South Mall

Wild Art | 03.04.15

Noah Zim holds a string of balloons promoting the launch of the mobile app Zoku at the South Mall on Tuesday afternoon. Zoku allows users to connect with others in the same “tribe,” or interest group, within 300 feet without using an internet connection.

Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Fatma, 14 months, holds a cluster of balloons near the South Mall on Tuesday afternoon. The balloons, provided by employees of Zoku, dotted the sky above campus for most of Tuesday.

Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Ace Maning stands outside local bar Dozen Street on Tuesday afternoon. The bar front is completely covered by a peacock mirror mosaic by Austin artist Stefanie Distefano.

Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Grace Gilker

The Jefferson Davis statue on the South Mall was temporarily defaced by a blue-chalk “CHUMP,” with an arrow pointing up to Davis, scrawled on the statue’s base early Friday morning. It has since been removed. 

The statue has long been a source of controversy for the University because Davis was the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

SG Executive Alliance candidate Xavier Rotnofsky, a Plan II junior, said he and his running mate Plan II senior Rohit Mandalapu, made the removal of the Davis statue on the South Mall a major part of their platform. 

“I’m running for student body president with this satirical campaign, [but] we made it one of our platform points to remove the Jefferson Davis statue,” Rotnofsky said. “We said we want to take down the Jefferson Davis statue because it’s not okay that it’s still on campus.”

After University Democrats distributed a survey to all Student Government candidates asking about their stance on the statue’s presence, Executive Alliance candidates Braydon Jones, a government senior, and Kimia Dargahi, an international relations and global studies and Middle Eastern studies senior, said they also support the statue’s removal.

“Braydon and Kimia do not support the vandalism of university property, but we do understand that it represents a part of US history that is not inclusive and creates such a culture on the Forty Acres,” they said in a statement to The Daily Texan on Sunday. “As we have said, statues on campus represent a part of history, for better or for worse … Whether it is physical monuments or the intangible cultural climate present on the Forty Acres, we will continue to advocate for an inclusive campus.”

Executive Alliance candidate David Maly, an economics and journalism senior, said although he does not support graffiti in any situation, he also does not support the presence of Jefferson Davis on the South Mall.

“I think that it’s wrong for UT to celebrate the racist past of our nation,“ Maly said. “I don’t think graffiti is ever okay. But I think that displaying our nation’s racist past with a statue does put students in a difficult position. I don’t condone defaming public property ever, or support it.”

University Democrats communications director Ashley Alcantara, an international relations and global studies senior, said UDems included the question regarding the Davis statue to find out the Executive Alliance candidates’ opinions of the statue remaining on campus. 

“We were actually inspired by Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s inclusion of the issue in their platform and wanted to know what all of the candidates’ positions were on the issue, as these statues are construed as offensive to many people,” Alcantara said.

Plan II freshman Grace Gilker said the graffiti pushed her to think critically about the statue’s presence.

“In terms of the word choices, it was so anachronistic — the people who graffitied it used chalk,” Gilker said. “They were smart protestors — not just hooligans with spray paint they were trying to make a statement.”

Wild Art | 02.19.15

Biology freshman Lisa Boatner studies on South Mall on Wednesday afternoon.

Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Visitors pass by Tree No. 618 on the South Mall on Sunday afternoon. Events such as Holi, which are traditionally held on the South Mall, have recently been relocated due to concerns about the health of this and other nearby trees.


Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Despite University efforts to improve its health, a tree on the South Mall will be removed after contracting two different diseases within the last year.

Jim Carse, assistant manager of Urban Forestry, said he first noticed that Tree No. 618 — the third tree on the right when facing the Texas Capitol — had issues in January 2013. The tree had contracted hypoxylon, a fungal disease. In addition, soil testing results from the base of the tree came back positive for phytophthora, a root rot.

“The fungus is ever present in the tree … but it only activates when the tree is under stress, usually due to low moisture levels in the tree,” Carse said. “Because of the drought for the past three to four years and because a lot of the compaction and site issues that have been happening over the past few decades, that tree was the first to succumb to some of the issues.”

The University has spent approximately $3,500 on efforts to save the tree, according to Carse. While this tree won’t be able to be completely saved, Carse said the University has taken proactive efforts on the rest of the lawn.

“We’re more looking to the site as a whole now,” Carse said. “We started to take some different approaches to the South Mall, such as adding mulch [and] doing some other maintenance to improve the soil quality to take better care of the turf.”

For many years, the turf of the lawn has been replaced in the spring leading up to the annual commencement ceremony, but it won’t be replaced this year, according to Carse, who Carse said this practice is detrimental to the trees because the work disturbs the soil and tree roots.

In order to let the ground heal, Carse said he and his team have been working with the Office of Student Affairs to keep larger events off the South Mall, allowing them to replace the grass less often — though commencement will still be on the lawn. Events such as Holi — the Hindu festival of colors celebrating the arrival of spring — had to relocate to the LBJ Lawn.

“We were notified from the University to our organization that South Mall was off limits,” said Abhi Sreerama, Holi festival chair and UT alumnus.

Even though large events are not being scheduled on the lawn, Carse said students are still welcome to use the lawn daily,

“It’s not off limits for informal day-to-day use,” Carse said. “It’s the students’ area, [and] it’s for them to use, and we don’t want to take that away. We’re trying to work with groups to find alternate locations that can suit their event just as well [but] without the iconic view.”

Carse has worked with the Dean of Students office to educate people about the issues the lawn is facing and why it’s necessary to let the ground heal.

“We’re not making that decision of ‘you can or cannot use this space,’ but we’re trying to support our community,” said Sara Lestrange, communications manager for Office of the Dean of Students. “We’re part of a team — the University — trying to make sure the space continues to thrive.”

Texas State graduate Alejandro Fernandez holds up a Venezuelan flag during a rally in the Main Mall on Saturday afternoon. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

Students and members of the Austin community rallied on the South Mall on Saturday in support of recent protests staged by Venezuelan students demanding free speech, among other civil rights.

The rally, coordinated in part by the Brazilian and Venezuelan Student Association, or BRAVEN, included flags and signs stating “Say NO to Communism” and “#PrayForVenezuela”. The attendees then formed the letters “SOS” in front of the UT tower with their bodies — a symbol replicated in more than 50 cities all over the world on Saturday. The unified effort was live-streamed between demonstrations in other cities to encourage awareness of Venezuela’s current state.

Earlier this year, students in Venezuela took to the streets, protesting the lack of free speech and civil rights they believe are required of a democratic country. The protests have recently turned violent, resulting in the deaths of at least three individuals, according to a CNN report. 

Architectural engineering graduate student Jose Latorre, who has family in Venezuela, said he is frustrated by what he feels is a lack of action on the part of foreign governments.

“It’s a strong feeling to explain, being away from the people you care about while they have to suffer,” Latorre said. “The international community is doing little to nothing.”

Three U.S. diplomats in Venezuela were given 48 hours to leave the country last week, and Colombian-based cable news network NTN24, as well as CNN, has been blocked from televisions in an effort to control the media.

Elvita Atencio, an Austin kindergarten teacher who spoke at the event, said her decision to leave Venezuela was one she wishes everyone was able to make.

“We’ve had to emigrate — we don’t have jobs,” Atencio said. “Things are so unsafe now.”

According to Atencio, incidents involving kidnapping, rape, robbery and general chaos have increased in Venezuela in recent months. 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, successor to the deceased Hugo Chavez, blames his political opposition as the cause for the problems it protests against, according to a WorldPost report.

According to a February report by CTV, Venezuela’s economy has one of the highest inflation rates in the world — now at 56 percent — which has led to basic goods either skyrocketing in price or missing from shelves entirely. 

Matheus Chagas, government junior and one of the co-founders of BRAVEN, said he hopes the rally will spark action in other countries.

“One post can change the world,” Chagas said. “We want to be the voice that the government is trying to repress.”

People enjoy the festival of colors “Holi” at South Mall on a Sunday afternoon. The event involved around 6000 students and was organized by the the Hindu Students Association to celebrate the Indian holiday. 

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

The South Mall was soaked with dyes and water Sunday, as students partook in the Hindu Students Association’s tenth Holi event. 

The event was intended to celebrate cultural diversity and to parallel the Indian holiday, also known as the Festival of Colors or the “spring festival.”

“In India, this is a big deal,” HSA CEO and President Swati Verma said. “This is the beginning of the farming season.”

Verma said she hopes the event connects UT students with another culture and symbolically celebrates differences in color.

“We’re all the same,” Verma said. “We’re all people.”

Sneha Gurajala, co-chair of the Holi event, said the event helps celebrate Indian culture. She said HSA members worked the lines and handed out shirts to people who knew what Holi was, and all promotional material had information.

“We put a lot of emphasis on this not just being a color dance party,” Gurajala said.

The event, which ran from 1-4 p.m., involved approximately 6,000 students. To provide these students with the dyes and water balloons they threw at each other throughout the festival, HSA ordered ten 55-pound bags of dye and handed out more than 1,000 water balloons at intervals throughout the event. The event also drew on the musical talent of “DJ Chet.”

Melody Rodsuwan, a senior from Thailand, said Holi reminds her of Thailand’s water festival.

Cary Kuo, an electrical engineering freshman, said he went to the event because it served as a nice break from his heavy workload.

“I thought I’d take some time off from the life of a ‘double E,’” he said. “It seemed like a creative and cool event.”

Published on March 25, 2013 as "Students embrace Holi festival". 

The Harlem Shake is still happening

Beginning with a lackluster and bewildering video on YouTube that somehow managed to get upwards of 3 million views, the “Harlem Shake” video has reached different locations across the states, including office buildings and college campuses. Even Longhorns have found inspiration in the weird shaking dance move.

Here on the 40 Acres, our own "Harlem Shake" was filmed and plenty of UT students can be seen filling the South Mall in this absurd video. Take that, A&M.

Psychology senior Albert Chavez, who learned of the filming through a Facebook invite, stands out for taking his shirt off and whipping it around.

“I figured it was my senior year, my last semester, so I might as well have fun with it,” Chavez said.

A director stood on a ladder with a camera to capture the South Mall at approximately 12:30 p.m. They filmed the first take with Bevo while the people dressed in costume stood on the side. After the scene with Bevo finished, all the people in the first scene moved off the lawn and were replaced by the costumed people looking to take center stage.

“I made it front and center,” Chavez said proudly. “I wanted something noticeable, that people could spot me with. That’s why I took off my shirt. Honestly. I don’t take off my shirt in public often.”

Chavez said it was 40 seconds of dancing and going crazy as much as they could. He acknowledged that his friend in the Spider-Man costume had to time his backflip perfectly, but his favorite person was the guy who rode his bike across the lawn and waved.

“I laugh every time, but there was a Hulk making love to a bike rack, and that was pretty funny,” Chavez said. “Mad props to them. I think someone wrote ‘Hulk smash’ on the YouTube comments. But yeah, it was well worth it. It’s going to be hard to top that one. I hope A&M is jealous.”

Editor’s note: Yesterday, the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education published a report concluding that Texas’ flagship universities, The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, “perform at high levels when compared to their national peers on many of the dimensions of importance to students, to the public, and to the state of Texas.” We asked UT students if they believe their UT education has been, in the report’s words, “a bargain.”

“Bargain? Yeah, I guess so. The job I’m getting going out of college is worth a lot more than I would have otherwise.”
— Andrew Pruet, petroleum engineering senior from Houston, outside the Texas Memorial Union

“A bargain? Honestly, no, because we pay such a high tuition and then with the way the special education department works, we have to travel to schools — I mean obviously it’s not the education college’s fault — but we have to travel to schools. We pay so much for gas. We have to buy all of our own school supply materials to build materials for our teaching. We spend a lot of extra expenses, so it’s very expensive.”
— Pam Diu, special education senior from Austin, on the South Mall

“I do believe it’s a bargain, because I was in finance and business honors, and I feel like I’m more prepared than most business students out there. Especially since when I [was] recruited, I got two or three jobs right off the bat, when a lot of people don’t have that many job offers. I was paying in-state tuition, so it was like $4-5,000, and I got a great education. I feel like I’m well-prepared for my job and everything, so yeah, I think it was a bargain.”
— Nitash Hirani, Business Honors Program senior from Austin, at the Littlefield fountain

“Yeah, I believe so. Well, the education here at UT. ... I mean, I’m an active duty Marine, so at the same time here it’s at a level where you get the best educators, I would say, grouped together. You’re offered, you know, this caliber of education, as far as the curriculum goes here. It’s very competitive to get into school, and you’re around students that are competitive in nature. So, having that, you get curriculum that’s competitive in nature. So I think the caliber of education here at the school has prestige throughout the United States.”
— AJ Quintanilla, government senior from Santa Rita, Guam, at the SAC

“Yes, definitely. For one thing, it’s a public, state university, so obviously it’s going to be cheaper than a private university. But also, the classes that I’ve taken here have definitely been of value to me. I don’t know if that’s specifically because of the major I’m in and how relevant it is to, just, normal life. Or because, I mean, the professors here generally seem to know what they’re doing and be interested in what they’re teaching.”
— Amulya Aradhyula, human development junior from Austin, at the SAC

“I definitely feel that, compared to other schools, the cost of tuition is definitely lower.  I definitely didn’t receive as much financial help as I would have liked to, but I do think, for the quality of education I’ve received thus far, it’s definitely — I’d definitely consider it a bargain.”
— Alexander Villarreal, journalism sophomore from Edinburg, on a bench outside the Red McCombs Business School

“Like price? [chuckles]. I really do think so. I mean, one of the colleges I was prospecting, or considering, was Baylor. And that was, you know, much more expensive because it’s a private university and all that. But I feel like, yeah, when you compare prices, and ... I can’t really compare quality of education, you know, because I don’t go there. But I look at the price, and I look at how UT ranks in outside lists, and all that. I really feel like I’m getting a good deal — well not a deal, but — yeah, I really feel so.”
— Eddie Martinez, Radio, Television, Film sophomore from Del Rio, at the George Washington statue on the South Mall

“Um, let’s see. I would say no, probably. Mainly because the value of what we’re actually getting and receiving for the class time per instruction with the professor isn’t actually reasonable, I guess. If you factor in all the other stuff that the school’s providing, it makes it, I guess, a little more reasonable, but all said and done, when it boils down to the straight education, probably not.”
— Daniel LaLonde, mechanical engineering junior from Houston, in the FAC

“Okay, well, first of all, I think that any college education — it’s weird calling it a bargain, because they’re always incredibly expensive — I mean you can get scholarships, but they’re not available to everyone. I didn’t get a whole lot of scholarships, so there was a burden on my parents to pay for my education. And if I asked them if they consider it a bargain, they would laugh. Now, of course, as a journalism major I’m not expected to make very much money when I graduate, and therefore it’s going to take a while to see a return on my investment. However, I still think that a college education is worthwhile for everyone, because even if you don’t make a lot of money when you graduate, you’re still getting a lot of valuable life skills and becoming a better person.”
— Erica Herbst, journalism junior from Greenville, in the FAC


Airforce ROTC students stand in front of the tower during a ceremony honoring Veterans Day on the South mall Monday afternoon. 

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

ROTC students take down the American flag and the Prisoner of War flag on the South mall Monday afternoon. Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff  


Student members of UT’s ROTC programs stood in formation as the flag raised over South Mall during a Veterans Day ceremony Monday.

The ceremony was a joint effort between the Texas Army, Navy and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps programs in order to pay tribute to the men and women that served in the United States Armed Forces.

“It’s important to pay attention to a sacrifice someone has made for you,“ Stephen Ollar, president of the Student Veteran Association and economics senior, said.

He said being a veteran is something to be proud of. He served in the Army before attending UT and, through the association, tries to make life as students easier for veterans at UT.  

“We try to help veterans find friends, find a source of communication, something that can help them from going into some of the pitfalls of being a veteran: the isolation, the loneliness, the suicide that can come with being a veteran,”  Ollar said.

He said it is a common misconception that all veterans suffer from traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder or other post-service disorders. He said it is easier to relate with people that have been through similar experiences.

Benjamin Armstrong, coordinator of Student Veteran Services, served as a Marine and said he has worked with 1,947 of UT’s student veterans through the Student Veteran Services office. Student Veteran Services opened on Veterans Day 2011 and celebrated its first anniversary Sunday.

“We are a one-stop shop on campus for veterans and their dependents to access this institution and understand how it works,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said he is a natural fit for his position, because as a veteran he can connect with student veterans and help them get all the benefits for which they are eligible.

“I give them the lay of the land and a safe haven. The Student Veteran Association gives them that group of fellow travelers to be social with,” Armstrong said.

Lee Leffingwell, Austin mayor and Navy veteran, spoke at the ceremony about his experience during Aviation Officer Training School. He said 40 years later, he still remembers two of his sergeant instructors, who died in the line of duty during the Vietnam War. He said the lessons they taught him transferred from active duty into his life as a veteran.

“For my years of experience as mayor and retired Navy commander, I believe that the values you develop and will continue to develop will continue through aspects of your life,” Leffingwell said.

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Kopser, commanding officer of Texas Army ROTC, said it is thrilling to watch young students choose a life of service in the Armed Forces when they join one of UT’s ROTC programs.

“It is a huge honor to watch young people raise their right hand to join the United States Armed Forces during a time of war and take an oath to preserve the United States,” Kopser said.

Printed on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 as: Time of appreciation

Clay bones made by UT students and community members will be on display this Tuesday in the South Mall. The bones were made for the project One Million Bones which promotes awareness of genocide in Africa. Photo courtesy of Jenny Nguyen.

UT students and their collaborators will lie 6,500 to 7,000 clay bones on the grass of the South Mall Tuesday. The area usually populated by students studying in the sun will be transformed into a symbolic graveyard of sorts as handmade bones are laid down as part of the national art activism project One Million Bones.

Started by artist Naomi Natale in New Mexico, the UT installation of clay bones is only the latest in a string of nationwide “One Million Bones” projects that span from New Orleans to New Jersey.

One Million Bones is a collaborative art endeavor that aims to promote awareness of genocide and daily atrocities occurring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Somalia and Burma. Ultimately, the bones made by UT students will be combined with more than 900,000 other bones in Washington D.C. as part of the largest One Million Bones exhibit in 2013. Through the sheer number of bones present on the South Mall, the UT exhibit hopes to serve as a visible reminder of the staggering loss of life within these African communities.

“The bones symbolize that beneath every person’s skin, we’re all the same, and also helps us to remember victims and survivors from these atrocities while representing hope for the future at the same time,” education junior Julie Zhang said.

Zhang, who estimates she has made approximately 400 bones, is one of eight students in Kara Hallmark’s visual art studies service-learning course that are responsible for putting together the event. As part of the class, these students have organized bone-making sessions on campus and as well as sessions with elementary school students, museums and professors at Southwestern and Temple Colleges.

Hallmark, the course instructor, was hired by Natale as the Central Texas state coordinator for the project after helping graduate student Matthew Remington organize the first One Million Bones display in Austin at the state capitol last spring. The role art could play in promoting social justice intrigued Hallmark, who had previous experience with service-learning in the K-12 system.

“A project like this will create within you a deeper sense of connection with the situation,” Hallmark said. “Art has a way of doing that. It’s that visceral experience in conjunction with knowledge, stories, photographs and video.”

While an intriguing idea in practice, making 10,000 bones for social justice is no easy feat. Hallmark said that in addition to meeting for six hours every week, most students spend countless hours outside of class making bones.

Psychology senior Brianna Herold, Hallmark’s student and the project manager for the UT installation, noted that while time consuming, the project affects everyone it touches.

“Whatever the outcome may be of our total bones or the amount of bones that make it to D.C. in the spring, anyone who has been involved in the project in any form has been affected and inspired,” Herold said.

For Zhang, the effect of the project is already noticeable.

“Before I started on this project, my level of awareness about these genocides and conflicts was at a much lower level, I knew that these atrocities existed in certain countries, but I didn’t know which specific countries and to what extent,” Zhang said. “Through the process of working on this project, I learned more about how people around the world are suffering from these kinds of events and how much they need our help.”

For One Million Bones, the aim of these installations is als to make a significant contribution toward enacting positive change as well. 

For each bone made, One Million Bones, in collaboration with Students Rebuild and the Bezos Family Foundation, donates $1, until they reach $500,000, to the CARE foundation, which works in the Congo and Sudan to enact change.

When the bones are laid down this Tuesday at 11 a.m., primetime for students rushing to classes, Hallmark hopes students take the time to stop and participate as well.

“When we did this the first time, many people joined in and participated spontaneously. I hope that will happen here,” Hallmark said.  “The bones are powerful in large numbers, both visually and symbolically. I hope that students who participate that day have the opportunity to see how art can be a vehicle for social justice as well as the symbol of the bone moving us toward a future of change.”

Printed on Monday, November 12, 2012 as: Clay art to symbolize genocide