Office of the Dean of Students

Student government assembly speaker Braydon Jones led the review over SG’s governing document at the Student Activity Center on Tuesday morning. SG representatives noted which rules they wanted to keep and alter for the new year.  

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Student Government representatives and advisers, including representatives from the Office of the Dean of Students, reviewed the tentative SG governing document at a meeting Tuesday.

SG assembly speaker Braydon Jones said SG has used its constitution, bylaws and internal rules and procedures as its governing documents in the past. Now, SG will combine its bylaws with its internal rules and procedures to form one detailed document — “The Code of Rules and Procedures.” Jones said this code will accompany SG’s constitution, which was simplified last spring.

All of the information discussed at the meeting, including the code of rules itself, will serve as a rough draft that will be subject to change as the review process continues, Jones said.

In the code of rules, Article 5 Section 5.8 says all interview notes must be made public. Liberal arts representative Sergio Cavazos said he thinks the sections should be removed and presented to the SG assembly as a resolution. 

“It’s a little more official,” Cavazos said. “That way, we can properly vet the situation and talk about federal privacy.”

In May, the SG Judicial Court released a ruling invalidating appointments to internal and external positions in the organization and required interview notes made by the SG Executive Board in the spring for those positions to be released to the SG assembly. However, the release of the notes was prevented when the Office of Legal Affairs determined in August that releasing the notes would be a violation of federal student privacy laws.

SG representatives opted to discuss the section in greater detail at a later date. Until then, the sections will remain in the code. During the meeting, SG representatives went line by line reviewing and discussing the rules. Jones said many of them were left in their original form, but other sections were added.

One of the proposed additions to the code is a 2.5 minimum GPA requirement for all agency members — the same requirement held for officers.

“If you put it in here, then you have to make sure every application you put out there gives [the Dean of Students] permission to check and verify that information on a regular basis,” said Cheryl Pyle, administrative services officer for the Office of the Dean of Students.  

The representatives decided not to add the section to the code for the time being but planned to review it at a later date.

Another topic of discussion was the enforcement of agency rules. Jones said agencies — which are smaller organizations within SG — should be required to host two events per year and host meetings at a consistent time and location every week. Jones said these policies were added to encourage student involvement.

“I really believe agencies are the vehicles that can be used — and should be used — to reach students on campus,” Jones said.

To make sure agencies are in good standing, Jones said there should be an agency evaluation process added to the code. Jones said the details of the process have not been solidified, but it would involve a standardized review of SG agencies every two years. Jones’ addition to the code would give agencies an “under review” period to meet the set standards before being removed.

Cavazos said he plans to update the governing document with revisions from the meeting. SG representatives will meet again to discuss policy before releasing the code for assembly approval.

When it was first announced that four of the five living presidents would be coming to UT, the campus was electrified. We were on the brink of a historical landmark, and students would get to see it play out firsthand. The Civil Rights Summit would present students the opportunity to re-examine what the American promise “all men are created equal” means in present day. What they soon discovered, however, was that not all students are created equal when it comes to getting a seat in the audience.

Of the limited seats available in the audience, an undisclosed number were first allocated toward guests of the presidents and panelists. Student access was limited from the start. Students were told that the online live streams would make up for the lack of available tickets.

“A president says, ‘I’d like this many guests to come,’ and he gets to do that because he [is or was] the president,” LBJ Library spokeswoman Anne Wheeler said. “Then, we have approximately 60 panelists that have spouses and families that want to attend too, and that varies from program to program.”

There will always be priority seats for events of this nature. The better question, then, would be why the summit is taking place in the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium, which seats only 967 patrons.

After family, VIP guests, security and media eat up another roughly 200 spots per event. Then, an additional 340 tickets were given to faculty, community leaders and guests. 

According to UT officials and the LBJ Library, out of the 1,400 tickets left for students, 435 were distributed via a lottery exclusive to the LBJ School of Public Affairs. This left only 875 tickets for the Office of the Dean of Students for distribution to the general student body. But before they threw all 875 tickets in the lottery, the office reserved eight of the 75 tickets to President Barack Obama’s address for incoming and outgoing presidents of Student Government, the Senate of College Councils and the Graduate Student Assembly and members of Texas Student Media, the Texas Unions board and the Campus Events + Entertainment board. Another 10 tickets out of 100 for former President Bill Clinton’s address were also put aside for student leaders in organizations related to student affairs, such as advisory councils for RecSports, University Health Services, University Residence Halls and the Gender and Sexuality Center. 

Additionally, tickets were given to other offices besides the Office of the Dean of Students and were distributed to exclusive groups. The six Larry Temple scholars were offered tickets to every single one of the events — including all presidential addresses except the one by former President George W. Bush. Select Terry Foundation scholars were also offered tickets. Eighty students involved in the Texas Program in Sports and Media also snagged tickets. It is unclear how many other prestigious student groups got their hands on tickets.

The remaining spots — likely less than 800 — were all thrown in six different lotteries, where 9,035 hopeful students vied for the opportunity to attend an event. That means that, at best, less than 9 percent of interested students were able to attend after all the VIP student invitations. 

And adding insult to injury, not all of those 9 percent attended the afternoon panels on Tuesday. As Madlin Mekelburg reported in the Daily Texan on Wednesday, low attendance left many seats empty, seats that could have been occupied by students who were denied tickets in the initial lottery. The University did, however, decide to offer “standby” lines for the afternoon panel discussions on Wednesday and Thursday.

Given all the limitations on student attendance, it’s worth asking why the University decided to hold the event in the Auditorium to begin with. 

“First, this is Lyndon Johnson’s presidential library, and it’s the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” Wheeler said. “His last public appearance was in this auditorium, during the civil rights symposium.”

Additionally, Wheeler explained that another reason behind the venue was its proximity to the Cornerstone of Civil Rights exhibit, where four key civil rights documents are located, including a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Senate resolution where President Abraham Lincoln proposed the 13th Amendment, the signed Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the signed Voting Rights Act of 1965.

While I can personally appreciate the historical weight of the auditorium and library, I don’t think it quite justifies hosting all but one of the events in a venue that leaves so many students excluded from such a landmark occasion. There are many students desperate to attend the presidential addresses, and I can’t help but think that moving those events to venues like the Frank Erwin Center, where the capacity would increase more than sixteen-fold, from 967 to 16,734, would obviously greatly increase attendance and make the event much more equitable.

What this venue choice tells us is that the summit isn’t really for the student body at large. Choosing the auditorium over a larger, more general venue is perhaps symbolic of the intention behind the summit — hosting only the few most distinguished students and guests in one of the most distinguished settings on campus.  

Huynh is a Plan II and business honors sophomore from Laredo.

Photo Credit: Emily Ng | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: Serrano worked for the Office of New Student Services from 2011-2012.

The Daily Texan spent 12 hours with the students during their stay on campus and selected the most exciting hours over the first three-day session for this story. 

8 a.m., June 5 - Students arrive at Jester for orientation

Carrying suitcases, blankets and pillows, about 1,110 new students took their first steps on campus at the Jester Residence Hall.

Orientation officials said students and their families began showing up at 6:30 a.m. for the 7:30 a.m. check-in. During orientation, students meet their academic advisors, learn more about their colleges and register for classes.

Cristi Biggs, the assistant dean of students who oversees orientation, said the best thing students can do is take advantage of the opportunities available at orientation, such as going to optional programs on improving their first-year experience.

“You can go out to eat with your family and friends at any time,” Biggs said. “This is dedicated to your preparation for college.”

11 a.m., June 5 - The student workers behind orientation

Orientation adviser Christina Ramirez reported to her post at the Brazos Garage at 6 a.m. Wednesday with a smile on her face. Her assignment — greeting people when they arrived at UT.

“When students hear that first, ‘Welcome to UT-Austin,’ you can see it on their faces,” Ramirez said. “They’re so excited.”

Ramirez spent all semester getting ready for summer orientation. Orientation advisers are required to take a preparation class at UT and create programs for new students on campus safety and social justice.

Ramirez said her work actually began Tuesday when she went to the store to buy candy for the group of students she would mentor, reviewed her orientation duties and laid out her uniform.

“We get to be like the cheerleaders,” Ramirez said.

12 p.m., June 5- UT encourages four-year graduation planning

UT graduation rate champion David Laude encouraged new students from the Class of 2017 to see UT as a partner in helping them graduate in four years.

“Most of you think, ‘I’m going to graduate in four, maybe even three years,’” Laude said. “The thing is, that doesn’t just happen. You don’t just roll the ball out and there it is. It actually takes a lot of planning.”

Laude spoke at the mandatory orientation program Wednesday. At the session, officials gave students specific steps they could take to graduate in four years. 

3 p.m., June 6 - Breaking Greek stereotypes

Representatives from UT’s Greek community had one message for new students attending orientation: Sorority and fraternity life is not all about partying.

About 30 UT students attended the Thursday information session about getting involved in Greek life. Jazmin Hernandez, a representative of UT’s Multicultural Greek Council, said Greek life focuses on leadership, networking and community service.

Greek organizations completed more than 80,000 community service hours on campus, according to UT. There are more than 5,000 members involved in Greek life at UT.

“I just hope that [new students] at least scratched the surface of Greek life,” Hernandez said. “See where they would fit.”

4 p.m., June 6 - Game of dodgeball

The courtyard in front of the Jester Residence Hall resembled a battleground Thursday. Students yelled, strategized and faced off against their friends in a game of dodgeball.

UT orientation advisers said about 100 students showed up for the dodgeball games held Wednesday and Thursday.

Mario Duran, an orientation adviser supervising the game, said events such as these are important for creating a balance between work and fun during orientation.

“A lot of time when students play sports they get more comfortable with each other,” Duran said. “It builds friendships that could possibly be renewed when they come back to the University.”

1 p.m., June 7 - First-time registration

As the clock counted down to registration, chemistry freshman Taylor Castillo could her feel her heart racing. Finally, it was time.

“You could hear all the crowd saying, ‘I got in, I got in,’” Castillo said, referring to students who were able to register for certain classes. 

New UT students registered for classes Friday. Students who were not able to get into the classes they wanted will have another chance to add and drop courses in August.

Castillo said she is excited to come back to UT in the fall. 

“This is my home,” Castillo said. “I want to come here.”

Follow Jody Serrano on Twitter at @jodyserrano. Check out the rest of the twelve hours here.

In an article published on Jan. 16, The Daily Texan reported that the University “will need to figure out how many student veterans there are” in order to track graduation rates among this population. The truth is that the University has information on every individual, past or present, who has made use of military educational benefits at UT.

It is widely believed that the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs sends employees to college campuses to assist student veterans and dependents with the transition to higher education. In reality, each university is responsible for providing that assistance to the student veterans. The Office of the Dean of Students officially launched Student Veteran Services (SVS) on Veterans Day in 2011 to address the needs of student veterans and dependents at the University. SVS has since worked closely with various administrative departments campus-wide to assist student veterans and dependents with accessing their education benefits and acclimating to student life. Both processes can be challenging.

SVS routinely collaborates with the Office of Admissions to identify incoming student veterans and dependents, and we continue to make improvements in tracking these students and collecting nationally relevant retention and completion data. SVS has also worked with New Student Services to develop orientation services specifically for student veterans. The vast majority of incoming student veterans transfer to UT-Austin from schools all over the country with widely varying transfer requirements. Partnering with admissions and orientation staff has allowed SVS to begin tracking each student veteran as soon as he or she accepts admission to the University. We have data on every student who has ever utilized veteran education benefits at UT-Austin, which benefits were used and when and whether or not the student using the benefit was a veteran or a dependent of a veteran. What we cannot track are student veterans who do not use benefits or do not self identify. 

Though the Department of Veterans Affairs provides many benefits to student veterans and dependents, frequent case backlogs and understaffing can delay receipt or disbursement of funds. To solve this problem, Student Veteran Services, since registration period in the fall semester, has started working with Student Accounts Receivable to develop a shelter program to ensure that student veteran and dependent course registration is secured until state or federal educational benefits can be applied to outstanding tuition or fees.  

The past four years have brought exponential growth in the number of student veterans and dependents using education benefits at UT. Student Veteran Services and the Office of the Registrar have worked to address the rapidly increasing workload and increase efficiency in the student veteran and dependent-benefits certification process. The Office of the Registrar has trained counselors to specialize in state and federal education benefit requests and certification, and has created new avenues for student veterans and dependents to submit or modify benefits claims. These remedies have streamlined the previously 4–6 week benefits certification process down to approximately 14 days.  

Together, Student Veteran Services, the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Admissions, Student Accounts Receivable and New Student Services are also making it easier for UT-Austin to track and collect relevant information about student veteran graduation rates. SVS is developing a plan to collect historical and current enrollment information in order to generate retention and graduation data regarding student veterans. 

The article, “Gathering higher education data on student veterans proves difficult,” quotes only student veterans. No attempt was made to interview University staff from any of the many departments that assist veterans and their dependents. Had any time been taken to gather information from a broad range of sources, the reporter would have discovered that the intricate network that exists campus-wide to support this population also keeps copious records. In short, the story would have been accurate.  

Although there are issues that can create barriers to student success, our efforts to resolve them have been successful thanks to the dedication and diligence shown by the staff involved in serving student veterans and dependents. SVS is proud of the work that has been done to find solutions and improve the ways in which the university meets the needs of student veterans and dependents. 

Armstrong is the Student Veteran Services Coordinator.In an article published on Jan. 16, The Daily Texan reported that the University “will need to figure out how many student veterans there are” in order to track graduation rates among this population. The truth is that the University has information on every individual, past or present, who has made use of military educational benefits at UT.

It is widely believed that the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs sends employees to college campuses to assist student veterans and dependents with the transition to higher education. In reality, each university is responsible for providing that assistance to the student veterans. The Office of the Dean of Students officially launched Student Veteran Services (SVS) on Veterans Day in 2011 to address the needs of student veterans and dependents at the University. SVS has since worked closely with various administrative departments campus-wide to assist student veterans and dependents with accessing their education benefits and acclimating to student life. Both processes can be challenging.

SVS routinely collaborates with the Office of Admissions to identify incoming student veterans and dependents, and we continue to make improvements in tracking these students and collecting nationally relevant retention and completion data. SVS has also worked with New Student Services to develop orientation services specifically for student veterans. The vast majority of incoming student veterans transfer to UT-Austin from schools all over the country with widely varying transfer requirements. Partnering with admissions and orientation staff has allowed SVS to begin tracking each student veteran as soon as he or she accepts admission to the University. We have data on every student who has ever utilized veteran education benefits at UT-Austin, which benefits were used and when and whether or not the student using the benefit was a veteran or a dependent of a veteran. What we cannot track are student veterans who do not use benefits or do not self identify. 

Though the Department of Veterans Affairs provides many benefits to student veterans and dependents, frequent case backlogs and understaffing can delay receipt or disbursement of funds. To solve this problem, Student Veteran Services, since registration period in the fall semester, has started working with Student Accounts Receivable to develop a shelter program to ensure that student veteran and dependent course registration is secured until state or federal educational benefits can be applied to outstanding tuition or fees.  

The past four years have brought exponential growth in the number of student veterans and dependents using education benefits at UT. Student Veteran Services and the Office of the Registrar have worked to address the rapidly increasing workload and increase efficiency in the student veteran and dependent-benefits certification process. The Office of the Registrar has trained counselors to specialize in state and federal education benefit requests and certification, and has created new avenues for student veterans and dependents to submit or modify benefits claims. These remedies have streamlined the previously 4–6 week benefits certification process down to approximately 14 days.  

Together, Student Veteran Services, the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Admissions, Student Accounts Receivable and New Student Services are also making it easier for UT-Austin to track and collect relevant information about student veteran graduation rates. SVS is developing a plan to collect historical and current enrollment information in order to generate retention and graduation data regarding student veterans. 

The article, “Gathering higher education data on student veterans proves difficult,” quotes only student veterans. No attempt was made to interview University staff from any of the many departments that assist veterans and their dependents. Had any time been taken to gather information from a broad range of sources, the reporter would have discovered that the intricate network that exists campus-wide to support this population also keeps copious records. In short, the story would have been accurate.  

Although there are issues that can create barriers to student success, our efforts to resolve them have been successful thanks to the dedication and diligence shown by the staff involved in serving student veterans and dependents. SVS is proud of the work that has been done to find solutions and improve the ways in which the university meets the needs of student veterans and dependents. 

Armstrong is the Student Veteran Services Coordinator.

Student survivors of sexual assault may find themselves wrapped in red tape if they choose to seek justice by reporting their assault to the University.

Because of UT’s interpretation of state and federal statutes on the privacy of student records, UT will not inform students sexually assaulted by another student if their alleged perpetrator has been reported for other instances of assault on campus and will not provide records on the status of a UT investigation to either party until its completion.

The Daily Texan published two opinion columns on these and other UT policies last month. A UT alumna and administrative researcher wrote about policies that frustrate and inhibit support for student survivors at UT. A member of UT’s Voices Against Violence wrote in response to alert students to the resources that are available for sexual assault survivors.

In the first column, Katelyn Sack said the University fails to provide a community of trust for survivors by denying them access to investigation records and valuable information about their reporting options.

Sack is a writer and political scientist at the University of Virginia researching administrative decision-making. She worked at the U.Va. Women’s Center from 2002 to 2004 and has had additional advocacy experience as a volunteer and teacher.

“Shame often keeps survivors silent,” Sack said in her column. “But the shame belongs to UT for its inadequate response to rape. UT’s moral imperative to assist injured students should be even more obvious when students are injured by other members of the same community of trust, but here, the University has dropped the ball.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, close to 44 percent of sexual assault survivors nationwide choose not to report or seek legal solutions.

In all investigations, the University’s interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA, legally restricts the University from releasing records related to an investigation to students, including the students involved in the case.

Jeffery Graves, associate vice president for legal affairs, said the University’s policy was mandated by federal guidelines and not up for individual interpretation.

“There is nothing ambiguous about FERPA in this regard and thus nothing to interpret,” Graves said. “The disclosure may only include the final results of the disciplinary proceeding conducted by [UT] with respect to that alleged crime.”

In an interview with The Daily Texan, Sack said FERPA allows other possibilities for complaint response besides the policy now used by the University.

“All UT has to do under FERPA to ensure survivors can access their full complaint records is have both parties sign off on this disclosure prior to an investigation,” Sack said. “The institutional incentive to not give complainants and respondents alike this opportunity is again a self-interested one.”

Sack said the University reduces its liability by taking a broad interpretation of FERPA. For example, denying survivors and respondents access to records such as reports of previous sexual assaults by an alleged perpetrator reduces the chance of a lawsuit against UT for not punishing a repeatedly violent student.

Attempted and completed sexual assaults occur at a rate of 35 per every 1,000 female college students per year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Between 2009 and 2012, UT’s Voices Against Violence estimates that 2,625 sexual assaults occurred at UT, while only 76 were reported to the University.

“College rape is a multi-million dollar liability, particularly for a large institution like UT,” Sack said. “It’s actually astounding that no one has won a multi-million dollar settlement against UT relating to a rape complaint yet.”

Student survivors can use criminal or civil courts as well as an internal University system to report a sexual assault.

The Office of the Dean of Students does not inform students of civil court options, such as suing an attacker for damages, if a student reports to the office that he or she has been sexually assaulted.

Civil cases have a much higher conviction rate in sexual assault cases than criminal cases, partially because of the lower burden of proof required for conviction.

“Certainly students have civil options,” said dean of students Soncia Reagins-Lilly. “They are not elaborated in [University policy], but through Legal Services we certainly have that conversation with them and survivors understand they have an array of options.”

Reagins-Lilly said the Office of the Dean of Students refers survivors to Legal Services for Students, a branch of DOS that informs survivors of their civil options and provides free legal counsel to students. But Legal Services cannot counsel students sexually assaulted by another student because of a conflict of interest, said Raymond Schiflett, director of Legal Services for Students.

“If it’s an assault on one student by someone who is not a currently enrolled student, then we can provide that student with a full range of legal advice,” Schiflett said. “If it was another student who had allegedly committed this act, we would not be able to assist this student directly. We would refer them to another experienced civil court attorney.”

Schiflett said under state law, all students are potential clients of attorneys provided by UT, and attorneys cannot provide legal counsel to two of their own clients against each other.

UT’s Voices against Violence

Outside the Office of the Dean of Students, the University has a number of resources available for survivors of sexual assault through the Voices Against Violence program launched in the Counseling and Mental Health Center in 2001.

Jane Bost, associate director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center, helped start the program with University support when she acquired a grant for UT’s Voices Against Violence in 2000. Since its inception, the program has provided counseling and advocacy for survivors, as well as training for thousands of students and staff at UT.

UT’s Voices Against Violence does not have the ability to access criminal reporting records, but along with the University of Texas Police Department, it provides criminal, University and civil information for survivors in case they decide to take legal action.

Bost said that while successful civil conviction might provide a feeling of social recognition and safety, most students do not pursue a lawsuit as a response to sexual assault.

“When someone comes in who has been sexually assaulted, they just aren’t interested in a lawsuit,” Bost said. “With all the clients that the VAV specialists have seen in the last 11 years, there has only been one student who has gone the civil route, and it’s not up to us to convince students otherwise.”

Since its inception, the UT chapter of Voices Against Violence has provided training on sexual assault to more than 150,000 UT staff, students and others.

Bost added that it is hard for college students to acquire civil attorneys because attorneys are only likely to take a civil case if an alleged perpetrator has enough assets to make the suit profitable.

Economics and international business junior Sydney Wilkins, a member of UT’s Voices Against Violence and author of the second of last month’s columns, said in an interview with The Daily Texan that it was inaccurate to say UT does not provide resources to survivors.

While the system is never perfect, Wilkins said, there are many people at the University working to provide resources and community for survivors.

“There’s a lot of excitement for activists about students coming out and talking about this issue, and the impact that could have for this campus,” Wilkins said. “My hope is that people will read about these columns and hear that, yeah there are horrible things going on, but there’s a lot we can do and I want people to be optimistic about all the change that can be done.”

Editor’s note: The Daily Texan hopes to further examine the problem of sexual assault on campus next semester. If you are a UT student or former student who has experienced sexual assault at UT, we hope to talk to you. We can discuss options to protect your privacy. Please email enterprise.dailytexan@gmail.com.

Printed on Friday, December 6, 2012 as:  Policies may deter sexual assault survivors

I was bullied during middle school. For a short period during my seventh-grade year, a gang of my classmates bullied me so fiercely and frequently that their attacks fundamentally changed the person I grew up to be.  My close friends have heard me refer to this affecting experience from my past. They have also heard me joke that the silver lining of being bullied is that it helped my ability to take an insult and increased the speed at which I generate comebacks.

When I have talked to other college students about my experience with bullying during middle school, the response has always been one of empathy and understanding. No one can deny that middle school is hell, and most people accept bullying and being bullied as part and parcel of an American adolescence. But what if my memories were set not in the past but in the present, in the halls of my dorm room instead of in my middle school homeroom? Would my fellow students still identify with my memories of being bullied if they occurred on a college campus? I suspect not, but that is by no means because bullying doesn’t occur on college campuses. Rather, we lack a definition of bullying that incorporates college students, and consequently, we often fail to recognize it among our own age group.

I haven’t been bullied during my time at UT, but I’m not sure I would recognize it if I were. What is bullying, anyway, when it doesn’t fit into the paradigms of lunch money theft or locker room taunts? The government-run website stopbullying.gov defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” Medlineplus.gov, another government-run website, defines bullying as “when a person or group repeatedly tries to harm someone who is weaker or who they think is weaker.” The second definition does not explicitly limit bullying to children, but the webpage on which it is found goes on to talk about bullying’s effects on children and teenagers. Clearly, bullying is seen as something that stops when you leave high school. But abuses of real or perceived power imbalances certainly occur among college students as well.

Neither the Office of the Dean of Students nor the Counseling and Mental Health Center mentions bullying on its website. The Office of the Dean of Students does, however, deal with allegations of hazing, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. And while bullying isn’t on the CMHC’s list of  “Common Student Concerns,” many of the concerns, including stalking, assertiveness and relationship and dating violence, speak directly and indirectly to managing imbalances of power.

In many ways, the complications of adult life — including the absence of a principal’s office to settle disputes — mean that we need numerous categories to define and make sense of the single, overarching problem of abuse of power. Bullying, we should remember, runs the gamut from verbal to physical assault. Even the range and order of the spectrum is continually debated, forcing us to admit that bullying between adults is an issue much larger and more complex than your average playground name-calling.

The problem with associating bullying only with children is that it leaves adults — and especially college students — to play a vocabulary game when identifying serious problems. Sexual assault is different than sexual misconduct, which is different than hazing, which is different than stalking, which is different than discrimination. When we jumble these words together, they become heavy not only with emotional weight but also with legal implications. How can I feel comfortable reaching out for help from my university with a problem of bullying if I don’t know what constitutes bullying? And if I don’t know what constitutes bullying in the university’s eyes, how can I know if they consider my problem worthwhile?

Recently, a friend of mine found herself in an emotionally trying situation in which she felt manipulated by a powerful classmate. Though her friends urged her to take action, my friend’s problem didn’t fit into any of the conveniently defined categories, so she felt that the problem was not legitimate.

This is not to say that the Office of the Dean of Students should start fielding complaints for bullying or that the Counseling and Mental Health Center should change their name to the “Bullying Help Center.” On the contrary, both of these agencies do a great job providing resources to students who are being bullied. Rather, we as students need to understand that bullying exists on college campuses, both within the traditionally defined categories such as hazing and sexual harassment and beyond them. It is the job of the University to handle these complaints — to sort the minor disputes from the major ones  — and they have the procedures in place to do so.

A student saying, “’I’m just really stressed out’ can mean anything from ‘I’m having difficulty sleeping’ to ‘I’m considering suicide,’” explained Jane Bost, associate director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center. “Part of what we do is to help people clarify [their problems] and to empower them with various options.”

But clarification, and subsequent healing, can’t begin until we call bullying (in all forms and by any name)  what it really is — a significant problem on college campuses.

Wright is a Plan II and biology junior from San Antonio.

Prosecutors recently indicted Penn State’s ex-President Graham Spanier for allegedly covering up the Sandusky child abuse scandal. University presidents, take note: Inadequate oversight of internal procedures can now land you in jail. Something needs to be done about UT’s official response to the rape and sexual assault of its students, because the current policy favors institutional interests over those of students at every turn. The University has a moral responsibility to give survivors access to records relating to their complaints, confirmation of appropriate crime reporting, full information about their options and legal assistance. That responsibility has not been fulfilled.

It starts when a survivor attempts to report a rape. Every common survivor contact point at UT — including the Office of the Dean of Students, UTPD and Legal Services for Students — fails to inform survivors of their full range of options for responding to rape. These options are criminal, University and civil complaints. UT’s policy does not include the civil complaint as an option.

Civil complaints are almost always survivors’ best reporting option. The standard of proof in criminal cases is “beyond a reasonable doubt” — around 99 percent — compared to “a preponderance of evidence” in a civil case — around 51 percent. Civil complaints have a higher success rate because their standard of proof is about half as high as that of criminal complaints. According to UT, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) makes internal UT investigations nontransparent and thus incomparable. Survivors are only privy to the outcome, not the factors in making the decision.

These relative success rates matter. The outcome of a rape report can be evidence to a survivor of whether the world believes him or her. Thus, scholars Patricia Martin and Marlene Powell call the experience of reporting sexual assault to police a “dual assault” for survivors. Unsuccessful criminal complaints are the norm, and they can cause survivors to feel even less safe. It stands to reason that if police do not believe you, they are not going to protect you.

The U.S. arrest rate for rape is only 24 percent out of all reported incidents, and the probability that a criminal rape report leads to conviction and prison sentencing for the perpetrator is in the single digits. Criminal complaints are vastly more likely to land survivors, not rapists, in police interrogation rooms. Furthermore, in criminal cases survivors risk imprisonment for refusing to testify before their attackers in court. This criminalizes a normal response to violent injury — fear

Civil complaints carry no such risk. And unlike criminal or University complaints, they let survivors suggest appropriate remedies. Dean Soncia Reagins-Lilly states that as a practice in some cases, the University or the Office of the Dean of Students asks students involved in disputes or conflicts including reported rape incidents what outcome they feel would be an appropriate resolution to the situation. The University does not publish criteria or other data on when and how often this occurs. Conversely, incarceration of the rapist is the optimal outcome of a criminal rape complaint. Incarceration means placing the rapist in a cage where he himself will have a double-digit probability of being sexually assaulted. Some survivors might prefer other remedies.

Survivors who are informed of the risks and benefits of all their reporting options would likely favor civil complaints over criminal or University ones, but at UT, the policy is to not even give them the option.

It gets worse. After the complaint has been made, the victims are prevented from knowing whether their case is being adequately investigated. The Office of the Dean of Students, citing FERPA, requires releases from both parties — the survivor and the alleged perpetrator — in order to release records relating to investigations of complaints of a sexual nature, except when those complaints meet definition of sexual assault. This means some survivors can’t access their complaint records to determine why UT won’t let them access their records.

Ironically, UT’s self-protecting responses to rape may endanger the institution’s longer-term interests and those of its most powerful administrators. If survivors were to realize that their experiences are not unique, but representative of larger patterns of institutional misconduct in response to rape, their stories might generate serious external pressures for reform. For example, the Department of Education might review the nontransparent records classifications that curtail survivors’ access to complaint records. Press from the results of such a review might harm UT’s reputation and fundraising capacity. Correspondence detailing high-level knowledge of some erroneous classifications and inadequate procedures might even cause individual administrators to incur criminal or civil liability.

Shame often keeps survivors silent. But the shame belongs to UT for its inadequate response to rape. UT’s moral imperative to assist injured students should be even more obvious when students are injured by other members of the same community of trust, but here the University has dropped the ball.

Sack is a member of the Liberal Arts Honors Program class of 2005. She researches administrative decision-making and advocates for students at the University of Virginia.

New information from current College Republicans at Texas leaders has revealed a former president of the organization was not a student when she held her position.

Cassandra Wright, current president emeritus of the organization, said a representative from the Office of the Dean of Students told her former president Lauren Pierce was not a student for most of her tenure, which lasted from April 2011 to December 2011. When College Republican’s officers confronted Pierce about her status, Wright said Pierce chose to leave the organization. Wright said the organization will meet with the Office of the Dean of Students this week to discuss the situation.

Marcia Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Office of the Dean of Students, said DOS could not comment on Pierce’s case because information about a specific case is confidential. Gibbs also said Pierce requested her records be restricted.

Pierce did not respond to requests for comment.

Pierce is most known for the controversial tweet she posted after the arrest of a Pennsylvania man who fired shots at the White House. Police charged Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez with attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama in November 2011, a crime that can result in a lifetime prison sentence.

“Y’all as tempting as it may be, don’t shoot Obama,” Pierce said in her Nov. 16 tweet. “We need him to go down in history as the WORST president we’ve EVER had! #2012.”

Wright said Pierce was a student when the organization elected her in April, and the organization does not check representatives status once the semester goes along. Wright said she was told in February that the organization would not face any punishment because of Pierce’s status. She said she spoke with Melinda Sutton, deputy to the dean of students, about the issue.

“We were disconcerted with the entire thing [when we found out],” Wright said. “And it put into question what was legitimate for last semester. At first, we weren’t sure what was true and what wasn’t and who we had actually been in contact with as an organization.”

Cesar Villarreal, the organization’s former public relations director, said Pierce made him and others believe she was a student. Villarreal said Pierce would discuss the classes she was in, the professors she had and what was going on in her life academically. Villarreal said questions first arose after Pierce organized an event in December at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Plaza and used CR to secure the space. The University got involved in the situation during the event because Pierce had not appropriately reserved the space, since she was not a student.

Villarreal said he was surprised and unsettled when he found out Pierce was not a student.

Wright said she wants the incident to serve as an example to other organizations and encourage them to do regular status checkups on all members, not just officers of the ones who may seem like they are dropping out. She said Pierce’s status does not make a difference regarding the tweet she made about Obama last year.

“It goes to show how much pressure she was under as a person,” Wright said.

At the moment, the Office of the Dean of Students checks the enrollment status of authorized student representatives on the 17th class day of each long semester and keeps it on an online database, said Mary Mercatoris, assistant dean of students. On that day, students who are no longer enrolled are removed from the authorized representative database for the registered student organization.

In addition, Mercatoris said enrollment for representatives of new student organizations is checked as part of the official approval process of the organization and status is automatically checked again when the organization reregisters every semester. Organizations can update their information on that database at any time.

“It’s the primary responsibility of the student organization to maintain their information current,” she said. “They need to be able to identify both to their members and to the public who is able to speak on their behalf and who are their leaders.”

Mercatoris said only UT students, faculty and staff are allowed to be part of the membership of an organization according to the University’s institutional rules. If DOS learned there may be a violation of those rules, she said they would immediately investigate.

She said there are discussions about checking a student’s enrollment status more often and that she will be looking into it.

Huey Fischer, president of University Democrats, said the fact that Pierce was not a student does not change the gravity of the Obama tweet because the entire community was under the impression that she led College Republicans when she posted it.

Fischer said University Democrats has strict rules restricting membership to current UT students and checks members’ statuses on the University directory during the semester and when they apply for membership. He said he believes this case is odd and does not merit a more stringent screening process for student leaders.

“It’s difficult for clubs to hold their members accountable in terms of their academic status,” Fischer said. “It’s really a matter of trust.”

Fischer said he does not think University Democrats will be changing its rules to check their members’ status more often because he does not want to create a culture where students question one another’s eligibility. 

Printed on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 as: Republican organization learns former leader lied

Roundup attendees take a break from festivities during last yearÂ’s annual gathering. The Interfraternity Council of UT recently announced that a college ID is required to participate in any Roundup-related event in the hope of discouraging high school students from attending.

Photo Credit: Caleb Bryant Miller | Daily Texan Staff

Despite University and high school officials discouraging prospective UT students from attending Roundup weekend activities, students in Greek organizations don’t expect less high-schooler turnout.

The Office of the Dean of Students and the Greek councils drafted a letter to sorority and fraternity community stakeholders to remind them that high school students are discouraged from attending the event on March 24-27. This is not the first year the letter has been sent, according to a spokesperson from the dean’s office.

The letter said the event is only for college students and not for high school students and a college ID is now required for all Roundup attendees.

In previous years, however, high school students have found ways around the system and still participated in Roundup, the letter said.

According to the letter, Roundup originally served as a homecoming weekend for alumni and students with a flurry of celebratory activities including parades and pageants.

Since 1990, the event is no longer recognized as an official University event, the letter said, due to “several racially inflammatory incidents” associated with it.

The Interfraternity Council also sent out a similar letter last year stating that high school students would not be allowed to attend Roundup events and the weekend was intended for college students only.

In a statement regarding the letter, spokeswoman Marcia Gibbs said the Office of the Dean of Students is working closely with council and members of the Greek community to ensure the safety of all who attend Roundup.

Parts of the letter will be shared with high school counselors who are regularly informed about the University’s admissions activities, according to the statement.

Linda Foster, principal at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, said she does not think Roundup is an appropriate event for high school students.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” she said. “We do have some kids who think it’s a great opportunity for them, but it’s definitely not something we encourage.”

Despite concerns from the University regarding high school students attending, nursing freshman Morgan Thompson said she had a positive Roundup experience as a high school senior that increased her excitement about life at UT.

“A lot of people from neighboring high schools went,” she said. “I got to know a lot of my best friends from it — I got to see the social aspect of UT and I think it definitely prepared me for rush.”

Mechanical engineering junior Ryan Sisak participated in Roundup last year and said he sees why UT wants to prevent the attendance of high school students.

“It’s probably not appropriate for high school kids,” he said. “It’s a good experience but I could understand why they wouldn’t want high schoolers to go because of all the alcohol and things like that.”

Meg Milosevich, finance junior and Panhellenic member, said she doesn’t think the letter will have the desired effects.

“I think it’s such a big recruitment time for sororities and fraternities that there’s no way to stop people from coming,” she said. “I understand the liability issues, but a letter from UT won’t stop students from attending.”

Printed on, Tuesday February 14, 2012 as: Note aims to deter high schoolers from Roundup

Students dug in their pockets to help support the Student Emergency Fund at the first-ever Spring into Giving campaign.

Students Hooked on Texas, a group devoted to community service and fundraising for UT, sponsored the full-day event on Gregory Plaza on Wednesday to raise money for the Student Emergency Fund. The cause brought together student volunteers from several University colleges and
philanthropic societies.

The fund helps students stay on track academically in times of crisis, said Christa Lopez, the coordinator of Student Emergency Services in the Office of the Dean of Students, which sponsors the fund.

“We help students sustain their progress at UT,” Lopez said. “Sometimes, without these funds, the students would have to leave the University, delaying their education a semester or a year. We help them make it to their graduation on time.”

The Student Emergency Fund, which started 10 years ago, is available to any UT student facing a “temporary financial hardship resulting from an emergency situation,” according to the Dean of Students website, which is also where students apply for aid. On average, amounts given range from $25-$150 and have previously helped students pay for hardships, including medical tests and treatments and plane tickets to attend an immediate family member’s funeral.

Party on the Plaza, the Hearts of Texas, Texas Parents, in addition to yesterday’s event, provide most of the donations to the fund, but anyone can contribute by going to the Dean of Students website. All of the money raised goes toward students who apply for financial help.

“There’s such a direct, immediate benefit with the Emergency Fund, as every dollar raised goes to help someone experiencing a personal crisis,” said Julie Lucas, the assistant director of Students Hooked on Texas.

For this year’s Spring into Giving campaign, a group of five alumni have pledged to match student donations dollar-for-dollar by each donating up to $5,000, Lucas said. They will renew this pledge annually for the next four years. Lucas said they won’t know the total amount raised this year until Friday.

“[With $3,000-$4,000 currently in the fund] and the 50,000 students at UT, we obviously can’t help everyone,” Lopez said. “So for students that may be OK financially, we encourage them to give back to their friend who needs a little help or their classmate who is homeless and living on the street. Even if someone doesn’t think that giving a dollar will help, that dollar becomes two. And you never know who or how you are helping."

Students interested in applying for a grant from the Emergency Fund can find the application on the Office of the Dean of Students website. The application must be accompanied by sufficient documentation of financial hardship.

“In times of crisis, it’s already so stressful, and to know that there is some backup from the University takes some of that pressure off,” said applied learning and development freshman Sumayya Pirbhai, who volunteered at the event.