Main Building

University police alerted the campus of a subject carrying a knife near the Main Building on Wednesday morning, but determined shortly after the person did not pose a threat to those on campus.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said a staff member saw what they thought to be a knife, but when officers found the subject there was no threat at all. An all clear message was sent out approximately 15 minutes after the initial message after police found the subject.

The text notification came a day after UTPD alerted the UT community of an aggravated assault on Guadalupe Street on Tuesday. APD later determined the victim and suspects knew each other and posed no threat to the campus area.

 

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

Last week, a front-page story in The Daily Texan reported that the UT Tower, the grand monument at the center of our campus, is more than half vacant. Moreover, the University plans to empty and repurpose the remaining office space: Seventeen of the building’s 32 floors are formally categorized as “vacant” or “future storage space.” Though the upper floors of the Tower may never be used regularly by UT students and staff again, there is one working plan that may keep them of use to the University: The space may be used to store plant specimens from the plant resource center, which currently occupy six of the Tower’s lower floors. Plants, unlike people, won’t crowd the stairways in the event of a fire, and it is these safety concerns that have led to the emptying of UT’s most prominent building. 

The remaining offices in the upper levels of the Tower will soon be vacant as well, as these concerns about evacuation safety — the upper levels of the Tower have only one staircase, and one exit is not nearly enough to allow office workers to safely evacuate in the case of a fire — have led UT to empty them once and for all. 

According to UT Fire Marshal James Johnson, the chances that the higher levels of the Tower will ever be safe for occupants are slim. 

“There’s no way we are ever going to be able to build another stairwell — it’s impossible,” Johnson told the Texan last week. 

Fire code concerns aside, it’s worth asking how UT’s most monumental building became so monumentally empty. The answer, as a consequence of its own architecture, is a keen reminder of the importance of building spaces that are both beautiful and usable in a year in which the University will break ground on the new Dell Medical School. 

The Tower is part of a group of buildings built from 1910 to 1942 which, as architecture professor Larry Speck wrote in “The Texas Book,” “demonstrated palpably to its public the ambitions of an emerging institution.” 

In the original designs of Cass Gilbert, the nationally renowned architect employed by the UT-System Board of Regents who began crafting a master plan for the UT campus in 1910, the design of the Main Building was at first a grand dome, then a pillared temple, then, finally, a tall, thin tower situated on a broad base. 

Twenty years later, construction began on UT’s new Main Building when French-American architect Paul Cret began his contract with the regents in March 1930. In 1931, the Texas Legislature had just authorized the creation of the Permanent University Fund, a pool of money funded by oil income that the regents were afraid the Legislature would quickly snatch away. Scared of this possibility, the regents ordered Cret to put the money toward building quickly, and he did, designing 10 buildings, among them the Main Building, which was built in two phases in 1933 and 1937. The Tower, both in its style and placement, was exactly the way Gilbert had envisioned it more than a decade before. 

The Tower was meant to house both administrators and a grand library, the remains of which are still open to students in the form of the Life Science Library.         

But despite the Tower’s striking profile, not everyone admired the building. Legendary folklorist and former UT professor J. Frank Dobie once referred to the top of the Tower, with its deeply recessed balconies and proud columns, as a “Greek outhouse.”  

Now, trips to the top of the structure are rare, as even current students must buy tickets and reserve a date in advance. The University first closed the Tower after engineering student Charles Whitman took several rifles and a sawed-off shotgun to the top of the building and killed 16 people and wounded 16 others in 1966. The Tower briefly reopened after the shooting, but seven suicides later, it was closed to the public. In 1999, it reopened with precautionary rails and set tour times. 

Now, enough years have passed that we can look at the Tower without — as John Schwartz, editor-in-chief of the Texan in the 1980s, put it in “The Texas Book” — seeing the top of the Tower as “a perch known mainly for its association with mass murder.” But we still can’t see it as Willie Morris, another former editor-in-chief of the Texan, saw it when he first came to UT in 1952. In his memoir, Morris wrote the following of his first day at UT: “That first morning I took the elevator to the top, and looked out on those majestic purple hills to the west, changing to lighter shades of blue or a deeper purple as wisps of autumn clouds drifted around the sun; this, they would tell me, was the Great Balcones Divide, where the South ended and the West began.” 

The Tower may now be nearly empty, but the Texas we view from the top is hardly the one Morris saw that morning in 1952 — the country not nearly as mythic and the University not nearly so new. But even if the Tower stays empty, it will certainly always stay grand, and the University must now reflect on what the Tower truly stands for: a proud monument to the campus’ past or a daily, unavoidable reminder of the limitations of working off of a centuries-old University structure.

More than four weeks after $55,000 worth of new Apple MacBooks were stolen from a secured storage area in the Main Building, campus police have not made any arrests — or released any information whatsoever about the investigation.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said she thinks police are still investigating the incident.

“Unless they’ve figured something out and didn’t tell me, which I doubt that — my guess is that it probably is still in the investigation stage,” Posey said.

The computers were stolen from the first floor of the Main Building at some point between 5 a.m. Feb. 13 and 7 a.m. Feb. 14, according to a UTPD Campus Watch report. Police records show $54,947 worth of technology were stolen.

Employees in the Office of the Registrar and the Office of Admissions, which are both located on the ground floor of the Main Building, said Monday they did not know about the theft.

Posey could not disclose information such as how the computers were stolen, why the computers were being stored and what the computers would have been used for.

“I wouldn’t be privy to any of that information because that would jeopardize the investigation,” Posey said.

This type of large-scale theft does not occur frequently on campus, according to Posey.

“Without looking at the data, it’s hard to say for a fact,” Posey said. “But my recollection of the data is no, this does not happen frequently. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t happen very often.”

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

More than $50,000 worth of new Apple MacBooks were stolen from a secured storage area in the Main Building at some point between Thursday and Friday morning, according to campus police records. 

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said she could not elaborate on how many computers were stolen or on the availability of surveillance footage in the Main Building because a police investigation is currently under way.

According to a UTPD Campus Watch alert, the $54,947 worth of technology was removed from a storage area on the first floor of the Main Building. Police crime logs record that the burglary happened at some point between 5 a.m. Thursday and 1:10 p.m. Friday, when the theft was reported. A campus watch alert issued Monday by UTPD narrowed the possible time of burglary and said it did not occur later than 7 a.m. Friday.

Posey and University spokesman Gary Susswein declined to provide any additional details about the event. Student workers in the Office of the Registrar and the Office of Admissions, which are both located on the ground floor of the Main Building, said they had not heard about the theft.

After drudging to 8 a.m. classes in the frigid and somewhat icy conditions Jan. 28, many students were less than pleased when they learned the University had decided to suspend classes until noon, only to cancel them altogether later that day. But students had a different reaction when the University did something similar on Feb. 4, 1905, first suspending classes until 10 a.m. and then declaring it an official snow day.

The Texan published an article Feb. 10, 1905, detailing the day’s fun-filled events as students happily embraced the icy weather and the much-needed break from classes. 

“By 12 o’clock a hundred or more burly students had gathered on the hillside eager for the fun,” the article said.

Though UT students were equally as unfamiliar with snow as they are today — it was the coldest year in the Austin area to date at the time — the students of 1905 were eager to make use of the ice and snow any way they could. 

“Chairs were surreptitiously robbed of their legs, while a sturdy football player used the remnants for a vehicle to skim the icy hill,” the article said. 

Among the items used as makeshift sleds were dismantled kitchen tables, soap boxes and rocking chairs. 

To make the experience more exciting, a group of “forty funny fellows” poured water over a hill outside the Main Building and smoothed out the ground to make it better for fast-paced sledding. After several attempts at sledding down the hill, one of the football players succeeded in sledding a
short distance.

“Saturday morning Mogul Robinson got a soap box and, after various plunges a-la-tackle, a-la-head, succeeded in coasting about ten feet eastward from the Main Building,” the article said.

The daring of the students increased throughout the day as they attempted to find more creative ways to traverse the slippery slope. 

“The Engineers made a long slide and with this a dozen would go down like a cannon ball,” the article said. “Starting at the top of the hill and with an experienced man at the front to guide, the ponderous slide would go flying down the hill, turn in and out of the trees, jump public roads, keep to the path clear to the outer edge of the campus and then down the [Inner Campus Drive].” 

Sledding was the main activity, but not everyone was thrilled at the prospect of dodging trees and other obstacles on makeshift sleds; some women opted for a slightly more graceful sport and decided to try ice skating in places where the ground was flat.

“The Co-eds did not attempt much coasting,” the article said. “Some did go down in the big slide. … However, bands of them tried skating around the [Inner Campus Drive] and level parts of the campus. Several falls resulted, always when out of sight of anyone.” 

Though the students of 1905 may have been more excited about a midday school cancellation, they were still not safe from the weather’s fickleness. Much like the days following the Jan. 28, 2014 snow day, the cold and icy weather in 1905 was followed by sunny, warm weather. 

“Sunday the sun came out and ruined all the fun by melting the ice and sleet,” the article said.

In an effort to raise funds for pediatric cancer research, members of the Austin community gathered on the steps of the Main Building on Saturday to shave their heads.

With the slogan “Go bald for a bold cause,” roughly 150 people registered to shave their heads for the Brave the Shave event. This year, Brave the Shave raised more than $50,000.

All of the proceeds of the event go to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, an organization that promotes fundraising events such as shaving heads to fund cancer and supportive care research for children and upgrading equipment for hospitals.

The organization Students Making Impacts Through Love and Empathy, S.M.I.L.E., hosts the annual event. Sabrina Khwaja, S.M.I.L.E. fundraising chair and sociology senior, said it is inspiring to see individuals be selfless and shave off all of their hair.  

“In essence, they’re kind of going through the process with these children that are affected with cancer,” Khwaja said. “Through chemotherapy your hair tends to fall out, so by volunteering to shave off your hair and show those children that ‘I am going through it with you’ ... it is overwhelming and wonderful to see this.”

Kalie Kubes, applied learning and development sophomore is a three-time cancer survivor. She said she had neuroblastoma at the age of 15 months and again at 2, and thyroid cancer at 18 and is at high risk for relapse. Although she is currently cancer-free, she said she believes everyone should shave their head to support someone enduring cancer at some point in their life.

“It definitely brings up some feelings that are really emotional sometimes,” Hughes said in a speech she gave during Brave the Shave. “You look at yourself in the mirror and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just don’t have any hair.’ I never thought of myself as being bald, but it’s the best thing you could ever do.”

Sheldon Ekland-Olson, professor and school of human ecology director, said he promised his life and death decisions class — a class Khwaja is enrolled in — he would have his head shaved if it raised money for the cause. The class raised $1,842 and he shaved his head. 

“It’s important for me to see all of us do things for other people, and this is one of those events that does that,” Ekland-Olson said. “What I admire are the women who do this. It’s way harder for the women to get their heads shaved than it is for a man. It is definitely inspiring.”

Pre-nursing student Devon Strickland said she volunteered she decided to participate in Brave the Shave after hearing an American studies lecture on women’s suffrage.

“All at once I realized that throughout history many people have sacrificed themselves mentally and physically to fight battles and win wars they greatly supported.” Strickland said. “I just thought to myself, ‘Who am I?’ and, ‘What do I stand for if I can’t sacrifice beyond my limitations for something I so strongly believe in as finding a cure to cancer, especially childhood cancer?’ I did it because sometimes it may seem that cancer wins the battle but we will win the war.”

Khwaja said many people participated because they have been affected by cancer in one way or another. 

“This form of empathy allows awareness to spread, and most importantly, show those currently suffering from cancer are not alone,” Khwaja said. “By having our speakers share their personal stories battling cancer, and currently suffering from cancer, it gives our attendees a personal story to connect with. It makes cancer that more real, and calls for action to be taken. Those that contributed are making a real difference.” 

Between Batts and Mezes Halls sits a tiny metal sculpture by the artist Willard Boepple. On loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the steel sculpture anchors the tiny courtyard, its curving metal pieces waving statically atop a concrete pedestal. Like most abstract sculpture, it is hard to tell what, if anything, the sculpture is actually depicting, and the title, “Eleanor at 7:15,” gives precious few clues. 

Last Saturday, I found myself staring at Eleanor, whatever she may be, along with 10 other sculptural pieces on the UT campus that are part of the Landmarks public art collection. My journey, which took me from the Main Building to the AT&T Center and back again, was part of an attempt to resurrect a Saturday afternoon date, the previous plans for which had been decimated by a look at the far-too-low number in my bank account.     

But, as a presentation I attended last Thursday night by Landmarks external affairs coordinator Jennifer Modesett reminded me, the UT campus has a lot to offer in the way of free art. Could touring the public art collection at UT be a cost-free date alternative to dinner and a movie? In any case, it sounded fancier than a day spent watching Hulu on the couch. I resolved to rope in my significant other and give touring the campus art collection a try.    

Our tour started in the halls of Main on a Saturday afternoon. A few lone tourists snapped pictures on smartphones, but none stopped to admire the two works of art my date and I visited in the tower. I don’t blame them: I barely noticed them myself.     

The first, “Harmonious Triad,” by Beverly Pepper, sits just inside the double doors of the Main Building. Like most of the sculptures featured in the Landmarks collection, the sculpture is abstract, and like many of the pieces, it is made entirely of metal. Upstairs in the Life Sciences Library, the striated marble of Walter Dusenbery’s “Pedogna” prompted a healthy debate between my date and I over which sculpture fit which space better. So far, so good. 

At “Eleanor at 7:15,” my date and I ran into the first potential problem with viewing public art: it may put you in another person’s campus hideaway. As we took guesses as to what Eleanor could represent (I said vagina, the landmarks application said a young child and my date remained purposefully noncommittal), I kept glancing at the lone guy reading by the base of the statue, hoping that our Saturday recreation wasn’t disturbing his. We ran into the same problem viewing the Landmarks piece in the AT&T Center, where we looked decidedly out of place roaming the courtyard while actual guests with actual cash on hand chatted with
the concierge.     

Our self-guided tour ended with the six Landmarks works housed in and around the PCL, not because we had viewed all of the pieces on campus (there are more than two dozen of them) but because the setting sun and a nagging laziness kept us from wanting to walk to the pieces housed in Bass Concert Hall. In the back reading room of the PCL, fluorescent lighting, torn magazine copies and students munching on fast food surrounded three haunting, hulking sculptures by the artist Seymour Lipton. The art, though intriguing and beautiful, was clearly not a priority for the students in the PCL, and my date and I couldn’t help but be brought down by the scene of students studying on a Saturday. 

The end verdict? Cruising campus saved us cash, but trudging through the Forty Acres with a map and an agenda felt like attending class. The Landmarks collection has some beautiful art, but it’s best enjoyed in a quiet moment between classes. Next time you see Eleanor, tell her I said hello — but don’t visit her for a date night. 

UT police investigated a break-in at the Main Building Tuesday, and despite police efforts to lure a ‘suspect’ out with french fries, they still managed to escape.

According to UTPD officer Darrell Halstead’s Campus Watch report released Tuesday, several University of Texas Police Department officers responded to alarms in room eight of the Main Building Tuesday around 2:41 a.m. and discovered entry to the office had been made through the ceiling.

According to the report, an air conditioning vent was lying on the floor of the room, along with dust and other ceiling materials. Officers began searching the office and discovered a “masked non-UT subject attempting to hide by hanging onto the wall molding and a window blind.”

According to the report, “The subject refused to comply with the officers requests to come out with his hands up. The subject even refused the officers coaxing when the officer handed over the Jack in the Box french fries. The non-UT subject escaped through an open window and evaded the officers. The non-UT subject was described as: three feet tall, last seen wearing a brown and black stripped (sic) coat, furry gloves and black mask over his eyes.”

South Congress Mirror, Main Building Reading, Free Week of Dance

Erin Dooner and her son Elliot, 2, walk past an antique shop on South Congress on Monday afternoon.

Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

 

A woman reads a book outside of the main building Monday afternoon.

Lully Kuo | Daily Texan Staff

 

Biology senior Liz Brackett and Architecture senior Jacob Greene, show off their dance skills during the "Free Week of Dance" lessons hosted by the Texas Ballroom Dance Club, Monday.

Victoria Montalvo | Daily Texan Staff

St. Edward's

Allen Otto | Daily Texan Staff

Lacy Johnson walks down the stairs in the Main Building at St. Edward’s University Tuesday afternoon.