More than 100 members of the UT community marched through the streets of West Campus Tuesday evening, chanting their concerns about recently reported incidents of bias in the area.
In a march titled “Walk to West Campus: Standing in Solidarity Against Racism & Hate,” members of the UT community addressed several reported incidents including several students of color being hit with bleach-filled water balloons, the use of racial slurs and insensitive ethnic-themed parties hosted by registered student organizations. The march was organized by former UT student Chas Moore, along with students from both UT and Huston-Tillotson University. Moore said he organized the march to send a message to the UT administration and other relevant authorities that discrimination is still a major, systemic issue at UT.
“This is 2012, and I refuse to go back in time,” Moore said. “All we want is the University to take more of a firm stance to these kind of things.”
The march began at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue on the East Mall and continued through UT’s campus and the West Campus area, stopping at the Barbara Jordan statue on campus and at the 26 West apartment complex, where students have reported three incidents of bleach balloon attacks. At the stops, students who reported being victims of bleach balloon attacks spoke about their experiences. The march ended at Burdine Hall, where a panel was being held on the upcoming Supreme Court case, Fisher v. University of Texas, in which the constitutionality of UT’s use of affirmative action in its admission policy is being questioned.
Chants used include: “No more violence, no more silence,” “Don’t you hate, don’t you fear, people of color are welcome here” and “Take the Powers, out of the towers.”
Moore said he was very happy with the turnout for the march, and he hopes it will show the University’s administration that there is still systemic bias in the UT community.
Gregory Vincent, vice president for community and diversity engagement, addressed the issue of discrimination at UT in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
“I don’t believe this is a systemic issue. I think we have a diverse campus,” Vincent said. “President Powers has made diversity one of his four strategic priorities, and I believe that diversity has strengthened the learning environment for our students.”
Some students at the conference were displeased with his response.
Ethnic studies junior Jamilah Beene said she cannot understand why the University does not see discrimination as a more widespread issue at UT.
“Everywhere we go there’s racism,” she said. “The fact that these four African-American students have made these reports, the fact that these fiesta parties are going on.”
APD said Tuesday they received four reports on Monday of students saying balloons had been thrown at them in West Campus. Two of the incidents happened at the 2500 block on Pearl, one at West 26 and Nueces and another at 2552 Guadalupe Street. The incidents happened between last June and a few weeks ago.
UTPD tracked these incidents down via Facebook postings.
An employee of the 26 West apartment complex, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it could affect their employment, said liquid-filled balloon attacks are a common occurrence at the complex and other complexes in the area.
One marcher, psychology senior Zachary Moore, wore a homemade stockade throughout the march to express his disgust with the UT administration’s recent responses to reports of bias in its own community.
“The stockade is how I feel,” he said. “I feel constrained by racism in my neighborhood.”
Social work senior Mandy Stein broke out in tears while speaking in front of the 26 West apartment complex along the march as she asked the marchers not to judge everyone based on the actions of some people.
“From the bottom of my heart, whoever did it, I am sorry,” she said. “Please don’t dismiss everybody, because there are people out there who care and who want to help.”
Stein and undeclared freshman Kiersten Melvin said they have heard about the bleach balloons being used throughout their time at UT and they hope these efforts will put an end to the incidents.
“It literally eats me to my very core,” Stein said, referring to bleach balloon attacks.
Printed on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 as: March urges action
Correction: This story has been updated to show that APD and UTPD received the four reports Monday night, and not in August.