In this podcast, Anthony Green and Madlin Mekelburg discuss a $58 million dollar grant given to the Jackson School of Geosciences, the Supreme Court decision to uphold Texas' controversial voter ID law for the upcoming elections, Snapchat's "Our Campus Story" feature and a new option at The Dobie Center to rent rooms.
The Dobie Center turned 75 dorm rooms into hotel-like rooms for rental. These rooms will accommodate current students, incoming students and parents for short-term or semester-long stays at the University of Texas campus.
The Dobie Center announced it will start offering short-term rental rooms for University students, faculty, and parents.
Under new management, the off-campus residence hall converted 75 of its dorm rooms into “hotel-type” rooms that can be rented for one day or up to a full semester, according to the center. The new rooms are intended for prospective students who are visiting the campus or for parents visiting students.
“We are extending our brand to outreach to student groups, incoming students and parents to give them an opportunity to experience on-campus, freshman living to see the 360 view before making a decision,” a spokesperson said in an email.
The short-term rental rooms will feature the same services as the dorm rooms, including dinner service and access to the fitness center.
Alison Kothe, marketing coordinator for the Division of Housing and Food Service, said the University does not offer short-term room rentals unless a student is experiencing an emergency housing situation.
“For us, we’re full in the fall and spring, so we don’t really have the ability to have this kind of short-term rental unless it’s going through the Dean of Students’ office,” Kothe said.
Kothe said students who were left homeless after a North Campus apartment fire requested short-term rooms earlier this semester. According to Kothe, students had to seek approval from Student Emergency Services before receiving a room.
Business sophomore Noa Gadot, a two-year resident at Dobie, said the short-term room rentals would make her parents’ visits more convenient.
“That would definitely improve the [parent] experience in the campus overall, because going to hotel rooms is quite inconvenient for parents,” Gadot said. “If parents had a nice room to stay in on campus, that would definitely give them a different perspective when visiting.”
Residents of Pointe on Rio, located in West Campus, expected to be able to move into their apartments by Oct. 15, but many now doubt whether the construction will be complete.
After being unsure about their housing situation, some Pointe on Rio leaseholders say they have been told they will be without housing after Oct. 15.
Before the start of the fall semester, future residents found their complex, located at the intersection of Rio Grande Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, still under construction. According to an email sent on July 24, the building was supposed to be completed by Aug. 16, but construction was delayed. In the email, the future residents were told the building would be ready for move in by Oct. 15.
Future residents were offered two options for living arrangements: They could opt to stay at Dobie Center with rent covered by the Pointe on Rio, or they could stay in self-funded outside housing.
Former UT student Sam Antonio, who purchased a lease at the complex and is now staying at a friend’s apartment, said Pointe leasing agents began contacting residents last week informing them that construction will most likely not be complete by October.
“Finally, last week, a Pointe staff called to inquire about my plans post Oct. 15,” Antonio said in an email. “I told him it was hard to have a clear idea without a set target date. I also told him I was open to any option whether it be staying at Pointe-provided housing or just terminating my lease altogether.”
Oscar Becerra, government sophomore and leaseholder at the complex, said he learned construction would likely not be completed by October because he directly asked a Pointe on Rio employee.
“My roommates are also Pointe residents, and they were not aware that the construction is still going to go past October,” Becerra said.
Becerra said he was told their housing would be covered while they lived in Dobie Center — even after Oct. 15.
“They offered to continue paying our rent here at Dobie as long as we don’t get off the contract, because after Oct. 15 we are allowed to get off the contract,” Becerra said. “I feel like they are really inconsistent with their word, but at the same time they are giving us the convenience of providing free housing for us.”
Heather Cox, Pointe on Rio manager, declined to comment but said they hope to make an official announcement about the construction this week.
Sociology senior Chelsea Ebert, who is a leaseholder and former employee at Pointe on Rio, said she plans to sign on another lease before Oct. 15, like some other displaced residents. Ebert, who is currently staying at Dobie, said she is confident the building will not be finished in a month.
If Pointe on Rio is completed by Oct. 15, Ebert said she will be bound to two leases.
“A lot of places have already filled to capacity, so, if I don’t sign a lease soon, I’m at risk of living 30 minutes away from campus in Round Rock or Westlake or somewhere,” Ebert said.
Ebert met with a University attorney earlier in September, but they found no way out of the lease.
“As far as the actual legal document goes, there’s no way I could have gotten out of it at that point because they protected themselves with this lease,” Ebert said. “They put clauses in there just in case this happened.”
Austin Police Department officers responded to a burglary theft call Thursday at Dobie Center after two residents reported a man leaving their room.
The incident occurred at approximately 9:18 p.m. Two residents left their door propped open with the deadbolt while they went to visit another room, an APD spokeswoman said.
When the two returned they saw a white male exiting the room. He reportedly said he was looking for a set of keys. The residents returned to their room and reported that some money was missing.
The case is still being investigated.
Dobie Center started renovating its movie theater and gym Wednesday as part of its $4 million improvement project, which is scheduled to be completed by the fall semester, according to the center’s general manager Matthew Bryant.
Dobie Center, a private dormitory located on the corner of 21st and Guadalupe streets that was built in 1972, is owned by the Carlton Group, a New York-based real estate investment-banking firm.
Bryant said Dobie will renovate its hallways, cafeteria, game room, fitness room and other areas where students congregate, as well as add new furniture in the residence rooms.
“We’re doing new furniture in the rooms — new desks, new beds, new desk chairs, ergonomic chairs — so the students can study,” Bryant said “It’s a better chair than a older 20-year-old chair. It’s furniture and fixtures that will make [the students’] experience more comfortable while they’re here.”
Sebastian Lopez, an international relations junior and a resident assistant at the center, said he expects that students will welcome the renovations, and he believes they will positively affect their academic experience.
“I’m sure [students will be] a lot happier, a lot more comfortable and that will definitely turn into a lot more satisfaction with their school, with their daily lives and transfer into their classrooms, and be a lot more relaxed and a lot less stressed out because they have a really comfortable environment to live in,” Lopez said.
Bryant said multiple companies are involved in the renovations because of all the work that will be done.
“There’s different companies that will be doing different parts because it’s so vast what’s going to be done,” Bryant said.
International relations sophomore Joshua Skobel, who is a resident at Dobie, said he would like to see the rooms and bathrooms upgraded.
“For a dorm, it’s pretty good,” Skobel said. “It kind of has an old feeling to it, so maybe if they just [used] new paint just to kind of make it seem a little fresher then it might go a long way.”
Austin Police Department officers responded to a 9-1-1 call Sunday reporting a deceased person in a parking garage near the Dobie Center.
The call was placed at 4:10 p.m. on Sunday reporting a dead body spotted at 2000 Whitis Avenue, said APD spokesman Anthony Hipolito. Hipolito said that the incident is under investigation by homicide detectives from APD.
Hipolito did not give any more information about the deceased person, and the detectives investigating the case were not available for comment as of Monday. UT Police Department Capt. Julie Gillespie said that UTPD had not been notified of any deceased person report near campus as of Monday afternoon.
Anya Cranmer, electrical engineering sophomore and Dobie Center resident, said she was alerted to the presence of the body on Sunday afternoon by a friend who was walking in the area.
“We walked over to the [Whitis Place Condominiums] in order to see what the situation was,” Cranmer said.
Cranmer said the deceased person appeared to be male and was approximately 40 years old.
She said there were numerous APD police cars in the vicinity, as well as a medical examiner, although she saw no representatives of UTPD. Officers had set up caution tape and were taking pictures when she passed by, Cranmer said.
She said she still felt safe living in the Dobie Center, especially because the deceased person did not appear to be a student. She also said she had been told by a resident assistant in the dormitory that the man had died of dehydration.
Printed on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 as: Body found near Dobie Center under investigation
Unexpected morning event causes University response of camaradarie, confusion
Business freshman Trevor Egan looks out of Jester Center at the line of police in front of the PCL.
Computer science freshman Ashley McCrory got off the Forty Acres shuttle bus near Dobie Center on what she thought would be a regular Tuesday morning.
McCrory was debating whether she should return to her room at Littlefield Dormitory or go to her calculus class in Garrison Hall. She decided to go to class. At around 8:10 a.m., McCrory said she saw a masked gunman fire about five rounds in the air. She hid behind a pillar of a nearby building as she saw the man run into the Perry-Castañeda Library.
When the shooter was out of sight, McCrory approached a Dobie maintenance worker to make sure what she saw actually happened. McCrory said the armed man was wearing all black — a jacket that looked like a trench coat, and what appeared to be a ski mask. She saw him holding a long gun, which Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo later said was an AK-47.
“At first, I thought, ‘Is this really happening?’” McCrory said. “I was wondering if this was a joke — a really bad joke. You don’t expect a shooting to happen when you go out for your day.”
McCrory went to Benedict Hall, where students streamed news on their laptops to learn more about the incident.
“I was in shock until then,” McCrory said. “As more policemen came, more realizations came to me that this actually happened.”
Pre-public relations freshman Andrew McWaters and pre-journalism freshman Skylar Isdale said they heard three to four gunshots coming from behind them as they walked along 21st Street to their class at the University Teaching Center.
“We turned and we looked and saw birds flying out everywhere,” McWaters said. “We didn’t know what it was.”
Isdale said a guard led them into the lobby of the UTC. She and McWaters saw the shooter run by as they stood near the windows.
“His left arm was tucked under his jacket,” Isdale said. “He smiled at us and waved with his right hand. It was really creepy.”
On Tuesday morning, a UT student fired several rounds from an AK-47 while on campus. He later died by suicide in a campus library when police tried to apprehend him.
More police arrived on scene shortly afterward and advised students to leave the PCL and enter the nearest building because of an active shooter in the library.
“There was all of this commotion in the PCL,” said government sophomore Michael Azari, who works in the lobby of the PCL. “I thought someone had gotten into a fight. One minute later, all of these cops stormed the building and told everyone to get out.”
He said the police, armed with automatic rifles and dressed in bulletproof vests, headed toward the elevators while a few manned the doorways.
“They were surrounding the PCL and moving in as we were moving out,” he said. “Then they announced over the intercom the severity of the situation. People [were] pretty shaken up,” Azari said.
During the lockdown, Azari saw a group of students in a prayer circle at Benedict Hall led by history sophomore Rachel Tanisha Bush.
“I’ve tried to call and talk to everyone I know to make sure they are OK,” Bush said. “It just broke our hearts for this campus. There have been a lot of emotions.”
Following the incident, University officials urged students via text message and e-mail to remain indoors. The lockdown lasted nearly four hours.
Business senior lecturer Linda Gerber, who teaches an international trade class in the UTC, originally scheduled an exam Tuesday morning and went back to her office to retrieve papers.
“When I got upstairs, I saw police with assault rifles,” she said. “I was taken aback.”
The SWAT team told professors to lock their doors, and Gerber told all students to move toward the back of the room, away from windows.
“I was watching students to see how they were reacting,” Gerber said. “There were some who were unsettled by the whole thing. I think any diversion you can have is better in these situations, so we ended up watching people’s favorite YouTube videos.”
Gerber said she did not feel like she was in imminent danger, but was rattled.
“I felt very confident that it was under control,” she said. “I think police presence and direction was an important part of that. We are very fortunate that the young man did not want to harm other people, and we did very well under the circumstances.”