Welch Hall

Rep. John Zerwas, chair of the House committee on higher education, speaks to members of Invest in Texas at the Capitol on Thursday.
Photo Credit: Andy Nguyen | Daily Texan Staff

Student leaders headed to the Capitol on Thursday as part of the annual Invest in Texas campaign, speaking with legislators and their staff about campus carry regulations, in-state tuition for undocumented students and a host of other higher education-related issues.

As part of this year’s Invest in Texas campaign, a nonpartisan lobbying effort between the Graduate Student Assembly, Senate of College Councils and Student Government, leaders from the organizations presented six platform points on behalf of the student body.

“We ran a well-oiled machine,” said John Brown, government junior and Invest in Texas co-director. “Our messages — they were very well-received. We got a lot of good feedback on our platform.”

One of the group’s platform points supported a capital investment for the renovation of Welch Hall. Welch houses the UT chemistry and biochemistry departments, and the building is 85 years old. The University needs around $125 million to renovate the building and improve laboratory safety, according to administrators from the College of Natural Sciences.

Geetika Jerath, international relations and global studies senior and Senate of College Councils president, said she believes Welch, which approximately 10,000 students use each day, is unsafe for laboratory use.  

“Students and faculty members fear for their safety,” Jerath said. “This is not a mindset that Longhorns … should have. We should be focused on conducting groundbreaking research in state-of-the-art facilities.”

The platform also called for legislators to continue support of the Texas DREAM Act, which grants in-state tuition for undocumented students with Texas residency. Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond), chair of the House committee on higher education, spoke to students before they met with legislators, and he said he thinks the DREAM Act will pass in the House again. 

“The opportunity for [undocumented students] to go on in higher education is critically important to their success and the success of the state,” Zerwas said.

The students who lobbied also spoke in opposition to tuition regulation at the state level, asking that state universities be allowed to determine their own tuition.

“If tuition is re-regulated, the very people who pay the tuition will lose their voice in this critical issue,” Jerath said.

Students also lobbied in favor of a bill that would establish tax-free periods for textbook sales in August and January, and for continued state funding and grant-matching to support research at Tier One institutions, including UT. 

The group lobbied in support of allowing college campuses to set their own policies on campus carry, a bill that, if passed, would allow students to carry concealed handguns into campus buildings. 

Sharla Chamberlain, public affairs graduate student and GSA’s legislative affairs director, said graduate student voices often go unheard.

“There are 12,000 graduate students living, working, researching at the University of Texas today,” Chamberlain said. “Graduate students provide an invaluable service to UT. … We’re all taking time from our busy lives to invest in our education.”

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Senate is set to hear a bill that would provide UT-Austin with $67,500,000 for renovations at Welch Hall as well as construction on other facilities within the UT System and across the state.

On Wednesday, the Senate Higher Education Committee approved SB 150, a bill that grants state universities more than $2 billion in tuition revenue bonds (TRBs). The complete Senate has not set a date to hear the bill.

TRBs are bonds funded by the state for specific facilities-related projects at universities. According to the bill’s author, Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), institutions statewide submitted proposals for their projects to the legislature. In total, 64 projects were proposed, Seliger said.

“We’ve worked extensively for months with institutions and system administration to ensure that only the most important projects are included.“

UT System Chancellor William McRaven testified on the bill at the hearing. He said UT system enrollment and research has increased since the last issuance of revenue bonds in 2006.

“While enrollment has grown and our research has increased, our facilities, kind of, continue to age,” McRaven said.

Most of UT’s requested TRB funding would go to STEM-related facilities, according to McRaven. He said out-of-date buildings and laboratories are not conducive to research.

“Our facilities are anywhere from 25 to 45 years old,” McRaven said. “And we really do have to keep up with the competitive nature of the infrastructure for having 21st-century educational research.” 

In the bill’s current form, UT-Austin is slated to receive $67,500,000 to renovate Welch Hall.  

There are several other bills that would offer state universities revenue bonds, including one, which Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) proposed, that would give UT-Austin $100 million for Welch Hall and $105 million for renovations to the McCombs School of Business.

Kelsey Evans, College of Natural Sciences chief external relations officer, said the University requested $100 million for Welch Hall, and she is “cautiously optimistic” they will receive between $67.5 and $100 million from the state.

University spokesman Gary Susswein said Welch Hall was chosen to receive funding because it would have a high impact on the student body.

“The renovations at Welch Hall would make significant positive impact on our research, on our students and in maintaining our excellence in the sciences,” Susswein said.

Welch’s oldest wing, built in the late 1920s, is undergoing a $30 million renovation project in June, funded from the University’s and the College of Natural Sciences’ budgets, Evans said. The TRBs would go toward renovating the rest of the building.

The money will go to adding and updating classrooms with office renovations, the creation of collaborative space, increased security measures and updating labs, many of which Evans said are not suitable for lab experiments.

“It’s still going to be Welch, but it’s going to be a modern, sophisticated version of Welch Hall,” Evans said.

Cameron Crane, Student Government natural sciences representative and college ambassador, said most classrooms and offices in the building do not warrant much renovation, but the lab facilities do.

Biology junior Josh Shandera, who has taken many courses in Welch, said the building, as a whole, needs renovation. He said he thinks the projects should be funded by the state.

“The labs are older,” Shandera said. “They’re smaller. They’re cramped. The building itself — you can definitely tell they’re not new. For conducting research, you want to have the best facilities possible.”

Jayson Aydelotte, a surgeon at University Medical Center Brackenridge, served in the Army as a general surgeon in a war zone medical unit. In a talk at Welch Hall on Friday, Aydelotte and fellow surgeon John Uecker discussed how their military backgrounds developed their skills as surgeons.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Surgeons John Uecker and Jayson Aydelotte discussed their experiences as general surgeons in war zone medical units at a talk in Welch Hall on Friday. 

Both doctors, who now work at University Medical Center Brackenridge, said their military backgrounds allowed them to develop their skills and practice new medical procedures.

While serving in the U.S. Navy during the Iraq War, Uecker spent time in the Forward Resuscitative Surgical Suite, a mobile unit made up of 8–10 people, including several surgeons, anesthesiologists and ICU nurses. After his time in Iraq, Uecker said he carried practices he learned in war to civilian workplaces.

“What we learned from the war is the idea of damage control,” Uecker said. “We have learned to operate quickly and prevent them from going into shock or going cold as we move them to another facility.”

Aydelotte said his experience in the Army was different. Following the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000 by two suicide bombers of the al-Qaeda network, Aydelotte transferred from Germany and was stationed in North Africa.

Aydelotte said he was deployed in 2007 to the Green Zone in Baghdad. That year was the deadliest period in U.S. military history since the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

“The interesting part about this from a research standpoint is all the deaths funneled to one place,” Aydelotte said. “This changed a lot of ways modern trauma care is practiced now days.”   

As a result, Aydelotte said they began treating patients with blood rather than IV fluids.       

Aydelotte said his most traumatic experience during the war was performing on a soldier hit by an explosively formed penetrator (EFP). According to Aydelotte, he became the first soldier to survive after losing all of his arms and legs.      

According to Aydelotte, Iranian militants and other militant groups manufactured EFPs because they were effective against the Army’s armored vehicles.    

“The specifics of [the EFP] is a big copper plate, and an explosion behind the plate will turn into molten copper,” Aydelotte said.  

With this technology, the enemy could damage armored vehicles without blowing them up, causing extensive damage to the vehicle operators, he said.

Reginald Baptiste, director of pre health professions at the Dell Medical School, said the military can be a good option for students looking for higher education opportunities. 

“This was focused on military today, but we are focused on exposing the students to all practices,” Baptiste said. “We want to exposure them to different opportunities to possibly shadow in and see what suits them.”

Lauren Wagner, biology senior and secretary for Texas Forensics, lies on the ground while another student outlines her body with tape for a murder mystery party Wednesday evening. Texas Forensics is a club for students who are interested in the field of forensic science.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Yellow tape surrounded the crime scene at the Texas Forensics club’s “Murder Mystery Party” on Wednesday in Welch Hall.

Held as a part of the club’s meeting, the club’s officers had students split up into groups of three or four to discover the culprit. Each group looked at evidence around the room and collected information by taking notes and pictures to link the evidence to one of the officers, who committed the crime. The officers also provided how-to guides on analyzing hair samples, DNA and fingerprints.

“Most of the evidence points to one person,” said Lauren Wagner, biology senior and club secretary.

Each meeting, the club also hosts different speakers with particular expertise in the field of forensics. 

Wagner also said the club takes two field trips each semester, with students examining an autopsy during one of them.

Madeline Childs, club president and chemistry senior, discussed some of the speakers the club has invited, such as Houston detective Grace Das and Travis County medical examiner Satish Chundru.

“[Chundru] will come in and talk about the different cases he has, like natural death and suicide,” Childs said. “We also have an entomologist [come talk].”

“We’re a group that has different professionals come in different areas of forensic science,” club vice president Katelyn Bobbitt said. “It’s a good way to make connections with professionals.”

Bobbitt also revealed how hearing some of the speakers discouraged her from pursuing certain careers in forensics.

“After hearing the speakers, I knew that that was not the right stuff for me,” Bobbitt said.

According to Childs, when she started the club four years ago, it only had about six people at each meeting and has since doubled in size.

“Our membership has grown in the last couple of years,” Bobbitt said.

UT art alumuna and decorative painter Zita Raymond restores the ceiling in the Welch Convocation room Wednesday afternoon. The original detailed painting was done over 75 years ago.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

On the ceiling of Robert A. Welch Hall’s lecture theater lies decades-old paintings displaying shades of orange, yellow and red. Painted by an unknown artist at the University’s inception, some have called it beautiful. But there’s a problem — students can’t see it.

For years, the room has been equipped with steel light fixtures that left the decorative ceiling in shadows and kept the artwork out of sight. Pablo Ruiz, a project manager for the UT construction services department, is heading an approximately $450,000 construction project for the room that will add new lights and make other repairs. In addition, to improve the room’s safety, Ruiz and his team are removing the north wall and replacing it with a fire-resistant wall. There has also been termite damage on the east wall they are working to repair.

The 12 new light fixtures will be much brighter and will come with several lighting options, Ruiz said, so professors can keep the lights on during lecture or dimmed during video screenings. The new light fixtures will use light-emitting diode bulbs, and will shoot light both downward and upward.

“They will illuminate the ceiling and make it come alive,” Ruiz said. “They will put out a lot of light and will last for about 15 years.”

Welch Hall, which was completed in 1931 and underwent renovation in the ‘60s and ‘70s, is one of many buildings on campus that has architecturally significant interior spaces. The room in question, also called the Convocation Center, is noted for its decorative artistic ceiling. The painting was done when the University constructed the building, but no one is quite sure whom the artist is.

“It is so dark that you can’t appreciate the beauty of what someone painted over 80 years ago,” Ruiz said. “Doing this means bringing something back to life that has been there for many years and people haven’t been able to appreciate it.”

Ruiz said the old light fixtures were not the original ones, and were added sometime in the past.

“But they are just nasty — they just don’t put out any light,” Ruiz said.

The new light fixtures will match the decorative ceiling, both in architectural style and color. Ruiz said the new fixtures were chosen with the artwork in mind. He also said the University hired an artist who specializes in retouching paintings so they could patch up a few areas. Because the art is so old and fragile, Ruiz said they were taking some precautions in dealing with it.

“We are touching it up in a couple of places. Somewhere along the line there was some water damage,” Ruiz said. “The ceiling is going to be brushed, we don’t want to use soap or water or anything like that. We are just going to brush it to clean it.”

Additionally, Ruiz said the team was doing other repair work to Welch Hall.

The deadline for completing the project is Aug. 10. Ruiz said they are currently on schedule to complete the project in time.

A chemical storage refrigerator may have caused a fire on the fourth floor of Welch Hall’s west wing Thursday morning, officials said.

The fire started at about 4 a.m. and caused minimal damage. The UT Police Department and Austin Fire Department arrived at the scene where the investigators ruled the cause of the fire to be undetermined at the time, said Garland Waldrop, UT fire marshal. Fire officials are still investigating the exact source of the fire.

“There was a minimal amount of fire damage because the fire sprinklers in the lab contained the flames in the one room, but we had to remove the water from the sprinklers that ran down from the fourth floor to the basement,” Waldrop said.

The fourth floor of the west wing was closed off to students Thursday in order to repair the water damage, but will be accessible again on Friday. False alarm sirens alerted those in and around the building throughout the day, but did not signal danger.

Dennis Nolan, assistant director of biological and lab safety, said investigators do not know if it was the refrigerator that caused the fire or the chemicals inside it.

“From what I can tell, it doesn’t look like the refrigerator [alone] caused the fire, but it is still not conclusive,” Nolan said. “All labs in the building were notified of what the best practices are in order to prevent this from happening again.”  

There are currently ten construction projects underway on campus. Private donations along with federal funds have allowed the university to continue to build while others struggle with budget cuts.

Photo Credit: Andrew Edmonson | Daily Texan Staff

While higher education continues to struggle with budget cuts, donations from various organizations continue to allow for the beginning of new construction projects throughout the University, project managers said.

University project manager Jim Shackelford said six construction companies are handling the University’s 10 in-progress construction projects. New buildings underway include the computer science complex, the liberal arts building, the Belo Center for New Media, finishing touches to the Norman Hackerman Building and a new research building at the Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas.

Construction projects are also improving parts of the Jackson School of Geosciences building, Welch Hall, Clark Field, the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and the Texas Union.

Shackelford said the University advertises prospective building projects to qualified construction managers and awards contracts to the company with the best value at the time.

Renovations to the geology building will be complete next summer and renovations to Welch Hall will be finished next spring.

“In the geology building we are making changes to the second floor,” Shackelford said. “At Welch we are completely renovating the laboratories and office space. We are replacing the air handling systems and all electrical and plumbing systems.”

Shackelford said two projects are currently in design. One is a new facility at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus set to begin this fall and be complete by summer of 2012. The other is a new engineering education research center for the main campus set to begin summer of 2012 and be complete by 2015.

Steve Lanoux, assistant director for the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, said the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new research building will be held July 23.

Lanoux said the 36,000 square foot building was built using $6 million from federal funds and a partial match of that money from the University. He said the school is still searching for donations to finish paying off building costs, although he couldn’t say how much money they still need.

“We are one of 28 natural reserves around the country, so it is important that we have a facility to host visiting scientists,” Lanoux said. “All of the laboratories have balanced environmental systems with capabilities to create any environment by adjusting pressure and humidity and can also be completely blacked out for photo analysis.”

Lanoux said the federal funds were donated to build a headquarters for the reserve that also provides coastal and geographical information system training programs along with research.

Bruce Porter, professor and chairman of the Department of Computer Sciences, said the new Computer Science Complex was built to house the entire Department of Computer Sciences in one building as opposed to in six separate buildings as it is now.

He said the building of the new complex was made possible by donations from the University, the UT System, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. He said the 234,000-square-foot building will cost around $120 million to complete and is slightly ahead of schedule for completion in fall 2012.

“The complex will have approximately 140,000 indoor assignable square feet, enough space for sixty faculty and 350 grad students and lots of undergrad facilities,” Porter said. “The new space is designed to be easily upgraded and to give us the functionality we need for many years to come.”

Construction engineer Mayur Sethi said the new liberal arts building will cover 200,000 square feet when completed. He said the project will cost $60 million, and the building will be usable by Dec. 17, 2012.

Printed on 06/27/2011 as: Campus construction continues with help various donors

Most men don’t like to pee when they’re being watched. Others can’t pee when someone is too close because feeling exposed prevents the stream of other urinal patrons. Some just rue the entire construction of a bathroom because it presents both situations.

Two prominent examples are the restrooms of the Robert Lee Moore Hall and the southern portion of Welch Hall.

Every floor of the colossal RLM features a men’s restroom with three urinals lined up side by side, flanked by a sink. There are no partitions between the urinals, or between the urinal and the sink which neighbor each other.

Squeezed in between the sink and the urinal is the paper towel dispenser. Hidden in a nook on the opposite wall is another sink which lacks paper towels. Welch features men’s restrooms similar in construction, only the paper towel dispensers are located on the opposite wall, and two sinks are squeezed onto the same wall as the urinals.

Although in theory a restroom is just a restroom, the actual practice of urinating is a delicate act of tact. Men, often considered the cruder of the two sexes, have a refined code of conduct in place throughout the restrooms of America, and those who break these transcendental codes are duly noted and considered with a degree of distaste and curled lips. The issue with the particular restrooms detailed is that they present situations in which man code is compromised and needs amendment.

First, though, it’s important to know what is acceptable bathroom behavior. In light of recent experiences, it is obvious people need to be reminded what is awkward.

Talking while relieving yourself, for example, is to be avoided. Whether it’s Greg Davis’ failure or breakthroughs in cancer research, the restroom isn’t a place for discussion.

“When people try to talk to you, it’s just eerie. You try to be polite, but deep down inside you’d really rather them just leave you alone,” said Forrest Moore, an exercise science sophomore.

And where conversation is bothersome, incidental body contact below the waist can completely ruin a bathroom experience. The accepted precept is to not mention the situation at all, not even to apologize. Discussing the event is regarded as bringing attention to it, which: a) suggests there is some ulterior motive, and b) starts a conversation in the bathroom, a previously stated misstep.

Other habits are purely annoying, and though we all want to look good for that girl we conveniently sat next to on the first and every subsequent day of class, gazing into the mirror impedes other people’s bathroom use.

The sink is designed for hand washing, but tends to get claimed for the sake of hair wetting. This issue is becoming wildly rampant during passing periods, when the restrooms are most crowded.

As the descendants of patriarchal societies, tradition is important to men, so though the age-old rule of only two shakes may not be sufficient, it still stands. Any vigorous shaking is clearly obvious because of the bobbing of a shoulder. Of course, breaking this rule is less atrocious if there is plenty of space between two urinal users; leaving this space is also a traditional rule.

If there is no one in the restroom, courteous practice is to use a urinal at the far end. Ideally, a second person would pick the urinal furthest from the occupied one; a third, try and keep as much space between himself and others as possible.

Perhaps what bothers restroom users most is someone with wandering eyes, and making eye contact with that person.

“Eye contact in the restroom is a definite illegal action in the realm of acceptable restroom behavior. Even worse is wandering eyes. It makes you feel violated,” Moore said.

If one has the impertinence to break this inviolable rule and makes eye contact, eyes are to be averted to a safe zone, such as a wall.

In the instances of the RLM and Welch buildings — and any other bathrooms of similar construction — instances not covered by the traditional rules arise. These must be looked at with a considerate and determining eye.

When the paper towel dispenser is above a urinal, one may debate on going for paper or not. Michael Musslewhite, a philosophy sophomore, says no.

“If there’s someone peeing, I don’t want to reach over their shoulders,” he said. “The other day I had to walk around with dripping hands.”

It should be noted that if one cannot wait for said urinal to become vacant, it is acceptable to mutter “excuse me” or to clear one’s throat, not as a matter of opening conversation, but so as to not take a man off-guard when you reach over him for a paper towel. Remember, jeans are a viable towel.

In these restrooms, a patron may find that someone is using the urinal furthest from the sink while another washes their hands in the sink neighboring a urinal. Of the people asked, 100 percent felt their ability to apply proper protocol was taxed. The same men expressed that they would prefer potentially rubbing shoulders with someone else relaxing their bladder than having a hand washer at their side; accordingly, this will likely find its way into acceptable bathroom etiquette.

Gil Moss, a mathematics graduate student and calculus teaching assistant, spends most of his time in the RLM, and is thus an authoritative voice on the issue.

“I always go for the pee-er,” Moss said. “There’s a strategy to it. If there’s no one else peeing, but someone washing, I go to the middle so I’m away from the sink.”

This way, Moss said, he’s still comfortable, but if someone else arrives to arrest their urinary urgings, they can take the furthest urinal.

Most people enjoy their privacy, and though the installation of textile boards called “partitions” would solve these issues and rid the need for rule revision, a man can expect to invariably find himself in one of these situations at some point in his life.

Regardless of bathroom construction, there is still the classic canon of bathroom etiquette to consider. With a little guidance and consideration for the other man, even the best of us can handle an awkward restroom situation with some grace.