from the nutritional worries that plague many college students. 

“I just eat pizza to feel happy. I don’t care about the nutrition,” Rake said. “Sometimes I get a veggie pizza to feel better about myself, but my main concern is just convenience.”

The Division of Housing and Food Service offers whole-grain pizza crust options in the Kinsolving and J2 dining halls for students who want to make healthier substitutions, according to Lindsay Wilson, the division’s registered dietician. 

Wilson, who provides guidance on the recipes on-campus eating facilities use, said she understands college students’ fixation on pizza but hopes they will consider ways to make pizza healthier.

“Pizza’s never going to be the healthiest option available, but there are so many alterations possible when making it to make it better for you,” Wilson said. “For example, opting with a whole-grain crust means you’re not getting as much of the dough, carbs and empty calories.”

Last semester, J2 and Kinsolving served a combined total of 144 gluten-free pizzas, and 4,545 whole-grain pizzas.

Wilson said she has no doubt pizza will continue to be a staple in on-campus dining locations, even if there are some nutritional changes.

“Pizza is something I’m sure we’ll probably always have on the menu and will always be popular with students,” Wilson said. “But, from my standpoint, we should try to get a couple more healthy options in regards to it.”

Undeclared freshman Victoria Grefer said pizza has been a steady presence in her life over the course of her transition to college.

“It’s just a common food item,” Grefer said. “I usually don’t think about it when I order [pizza]. I think we all grow up eating it without a second thought.”

Photo Credit: John Massingill | Daily Texan Staff

When I open that little orange app, I rarely see faces. Instead, my iPhone is filled with toned stomachs and gray boxes. 

I’m talking about Grindr, a social networking app that, like many others, continues to gain popularity among college students. 

According to a Grindr representative, the average number of active users in Austin per month exceeds 10,000. 

Apps like Grindr and Tinder, a similar “matchmaking” app,  allow users to connect, a term I use loosely, via virtual interface.  Regardless of their actual purpose, one question is inescapable – why do we bond online when we live in such a physically interconnected world? 

The core of all these apps is the human need to bond with others. Each has a different method, but the gist is simple – create a profile and start “connecting.” On Grindr, you can choose to disclose certain physical characteristics, and Tinder allows you to select five of your favorite photos for others to see. Chats soon ensue, and hopefully lead to something more.

Jarred Wilson, a recent graduate of the UT School of Information says that when he sends a message on Grindr, “It’s sometimes exhilarating to get that initial response, but it fades quickly.” 

This feeling is true for Tinder users as well, and it has the characteristics of another positive emotion — self-affirmation. 

Founder and CEO of Grindr Joel Simkhai says, “I wanted a more spontaneous, exciting and instantaneous way to meet guys and to help guys meet one another.” (The Grindr network is aimed at helping men meet other men.) 

According to Simkhai, that rush of adrenaline is “what drive[s] the appeal of Grindr.” That exciting feeling is self-affirmation. When a person responds to your message, it is like an approval of your profile, but that’s the most disconcerting fact about these apps. 

A message may signal approval of your carefully crafted profile, but does it really mean approval of you?

Social networking apps allow users to create virtual self-representations. Through photos and characteristics that make up profiles on apps like Grindr and Tinder, users are able to hide their flaws and portray themselves in what they consider to be the best possible light. 

Weight, height, scars, shyness, personality — they all get modified or suppressed in these apps. The problem is, while this partial identity may gain a user affirmation, it is not affirmation of the self — because the true self is hardly recognizable. 

Sure, users can express personality in a chat, but even that dialogue lacks the spontaneity Simkhai intended to promote with his application. 

Wilson sees false representation as an issue that extends beyond these apps. “I think that gay men changing how they represent themselves depending on the situation happens in other settings, too,” Wilson says. False representation may be an issue in the physical realm, but it is much easier to accomplish online. Self-affirmation should help eliminate self-consciousness, but when the “self” is denied in a profile, it only serves to strengthen it. 

Every day, people criticize the moral quality of apps like Grindr and Tinder. But the problem isn’t that they promote “hook-up” culture. It’s that they disconnect a user — especially young college users, who are still trying to develop their identities — from the true self. My advice? If you use the apps, be yourself — even if it means fewer clicks from potential hook-ups. 

Wilson is a Plan II and history major from Canton. Follow Wilson @andrewwilson92.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this column misspelled the last name of Grindr's founder and CEO. His last name is Simkhai. 

Five class of 2013 prospects the Texas Longhorns missed out on

It’s been an abnormally tough recruiting season for Mack Brown and company. Arlington Heights defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson became the fifth major decommitment from Texas this year, reducing the class size to a paltry 15. A Longhorns program that routinely lands Top 5 classes now finds itself outside of the Top 20, according to rivals.com. The recruiting season has been marred by tough breaks and unfortunate incidents. Here are the top five players Texas missed out on that could have changed its fortunes for the better:

1. A’Shawn Robinson, DT
As mentioned above, Robinson just decommitted Sunday and is expected to sign with the University of Alabama. This one hurts. Robinson was one of the highest commits on the board for Texas and he was the only defensive lineman in the entire class. Deep classes in 2011 and 2012 will mitigate some of the damage of his departure, but you can’t make a habit out of having zero stud defensive line commits and expect to compete at a high level in the Big 12.

2. Dontre Wilson, RB/ATH
Wilson is a Mr. Do-Everything player (think Daje Johnson). You can line him up in the backfield, as a receiver on the outside, or in the slot. The DeSoto High School star rushed for an eye-popping 1,892 yards and 37 touchdowns, and caught 37 passes for 752 yards and nine more scores. He also had two returns for touchdowns. Wilson was originally an Oregon commit, but re-opened his recruitment after head coach Chip Kelly left Oregon to take the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Longhorns were one of his final three choices, but the all-purpose back committed to Ohio State on Monday.

3. Ricky Seals-Jones, WR/ATH
Another former Texas commit, Seals-Jones is considered by many to be the best wide receiver in his class. The Sealy product decommitted from the Longhorns last June and poured salt in the wounds of Texas fans everywhere by choosing to commit to the Aggies six months later. Seals-Jones is a big physical receiver who can go up and get the ball, someone who could have been of great use to David Ash, who likes to sling the ball in the air and let his receivers make plays.

4. Daeshon Hall, DE
Like Robinson and Seals-Jones on this list, Hall was once a Texas commit. The Lancaster, Texas, product was dominant all season leading his team to the 4A state championship game and winning the Dallas Morning News Defensive Player of the Year award. Hall is lean and quick, but despite his wiry frame, is also an excellent run stopper. He is originally from Seattle and committed to Washington to be closer to family, but is reportedly still open to switching his commitment to Texas A&M.

5. Nick Marshall, QB
Yes, there are already five quarterbacks on the roster, but two, Case McCoy and Connor Brewer, have gotten themselves into a bit of trouble recently. A third, early enrollee Tyrone Swoopes, struggled so mightily his senior year in high school that ESPN decided to stop classifying him as a quarterback altogether. Marshall threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 36 touchdowns last season for Garden City Community College. He could have immediately pushed Ash competitively, and been a viable backup option in case Ash went down with an injury or had to be benched like he was in the Kansas game this past season. Instead, the dual-threat junior college transfer will suit up for the Auburn Tigers next year.

Desoto running back Dontre Wilson flipped his commitment from Oregon to Ohio State in a Monday night press conference.

Wilson, who is rated as the fifth-best all purpose back in the nation by rivals.com, had initially verbally committed to the Ducks on May 25, but reopened his commitment after former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly left the school to fill the head coaching vacancy for the Philadelphia Eagles.

In addition to Ohio State and Oregon, Wilson also considered Texas. He spent this past weekend in Austin visiting with members of the UT coaching staff, meeting players and touring campus. Evidently, it wasn’t enough to secure his commitment.

“I just feel like [Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer] has something good going on. They could have gone to the National Championship this year if they were able to go to a bowl game,” Wilson said to KDFW’s Max Morgan.

Today wasn’t a total recruiting bust for the Longhorns though. Earlier in the day, Texas received a verbal commitment from Palo Duro safety/wide receiver Montrel Meander. Meander flipped his commitment from Washington State to Texas after visiting campus this weekend.

Though most schools offered Meander as a safety, Texas will give him the chance to play wide receiver next year, which seems to have played a major part in his decision.

Texas now has 15 verbal commitments for the 2013 class. The Longhorn coaching staff hopes to add at least one more before National Signing Day, which could come from Waco defensive tackle Andrew Billings. Billings will announce his decision at 3 p.m. tomorrow.