Perry-Castañeda Library

UT’s response to the 2010 shooting in the Perry-Castañeda Library is considered a success. This perception was strengthened last week by comparisons to UT’s late and disorganized response to a bomb threat made on Friday, September 14th that led to an evacuation of campus buildings.

Leaders tend to fight yesterday’s war. In this case, yesterday’s war was an overreaction to the 2010 shooting that turned UT into a war zone in a matter of two hours, complete with tanks and a SWAT team in pursuit of a possible second shooter.

Now, only two weeks from the second anniversary of the PCL shooting, another emergency response by the administration is criticized, this time for its under-reaction. Are we being unfair?

Do we want more deliberate public statements? Yes, but this time we have the luxury of critiquing the public relations mistakes because there were no casualties. One hopes that the debate over the caller’s “Middle Eastern accent” is not the main takeaway from this week, although cultural sensitivity and accuracy are necessary in situations like Friday’s.

Do we want more informative text messages? That might help. Within 15 minutes of the 2010 shooting, the sirens were sounded, and within 20 minutes texts detailing the situation were sent out and the school was  locked down. This time they waited for an hour and a half and the texts, when they finally arrived, were vague and confusing to most students. To be fair, the university can do little for students who chose to wait near buildings instead of getting “as far away as possible,” as they were instructed. Students should have taken the extra precaution of walking another block or two away from campus.

Do we want a measured reaction? The administration seemed to improve in that regard by waiting to confirm the threat before evacuating a campus of 75,000 students and staff, and they gave themselves time to think about their situation instead creating another war zone. However, their abrupt evacuation only 15 minutes before the threatened explosion demonstrated the opposite of an “abundance of caution.”

UTPD refused to comment on its internal procedures, so I asked an officer in the Houston Police Department whether he thought 15 minutes was sufficient. “It’s hard enough to evacuate a two-story building in 15 minutes,” I was told, “let alone a university campus. You might ask your local police department about their procedures, but from my personal experience, I highly doubt it.”

UT President William Powers, Jr. spoke at a noontime press conference on the day of the bomb threat. He implied that, after much deliberation, UT administrators remained unsure whether the threat was a hoax or a real danger. Since they had no definitive answer, their hedging is understandable.

It would be unrealistic to demand that Powers reveal details of his conversations with staff or that UTPD give us a detailed timeline of their procedures. Making such information public could give an advantage to those intent on harming us. Transparency doesn’t require that the media have every detail; transparency requires that we are informed on the basics of procedure in order to report honestly the UT community. We must know that either 15 minutes is a long enough period to evacuate all campus buildings—a position that defies common sense and thus requires further explanation from the decision makers—or that the university did not find the threat credible.

North Dakota State University, which received its own threat an hour after we did, didn’t have the luxury of reflection. Their caller did not give specifics regarding time. NDSU’s administration acted quickly—within 15 minutes—by sending an evacuation notice to the 14,000 students and approximately 6,000 staff members on its two campuses.

We are not NDSU; we are one of the largest public universities in the nation. But it seems that we had ample time to both evaluate and evacuate.

I commend the UT administrators for their calmness. I’m glad they avoided the unnecessary hype of having SWAT teams in every building and a tank rolling down the street. But while I wasn’t privy to the evaluation process and am reluctant to second guess the administration, I would remind them to uphold their end of the contract with UT students. We should be willing to trust our leaders to make important decisions regarding our safety, but that trust needs to be earned. In the words of Ronald Reagan: “Trust ... but verify.”

Psychology senior Zoe Papathanasiou studies for finals in Battle Hall outside the Architecture Library on Wednesday afternoon. The library’s quiet atmosphere and holiday decor make it a popular study-spot for students during the end of the semester.

Photo Credit: Amanda Martin | Daily Texan Staff

Final exams are on their way, and sometimes the Perry-Castañeda Library can seem overcrowded. Daily Texan Staffers have compiled a list of alternative study spots both on and off campus.

1. Flightpath Coffee House: At the corner of 51st and Duval streets, Flightpath offers a creative atmosphere to the North Campus area. The venue opens at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. on weekends and closes at 11 p.m. seven days week. Sip on coffee or study break beers while working at one of the shop’s retro tables in an environment with just enough hustle and bustle but still “guaranteed to be a quiet place to come and study,” according to Flightpath’s website.

2. Life Science Library: Located on the second floor of the Main Building, one may feel as if they have walked into Hogwarts upon first entering. With grand, woodcut ceilings in the library’s first room, study rooms encased in the same carved wood and kingdom crests set upon the marble-edged walls, it is easy to get lost in the center’s architecture. One reading room features the history of Texas inscribed on the ceiling beams, while the other showcases inspirational quotes from famous books and authors. Computers, couches and larger tables provide study options from 8 a.m. until midnight Monday through Thursday or until 6 p.m. on Friday. The library opens at 1 p.m. on weekends, closing at 5 p.m. Saturdays and open Sunday until midnight.

3. Starbucks on 24th Street: Located in West Campus, the traditional Starbucks store is housed in a non-traditional building next door to a house featured in Richard Linklater’s 1991 film “Slacker.” One may feel as if they are sipping their favorite holiday flavor while in New Orleans, as the architecture simulates that found in the Big Easy. The store opens at 6 a.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. on weekends and closes at midnight seven days a week.

4. Architecture Library: Follow the winding marble staircase to the second floor of Battle Hall and step into a reading room designed to encourage insight. The Architecture Library, built of big limestone blocks, inspires exam-cramming students through a design reminiscent of the Alamo. The entryway, encased in wooden carvings, is also decked for the holidays this time of year. Library hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m to 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday from noon until 6 p.m. and 1 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Sunday.

5. Bennu Coffee: Open 24 hours Monday through Friday, this East Austin coffee shop was designed to give a comfortable feel necessary to support an all-nighter. Munch on baked goods or dine on real meals from local vendors, such as salad, pizza and tacos while cramming for a next-day exam. Upon arrival, be sure to find a table quickly, as the venue becomes busy during finals.

6. Peter T. Flawn Academic Center: Students sick of waiting in line at commercial coffee shops do not have to go anywhere to order their caffeine boost from Briggo. With ordering made possible by mobile phone or online, lines are short at the Briggo kiosk in the Flawn Academic Center. The equivalent of a coffee vending machine, Briggo works without baristas and prepares five different selections. One can pick up their drink, stick around and study at the FAC, open 6 a.m. until midnight Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

7. Classics Lounge: Located on the ground floor of Waggener Hall, the Classics Lounge features distinct wooden tables mimicking an executive meeting area surrounded by cases of classical artifacts depicting Greek and Roman culture. Coffee and snacks are available in the lounge, although students consuming them are encouraged to give a personal monetary donation. Hours of operation for the Classics Lounge coincide with Waggener Hall hours.

8. Study Rooms: Study rooms can conveniently be found everywhere — in both on- and off-campus dormitories, certain academic buildings, sorority and fraternity houses and student housing complexes. Though they vary in size, availability and amenities, those using them are encouraged to respect the space, time and desired noise level to a greater degree than when hanging out at a friend’s apartment.

9. At the park: With traditionally hot Texas weather, it’s usually not too cold to study outside, even in December. The Adams Hemphill Park located on 30th Street offers shade trees to rest against, walking trails for those who need a break from the books and bountiful green space to set up an entire outdoor study lounge.

10. Go Home: Students who live within state and have the time may find it easier to get things done in the company of family, away from the noise and distractions of campus life. Some may find their parents respect their study habits much more than their friends or that their old room provides more solitude than a dorm room.

Printed on Thursday, December 1, 2011 as: Coffee houses, campus libraries fall among best places to study for finals

Austin police prepare to enter Calhoun Hall on the South Mall Tuesday morning after a gunman opened fire near the Littlefield fountain and later fatally shot himself on the sixth floor of the Perry-Castañeda Library. Austin Police Department and SWAT officers suspected an additional gunman was in Calhoun Hall but quickly determined the shooter acted alone.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

The UT campus was on lockdown for nearly four hours Tuesday because of a shooting incident that ended when the gunman, armed with an AK-47 rifle, took his own life after unleashing a barrage of bullets and being cornered by police on the sixth floor of the Perry-Castañeda Library.

Campus administrators identified the gunman as 19-year-old mathematics sophomore Colton Tooley.

A half-dozen law enforcement agencies, including the Austin Police Department, University of Texas Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Austin Independent School District Police Department, responded to the shooting and its aftermath.

Officials said no students were hurt in the shooting, although a couple of students were mildly injured during the evacuation process.

“I am grateful to our campus community for the way it responded to the emergency that took place at the Perry-Castañeda Library [Tuesday] morning,” UT President William Powers Jr. said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. “I extend my sympathy to the family, friends and classmates of the young student who took his life.”

The lockdown was lifted at 12:15 p.m. The University was then closed and nonessential personnel were released for the remainder of Tuesday. UT shuttles routes ran, but only in the outbound direction so students and staff could get home, said UT spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon.

The incident began just after 8 a.m. as Tooley walked from 21st Street near Guadalupe Street, heading deeper into campus wearing a dark suit, ski mask and carrying an AK-47 in his hand.

The University sent the first emergency text messages warning of an armed man on campus at 8:23 a.m. The message was quickly followed by a warning from UT officials for students and staff to find shelter and lock all doors.

“He had a black mask and he was walking down the street,” said Ruben Cordoba, a maintenance worker at Dobie Center who was working on the plaza level of the dormitory, which is three stories above 21st Street. “I thought he was joking because he had an AK-47 in his hand ... I heard three shots to the left and three shots to the right.”

Other eyewitnesses said they heard as many as 10 shots, and said they thought he was shooting at the University Catholic Church and the South Mall. After shooting, he continued to run toward the PCL.

Lawrence Peart, an international relations junior, was locking up his bike at the library when he heard the first gun shots. He said a taxi came down the street honking its horn to warn the students, but he didn’t think much of it until he saw students running.

“So I start advancing toward the entrance and a man — pretty tall in a black business suit, ski mask and an AK-47 — runs in front of me, so I froze,” Peart said. “He was running down the 21st Street along that brick wall that’s beside the PCL and he glances over at me. He looked at me in the eyes then waved his arm as if to say, ‘Don’t come in here. Go away.’”

Officers chased Tooley off the street and into the library, said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. Once inside, Tooley ran to the stairwell and climbed the stairs to the sixth floor, where he took his own life at 8:50 a.m., Acevedo said.

“Almost immediately, members of [APD] and [UTPD] ended up on campus, spotted the suspect and gave chase to that suspect,” Acevedo said. “I want to commend the students of the University of Texas that led the way to the suspect — that as our officers ran and tried to find and chase after him, the students kept pointing [the officers] in the right direction.”

 

Authorities held a press conference on the UT shooting at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, tactical response teams from APD and DPS searched surrounding buildings for a rumored second suspect. However, officials ruled out any such possibility and said that reports of a second suspect resulted from conflicting descriptions of the shooter.

UTPD Chief Robert Dahlstrom and Acevedo credited joint exercises between both agencies for the quick response and lack of fatalities.

“There’s no doubt that the training paid off in this situation and prevented a much more tragic situation than what we had happen this morning,” Dahlstrom said.

— Additional reporting by Gerald Rich