West Mall

Cassady Allen, pre-physical and health promotion senior, sorts through clothing at the thrift shop that was held at West Mall on Friday. The thrift shop was put on by GlobeMed, an organization that promotes the sustainability of people living in El Salvador.
Photo Credit: Claire Schaper | Daily Texan Staff

Tables covered with piles of used clothes lined the West Mall on Friday to raise funds for a sustainability project in Guarjila, El Salvador.

GlobeMed, an organization that started on campus in 2010, partnered with a clinic in Guarjila, Clinica Ana Manganaro, to improve the health of people living in El Salvador. 

According to Michelle Zhang, Plan II sophomore and campaigns committee member for GlobeMed, Clinica Ana Manganaro notifies GlobeMed about the health project initiative for the year, and GlobeMed creates events to raise money and collect donations.

“The emaphsis for GlobeMed is to promote partnership and equity and sustainability,” Zhang said. “We are trying to empower the people in Guarjila to let them be more aware of their own needs instead of us going in and just prescribing what to do. The campaigns committee comes up with the ideas for the fundraising, but then everybody in the [organization] helps toward achieving the monetary goal.”

During the thrift shop event, Cassady Allen, pre-physical and health promotion junior, said she chose to buy some of the organization’s used clothes because she connected with the cause.

“With people overseas, I always want to help out whenever I can,” Allen said. “Plus, I bought two blouses for $5 total.”

Spanish junior Nickki Rees, director of fund-raising for GlobeMed, said the organization has only raised $500, but she expects to collect most of their funds during their bigger events in the spring. 

“We have a benefit concert, which we usually raise over $2,000 with that,” Rees said. “We’re having an event where we invite other UT organizations to come and showcase themselves; it’ll be a like a talent show. We also have ‘Kayak for a Cause’ from Oct. 20-26. If you go to ‘Live Love Paddle’ and say you’re with GlobeMed, we get 50 percent of the profits.”

According to Ibis Rojas, biology junior and the co-campaigns coordinator, a group of UT students have summer internships with Clinica Ana Manganaro. The students will work at the clinic, assess the effectiveness of their current project and discuss future projects.

She said she believes GlobeMed provides experiences unlike those of other organizations.

“Our partner benefits from us in the money we give them, but we benefit from them by learning the different culture, people and ways of another country,” Rojas said, “GlobeMed is different in that we handpick our members, and we like to call ourselves a family.”

Public health sophomore Isha Mittal and computer science sophomore Sami Glasco prepare “Harry Potter"'s famous “butterbeer” Friday afternoon.
Photo Credit: Claire Schaper | Daily Texan Staff

Students passing through the West Mall last week may have noticed a small, inconspicuous table holding a large pitcher of golden liquid and a can of whipped cream. For those who stopped by, it meant a sweet drink on the way to class, but, for the UT chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance, the “butterbeer” sale was its way of making a positive impact on a global scale. 

Isha Mittal, public health sophomore and Harry Potter Alliance president, said the Harry Potter Alliance is a social justice group with chapters across the world. 

“Harry Potter Alliance tries to fight for social equality for all rights,” Mittal said. “[We] try to relate values of Harry Potter to the real world.”

The organization was founded in 2005, and UT’s chapter started in 2010, but it disbanded when the former president graduated. During Mittal’s first semester in fall 2013, she reestablished the chapter.

“I received all the information from the former president, got a few friends together and just went for it,” Mittal said. 

The Harry Potter Alliance’s first semester back on campus was devoted to the logistics of starting a club. It wasn’t until the spring semester that the alliance decided to sell butterbeer, a popular drink featured in the ‘Harry Potter’ series, as a fundraiser. 

The national Harry Potter Alliance organization, which hosts charity events such as the annual book drive “Accio Books,” inspired the chapter at UT. Although the UT chapter did not participate in the book drive, it decided to give the idea a local twist. The UT Harry Potter Alliance bought a book for every child at Brooke Elementary School in East Austin with the money it earned from the spring butterbeer sales.

Club members said they were able to see firsthand how a set of ideals, paired with initiative, can make a positive impact in the community.

Chemical engineering sophomore Sindhu Nathan said, as treasurer, she was responsible for determining the amount of books the club could purchase for the school.

“The fact that we were able to send a book home to every kid was rewarding,” Nathan said. 

This semester, UT’s chapter plans to work more closely with the national organization. This semester’s butterbeer sales will go toward the national chapter’s annual fall fundraiser, “Equality FTW.”

“We try to keep in sync with what the national chapter is doing,” Mittal said. 

Mittal said the funds are not concentrated toward a certain cause but rather used to fund an array of campaigns that work toward economic, educational and LGBT equality. 

In addition, Equality FTW also helps fund the grants given to a select number of alliance chapters. Mittal said the national organization understands the importance of local chapters making an impact. 

“They are very relaxed about how we choose to use our funds,” Mittal said. 

UT’s chapter is not sure what its service project will be for next semester, but it does know the butterbeer sales will stay.

Computer science sophomore Sami Glasco, a new member of the Harry Potter Alliance, said he was happy to work the butterbeer sale — his first event with the organization. 

“I like ‘Harry Potter,’ volunteering and butterbeer,” Glasco said.

Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Leticia Van de Putte speaks on the West Mall on Monday evening. The Rally at UT Austin was a part of Van De Putte's nine day statewide bus tour which began March 30. 

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

In a rally on the West Mall on Monday, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio and the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, said bipartisan approaches to issues such as higher education are necessary in Texas state government.

The rally marked the last stop on Van de Putte’s statewide bus tour, which covered 16 cities in nine days. In the general election in November, Van de Putte will face either state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, or incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, depending on the result of a runoff election between the two Republican candidates that is scheduled for May 27.

“I heard loud and clear that what people want from their leaders is to focus on the priorities,” Van de Putte said. “Focus on problem solving and not partisan pettiness and politics that absolutely paralyze, like what we sometimes see in Washington D.C.”

Van de Putte said, 10 years ago, the business community, the Texas Legislature and state universities all worked together in efforts to have more tier-one, postsecondary institutions. She said that, because of the way the legislature has handled higher education since then, that goal has not materialized.

“You know, I know, and smart business people know the innovations and the programs, the learning that happens at our tier-one institutions, spark the economy,” Van de Putte said. “They give birth to your creative minds that are going to go out and have new products and services, new research and new and better ways to get things done.”

David Feigen, government senior and University Democrats president, said Republican candidates for lieutenant governor stand in the way of basic reforms of education, marriage inequality and immigration policy.

“This campus is very much ready for change in the lieutenant governor’s office,” Feigen said.

Sheryl Cole, Austin mayor pro tem and a Democrat, said it is historically significant to have two women at the top of the Democratic ticket.

“I think they will bring a balance to statewide politics,” Cole said. “I think [Van de Putte] brings a lot of vibrancy and energy that young people understand and appreciate.”

During the rally, Van de Putte said she hopes to unite everyone as Texans.

“I see the hopes of your parents and the prayers of your grandparents,” Van de Putte said. “So, as Democrats, I want us to all embrace these folks who are understanding our true values and what we’re focused on is the opportunity that’s always been Texas, not the issues that divide us, but the issues that make us stronger when we focus on what’s right for Texas.”

Editor’s Note: In the run-up to next week’s Civil Rights Summit, we hit the West Mall on Thursday to ask students for their thoughts about the ticket distribution system as well as the significance of the event. Below are some of their responses.

 

Aubrey Folck, speech language pathology sophomore

DT: Are you going to the Civil Rights Summit next week? 

AF: I didn’t know about that. 

DT: Well, there are going to be four former presidents speaking on campus — Clinton, Bush, Obama and Carter. Do you have any thoughts on it?

AF: I think that that is a pretty rare opportunity.

 

Katie Russell, radio-television-film junior

DT: Do you know about the Civil Rights Summit that’s happening on campus next week?

KR: I’ve heard about it a little bit, yes. 

DT: Did you try and get tickets?

KR: I did. Obviously, I mean Obama is going to be here — Jimmy Carter, Clinton, a lot of great people. I did. But I don’t think I got them. 

DT: How do you feel that there will be four presidents here? What does that mean for our University?

KR: I don’t know. I think it’s really awesome, and it just shows how big UT is and our connections. I think something that’s really great about our school is that we have so many deep alumni connections — and the ability to have these resources that other smaller schools can’t afford this or maybe can’t host this. I think this is a lot about just UT and how established we are as a school. I don’t know. It’s really exciting to me. I’ll maybe come and try to stand and maybe get a glimpse. 

 

Natalie Escarano, English and speech language pathology senior

DT: Do you know about the Civil Rights Summit that’s happening on campus next week?

NE: Yes.

DT: Did you try and get tickets?

NE: I did not.

DT: Why?

NE: Yeah, I didn’t really know the process, and by the time I heard about it, it was too late already. 

DT: What do you think it means for our campus that we will have four presidents speaking at this summit?

NE: The apocalypse is coming. [Laughs] Sorry, I honestly have no clue. I think it’s great that it’s at our campus. I don’t really have any thoughts on it. It’s just going to happen. 

 

Ally Finken, human development and family sciences sophomore

DT: Did you try and get tickets for the Civil Rights Summit? 

AF: I did. 

DT: Did you get tickets?

AF: No.

DT: Okay, how do you feel about the whole process? Do you think it was fair? Do you wish you had gotten tickets?

AF: I think it was pretty fair. I mean, I think it was pretty fair. If you wanted to do it you had to apply, and you had to rank them. Of course, I am sure everyone put the Obama one as No. 1. I mean, the only way it could have been unfair is if you wanted to go to one of the lesser ones, and people who did get it didn’t even want to go. 

 

James Grandberry, journalism junior

DT: Did you try and get tickets for the Civil Rights Summit that’s happening on campus next week?

JG: No, but a lot of my friends did. 

DT: Do you have any thoughts about that process? Do you think it was fair? Should it have been easier to get into it?

JG: I think it might be just based on our initiatives. I think some people might have signed up earlier and got it. I think it was like a lottery. You can say it was unfair, but it seems pretty fair since it was a lottery. 

 

Tayma Rehn, English junior

DT: Did you try and get tickets for the Civil Rights Summit? 

TR: I did. 

DT: Did you get tickets?

TR: No. I was mad. I was so mad. 

DT: Can you just tell us about the process? Why it makes you mad?

TR: Well, it made me mad because where else are you going to see Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama all in the same place? And I don’t know. I’ve seen speeches of them before, so I thought it would be really cool to see them in person. So I signed up for this newsletter, and you were supposed to get this email and click this link, and I clicked the link like three minutes after the email was sent out, and it was like, “tickets are gone.” And I was not happy. I had been counting down for a week. 

DT: What do you think they could have done differently to make the process better [and] fairer for students?

TR: I mean for students, I had to find out about it because I work over at LBJ, so that’s how I found out about it. But they should have probably sent out an email to everybody, so they could have let us know about the opportunity ahead of time. Because then we could have signed up earlier, and then maybe more people could have gotten tickets. Because I know that only a select few students got an email about it from the dean I think, if they were preapproved, which I don’t understand. 

 

Lauren Eller, communication studies and human relations junior

DT: Did you try to get tickets for the Civil Rights Summit?

LE: No.

DT: Did you know about the process?

LE: No.

DT: Do you know about the summit?

LE: No. I heard about it briefly, but I didn’t get it in time. 

DT: What does this summit mean for our campus? What does it mean that we’re having four presidents here?

LE: Well, it’s good publicity I guess, but I don’t know. I don’t even know why they’re here or what they’re doing here. I would love to hear them talk, but I am honestly clueless about the whole thing. 

DT: Could the University have done a better job in getting the word out to students?

LE: Yeah, absolutely. I actually asked someone to email me the email because I didn’t see it.

Wild Art

Biology sophomore Katherine Wee pies Jacqueline Lim at the second annual Pie A President fundraiser for Dell Children’s Surgical Global Outreach on Wednesday in the West Mall. All proceeds go toward the program, which sends doctors and nurses to Guatemala to give care to children in need.

Journalism and and philosophy senior Allison Heinrich catches up on homework with her fellow University Democrats at the West Mall on Monday evening. The University Democrates rallied at West Mall until poles opened at 7 a.m. this morning to increase awareness of the oppurtunity to vote early. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

University Democrats rallied at the West Mall beginning at 9 p.m. Monday to encourage students to vote early for the Travis County elections on March 4. Early voting opens Tuesday at 7 a.m.

The organization has been holding the event, which is called Voterama, for several years to increase student awareness of the opportunity to vote early, according to Michelle Willoughby, government junior and communications director for University Democrats.

“We are very lucky to have a polling place on campus, and we want to make sure students take advantage of it,” Willoughby said. “We also work very hard to increase young people’s voting in general.”

Willoughby also said the organization holds other events throughout the year to encourage students to vote.

“Another thing we do is Democracy Dogs, where we bring dogs to campus on Election Day,” Willoughby said. “People stop to pet the dogs, and that gives a chance to talk to them about voting.”

Candidates running in the Travis County elections that are endorsed by University Democrats also spoke at Voterama, both to defend their platforms and to offer additional promotion of early voting. Endorsed candidates included Richard Jung, who is running for Travis County commissioner for Precinct 2, Andy Brown, who is running for county judge, and Ramey Ko, who is running for county treasurer.

Ko, who is a UT law lecturer and a member of University Democrats, said he comes to the Voterama event for every election cycle and has probably attended a dozen by now.

“I have a feeling that, if it wasn’t for [University Democrats] doing this event, students would not have as much a sense of what’s happening on a county, city and state level,” Ko said. “It can be difficult, particularly as a college student, to pay attention to what’s happening at city hall … even though our lives are affected much more directly by [those elections].”

David Feigen, government and communications studies senior and president of University Democrats, said the organization took care when deciding which candidates to endorse for the March primaries.

“From our standpoint, it is important not just to elect the Democrats on the ballot but elect the best Democrats who we think are the most progressive and the most qualified for leadership,” Feigen said. “It’s [also] important that people know that the March primaries mean just as much as any other election.”

Chabad’s Rabbi Zev Johnson places the first of eight lit candles on a large-scaled menorah at the West Mall on UT’s campus.

The Rohr Chabad Jewish Student Center commemorated the last night of Hanukkah on Wednesday as members lit the last candle on a nine-foot menorah on the West Mall.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the Holy Temple and victory over oppressive Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C. The holiday is celebrated over eight nights.

Cari Cohen, Chabad’s executive board events chair, lit the Shamash, which is the leading candle in the center of the eight candles in the Menorah. After the candle-lighting, the center hosted a party, though Cohen said focusing celebrations on the last night of the holiday is not typical.

“Since Thanksgiving and Hanukkah ran together this year, we’re celebrating tonight,” Cohen said. “We’re going to be eating traditional Hanukkah food, like latkes and jelly donuts, and playing dreidel.”

Chabad’s Rabbi Zev Johnson said for him, Hanukkah is about positivity and the unification of Jews from all around the world.

“We are different types of people from all over the world, different backgrounds coming together in diversity, into one setting, we all have different personalities and different ways of expressing ourselves and our Judaism,” Johnson said. “But we come together and illuminate the darkness.”

Johnson also said he knows finals week creates stress for students, and said the message of Hanukkah — light prevailing over darkness — helps students de-stress and relax.

“Thanksgiving was amazing, but it was just one day. We come back to UT and there are finals and other darkness we have to deal with,” Johnson said. “Hanukkah expresses light and hope.”

Johnson also said Hanukkah celebrations emphasize the importance of relying on one another to make a brighter world.

“We look for balance in our lives, we can move forward with strength, hand in hand together to illuminate this world through good things for ourselves and the environment around us,” he said.

Government junior Madison Lustig said she agreed with Johnson and said she was looking forward to relaxing with friends at the Hanukkah party.

“It’s a relaxing time to celebrate the last night of Hanukkah, it’s beautiful to even be able to light the candles on campus,” Lustig said. “Since Hanukkah and Thanksgiving were both celebrated together, [I] didn’t get that much of an opportunity to celebrate Hanukkah — it was so rushed. So that’s what this party is really about for me.”

What started out as a single, dirt path students would walk across on their way to class has transformed into the pulse of the University for students to table and to protest.

The West Mall, located west of the UT Tower, is known for it’s tree lined walkways that stretch to the Texas Union, where many student organizations rent tables to distribute flyers and information.

Former UT historian Jim Nicar said in the 1930s the University, which had about 11,000 students, had horse-drawn trolleys to transport students to class and drop them off in front of Guadalupe. This path from Guadalupe up to the west wing of the Main Building became known as the “West Walk.” Nicar runs a blog called “The UT History Corner” including history about the university.

“If they had built the east wing of the Main Building first, the Drag may have wound up on Speedway,” Nicar said. “Stores started popping up around the trolley stop which became an active part of campus. In fact, it’s almost like a second main entrance to campus.”

In 1933, a French architect named Paul Kret designed the campus master plan of the University. Kret is the architect of the Tower, the Union, Goldsmith Hall and designed the way the West Mall should be laid out.

Nicar said Kret designed the two square towers of Goldsmith Hall and the Union to frame the west entrance of UT because of its heavy student traffic.

In the 1950s and 1960s the West Mall became an important place for student elections, football rallies and a center of social life on campus, Nicar said. Protests didn’t really start until the ‘60s with the Vietnam War. In 1970, planters were put in the middle of the sidewalks by former UT System Regent Frank Erwin to discourage large gatherings of students.

Now, the West Mall allows student organizations to promote their initiatives. 

While some universities may have designated locations for free speech, UT allows free speech across campus, said Mary Beth Mercatoris, assistant dean of students.

The rally space in front of the steps facing the West Mall is also equipped with plugs where amplified sound may be used from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Many students consider the rally space the University’s free speech zone. 

“The entire campus is a free speech zone, but what people get confused about is amplified sound.” Mercatoris said. “In their minds they replace amplified sound zone with a free speech zone.”

Mercatoris said UT has 1,148 student organizations this year, who all have the right to bring guest speakers and rent tables on the West Mall.

“Whatever the topic is, we’re advocating for that free speech and assisting them to have an event where speech can flourish,” Mercatoris said.

Economics senior Jocelyn Matyas tables for Colleges Against Cancer to advertise to the University and give out information to students.

“[West Mall] is a high traffic area where people expect student organizations to advertise and engage with the community,” Matyas said. “It’s a great way to spread information around campus.”

Nine hundred and fifteen neon pink crosses lined the ground in a display put on by Texas Students for Life on Friday in the West Mall. These crosses represented the 915 lives lost to abortion by Planned Parenthood every day in the United States, according to signs the group had displayed outside.  

Member and nutrition senior Clare Glynn said the display, called the Planned Parenthood Project, was meant to bring attention to the misinformation spread by Planned Parenthood.

“Abortion is a real problem that happens every day — we need to know our facts,” Glynn said.

Students for Life of America advocate Missy Martinez said Planned Parenthood misrepresents the amount of abortions they perform.

Ninety two percent of their pregnancy services are abortion procedures,” Martinez said. “They claim it is only 3 percent because they consider giving out one condom as a service.”

Anthropology sophomore Morgan Ireland, who saw the display in the West Mall, said Planned Parenthood helps women that are otherwise helpless.

“Women are more likely to go the doctor because they have more reproductive needs,” Ireland said. “Government funding alone doesn’t cover them.”

A large wooden wall painted gray and covered in hand-painted quotes trying to persuade UT students to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement stands in the West Mall. The BDS movement is a consumer, academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Thinly veiled as a nonviolent movement to further the Palestinian cause, the campaign is an acrimonious attack against the academic integrity and open dialogue on which our campus thrives. Open dialogue and education are the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East, and the BDS movement is in staunch opposition to that fact. The BDS movement takes an extreme position that is no way a reflection of Americans’ core ideas and values, and it has no place on the UT campus.

Leaders in Washington and on campus support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Specifically, President Barack Obama and UT Student Government President Thor Lund similarly understand that only through dialogue and education can we achieve peace in the Middle East.

Today, Obama arrives in Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earlier this month, Lund joined 2,000 students at a pro-Israel conference in Washington, D.C to learn about the partnership between the two nations.

As hard as they try, the BDS organizers at UT can’t seem to cut off all ties with Israel. This week PSC members will screen the movie “5 Broken Cameras,” a film critical of Israel but co-directed by an Israeli, funded by Israeli organizations and Israel’s government, and nominated as an Israeli film for an Oscar. Boycotting Israel harms even Israel’s critics.

Support for a Palestinian state and support for the U.S.-Israel relationship are not mutually exclusive. Speaking in Cairo in 2009, Obama called the bond between the U.S. and Israel “unbreakable,” while also making a powerful statement that a Palestinian nation was in all party’s best interests. Addressing the Palestinian Authority and Israel alike he said, “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable,” concluding, “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.” 

It’s certainly not Israel holding the Palestinian people back. The 1947 U.N. Partition Plan was the first time Israel accepted a Palestinian state only for it to be rejected by the Arab world. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all of its troops and citizens from the Gaza Strip. In 2008, Israel offered close to 98 percent of the West Bank and shared control over Jerusalem. None of these peace offerings have moved Palestinian leadership.

While waiting for a peace partner, Israel has become a “startup nation”, a progressive society that allows gays to serve openly in the military, women to comprise 23 percent of Israel’s new parliament and places no limits on freedom of speech or of the press. Israel offers greater freedoms to Arab citizens, who comprise 20 percent of the total population, than any other country in its region. Arab Israelis vote, are represented in parliament and sit on the Supreme Court. 

The partnership between the U.S. and Israel strengthens American businesses and security. Microsoft, Google and Apple, Inc. are a few of the approximately 100 companies with active branches in Israel and the countries exchange more than $78 million worth of goods and services daily. The U.S. and Israel are developing together the most sophisticated anti-missile defense systems and Israeli military innovations are saving American lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While not disregarding or distracting from Palestinian issues, the goal of Israel Peace Week is to accurately depict Israel, a nation that, since its founding in 1948, has never seen a second of non-democratic rule, a country that is unabashedly, unequivocally pro-American. 

Rather than divesting, our University has an opportunity to invest in dialogue. Our presidents have chosen the path towards peace, and we welcome you to join us. 

Frydberg is a Middle Eastern Studies sophomore from San Antonio.