Student Activities Center

UTPD disarms student in SAC, campus is secure

UTPD officers disarmed a student with self-harm intentions in the Student Activities Center just after 12:30 p.m. Monday. The campus is secure and no one was injured, according to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey.

If you or anyone you know is considering self-harm, here are University and community resources:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
  • UT Counseling and Mental Health Center Crisis Line: 512-471-2255
  • Behavior Concerns Advice Line: 512-232-5050.

For more resources and for information about the University's mental health programs, click here.

This article was originally written on March 7, 2014.

Canadian Ambassador H.E. Gary Doer said the U.S. should continue constructing the Keystone Pipeline, a cross-country oil pipeline, in a speech at the Student Activities Center on Friday.

The Keystone Pipeline System construction, divided into four phases extending the pipeline various distances across the U.S. and Canada, has been subject to significant criticism by environmental groups who allege the pipeline will be damaging. President Barack Obama rejected a proposal for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, the final phase of the project, in January 2012. The phase would have extended the pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to southern Nebraska.

Doer said he felt the current resources available to the U.S. and Canada have the potential to make the U.S. more energy independent and advocated for less restriction on the deployment of the Keystone Pipeline in the U.S.

“I believe we’ve won the lottery ticket — we just don’t know how to cash the ticket, to be less reliant on oil from the Middle East, and more reliant and independent in the neighborhood of North America,” Doer said. “We see the Keystone Pipeline, which is controversial, fitting into that narrative on energy security.”

Doer said stopping the development of the pipeline will not stop the production of oil in Canada, and the focus of the pipeline debate should shift to the environmental and safety concerns of the rail system, which is currently used to transport oil in the U.S.

“The state department concluded that it’s higher cost on rail than on pipeline, higher safety risk with more fatalities on rail, and higher greenhouse gases,” Doer said.

Sheila Olmstead, public affairs associate professor, said she felt stopping pipeline construction would not stop oil production in the U.S and Canada.

“I think we’re not in a great place trying to maximize those resources, and I agree also that we have these alternative transportation mechanisms that probably environmentally are not necessarily defined,” Olmstead said.

Jorge Piñon, interim director of the UT Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, said individual rail cars are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. According to Piñon, there will be several thousand miles worth of pipeline constructed in the U.S. this year alone.

“If the issue is pipeline as a negative contributor to the environment, how come we’re not opposing these 6,300 miles to be built in this country?” said Piñon.

Photo Credit: Connor Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

In a window-lined room on the second floor of the Student Activities Center there are two circles of chairs, one within the other. Six members of the African American Culture committee, a subcommittee of Campus Events + Entertainment, are laughing and eyeing each other, as they run around the smaller circle of chairs to an upbeat song from the Creole genre, Zydeco. It is the beginning of the group’s last meeting before its Mardi Gras-themed event this Tuesday on the East Mall, Masquerade in the Park. 

As the meeting begins, there is a lot of talk about grades and the inconsistency of Texas weather before the discussion naturally transitions to upcoming events, specifically the cultural mixers that freshmen get to plan.

“Something we want to keep in your heads and consider for your cultural mixture would be what food we want to serve, advertising ideas like the handbill and what booths you’ll have,” said Matthew Ealy, applied learning and development junior and committee chair. 

Largely focused on giving UT students the opportunity to develop, plan and present African and African American culture programs to the University, the committee plans a variety of events, such as Masquerade in the Park.

“The greatest thing about Campus Events + Entertainment is probably the wide array of events that we sponsor,” Ealy said. “Because we consist of nine committees, each committee has a different interest. This allows for the most diverse programming of events by any organization on campus.”

The committee, which meets every Wednesday in the SAC, is open to all UT students. While the meetings are loosely structured, they rely heavily on an open forum discussion. The committee’s Black History Month events are the topic of much discussion this week. The first was a viewing of the movie “42” on Feb. 4. Following the screening, the committee hosted a night of entertainment, What Started Here Changed Our World, on Feb. 16. The event focused on bringing multiple African American culture groups together to educate students on black history at UT. The last event of the month was the career expo, Black to Business. While each of these events was advertised, Ealy said he wishes there could have been greater campus involvement.

“The one difficulty that we have had in gaining interest is the assumption that Black to Business is only for African American students,” Ealy said. “This assumption is not true. This event [was] a career expo premised on the fact that every company and organization in attendance will have a focus on the betterment of minority populations or significantly interested in diversifying their staff.” 

In an effort to increase participation, the committee will hold Masquerade in the Park on the East Mall because of its high foot traffic and space for tents. The festival is free to attend and will offer students an opportunity to taste Creole cuisine, listen to Creole and Zydeco music and participate in Mardi Gras activities. Public relations junior Jacy Jones is in charge of advertising the event on multiple social media platforms but mainly by word of mouth. Jones is especially excited to promote this event because of her ties to Creole culture.

“My favorite event we host is Masquerade in the Park, simply because I am Creole,” Jones said. “Growing up with Zydeco music is something that I’m used to. I’m always hearing it. The food, the culture — that’s my niche.” 

The committee, along with each event that it hosts, works to promote inclusivity within the African American community and the UT community.  

“I want students to see the difference that our organization and many other organizations are making on campus and how it directly affects all of them,” External Communications Chair Gennavonah Wade said. “We are a committee to put on events that cater to every aspect of a student. From political, to inspirational, to gaining leadership and communication skills, to entertaining and just adding to the holistic character of a student.” 

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

A new room on the top of the Student Activities Center, which opens up to the sky and creates art with light and color, offers students a relaxing space to forget their worries.  

The Skyspace, which opened Saturday and is called “The Color Inside,” was created by artist James Turrell and is being presented by Landmarks, the University’s public art program. At sunrise and sunset, special LED light sequences are activated to illuminate the circular room. Reclined seating along the walls of the space allow students to sit comfortably as they watch the show.

Turrell, who has been an artist for more than 50 years, said he’s imagined installations like the Skyspace since he was little. He said he spent a lot of time trying to work out the medium through which he could create his vision. Turrell said his goal with the room is to enhance people’s awareness of their perception of light and color.

“It took a while because you don’t form it like hot wax or clay and you don’t carve it away like foam or wood,” Turrell said. “It was more like a process of making a painting space in three dimensions.”

Turrell said people make spiritual, emotional and physical connections with light.

“Light has central importance to our lives,” he said. “We physically relate to the sun. We drink light through the skin as Vitamin D. It is actually food [to us].”

The University allocates 1 to 2 percent of the cost of new construction or major renovation to academic teaching and research facilities, administrative or any general purpose building on campus for artwork. The skyspace is funded by 1 percent of the budget cost of both the SAC and the adjacent Liberal Arts Building, at roughly $1.5 million.

Thea Williamson, an education doctoral student, said the most appealing aspect of the Skyspace to her is its function as a usable art piece for the people. The University commissioned the work of art to create a quiet reflection space for students.

“You have to be physically in it,” Williamson said. “It’s a very personal experience.”

Williamson said her preference is to visit the sunset sequence and she is really excited to have it on campus.

Ty Helpinstill, associate director in the office of Industry Engagement, said she can’t wait to be able to go into the Skyspace. 

“I just think the experience of day and light and dimension of the color [is amazing],” she said. “It’s just eerily beautiful on top of it all.”

Students, faculty and staff gathered yesterday at the Student Activities Center to discuss transgender identity and ways UT can better serve the existing transgender community. The Gender and Sexuality Center conducts multiple seminars throughout the semester in attempt to educate the campus community on gender issues facing the population. Shane Whalley, education coordinator for the Gender and Sexuality Center, led the presentation titled, “Transgender Identities: Expanding the Concepts of Gender.”

A transgender person is someone whose self-identity and/or expression does not conform or transgresses traditional notions of male and female. Their gender identity differs from their gender assigned at birth, ze said.

Whalley identified hirself as “gender queer,” a gender identity where one does not identify as male or female and often seeks to blur gender lines. If a person is gender nonconforming, the use of pronouns, “ze,” “hir” and “hirs,” rather than gender-specific pronouns may be appropriate when addressing the person.

“[UT Austin] needs to make classrooms more open to transgender people, and there are ways to do that,” Whalley said.

Four gender aspects exist inside every individual — sex, gender identity, gender expression and romantic orientation, Whalley said. Transgender people spend much mental energy on the first three aspects, attempting to identify and understand their gender identity. In contrast, heterosexual people mainly ponder one gender aspect — romantic orientation, ze said. Whalley said if any students’ gender is unclear, teachers and classmates should keep gender assumptive language such as “you guys” out of the classroom. Offensive slang words such as “tranny” should be avoided as well, ze said.

History senior Juan Carlos Suarez attended the presentation and said Whalley’s points were informative and enlightening.

“It’s refreshing to hear someone talk about issues that most people don’t even think about, such as gender identity and gender expression,” Suarez said.

Suarez is a member of Peers for Pride, a program training peer facilitators to lead sexual orientation and gender identity workshops across the UT campus. Suarez said transgender people feel safe at UT, but not welcomed. Even though Austin has a reputation of welcoming transgender people, some forget that provincial views on sexuality still exist, he said. Suarez said gender-neutral housing, which has been suggested by the student group StandOut, would make transgender students feel more welcome and included on campus.

Therapist Laura Vanderslice, who also attended the presentation, said spreading awareness is vital to the process of expanding the concepts of gender.

“If you are unclear on someone’s gender, don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Vanderslice said.

Whalley said rather than ignoring the issue of gender identity, people should focus on long-term culture change.

“The most important culture shift of all is to not base one’s gender on genitals,” Whalley said.

Printed on Thursday, March 1, 2012 as: Transgender presentation promotes gender-neutrality

Communication studies junior Hannah Moody informs students on Monday about Invisible Children, a non-profit organization raising awareness for Africa’s longest war and the involvement of child soldiers in Uganda. Tony, Invisible Children’s latest documentary, will be screened today at 7 p.m. at the SAC auditorium.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

When Hannah Moody was in eighth grade, she went to a conference with her church where she saw “Rough Cut,” an original documentary released in 2003 by Invisible Children, a social, political and global movement made up of hundreds of volunteers, students and supporters that make documentaries about war-affected children in east Africa and tour them around the world. The film shows the world that children are being kidnapped and turned into child soldiers every day.

“I have a lot of empathy,” said Moody, a communication studies junior. “It grabbed me, and I’ve been involved [with Invisible Children] ever since.”

Today Invisible Children will be screening its newest short film, “Tony,” put on by Kappa Delta and the Amnesty Club in the Student Activities Center auditorium for free in hopes of raising awareness of the ongoing war between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the government of Uganda. Joseph Kony’s resistance began under a spiritual movement and has since evolved into the abduction of children to serve in his army. The film serves as a call to action for those willing to help. After the screening, Collines Angwech, a former child soldier, will be share her story and advocate on behalf of the people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Sudan.

“There are so many atrocities we just don’t even know about,” said journalism freshman Saumya Wali. “Just because I was born into a more fortunate situation and someone else was born into a lesser one, [it] doesn’t mean it’s not my concern. We have to realize not everyone has the same great opportunities.”

Invisible Children began in the spring of 2003 when founders Jason Russell, Laren Poole and Bobby Bailey traveled to Africa and discovered over two decades worth of war in northern Uganda. While continuing efforts to stop Joseph Kony’s war and use of child soldiers, Invisible Children has established many economic and educational initiatives, including village savings and loans, establishing a mentor program and creating a bracelet campaign.

“Tony, the star, says to the founders, ‘Don’t forget about me. People come all the time and don’t come back,’” Wali said. “We have the power to touch lives even in small ways. Everything makes a difference.”

The war in northern Uganda between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the government of Uganda has been going on for the last 25 years. The army, a rebel group founded in 1986 led by Joseph Kony, has been responsible for the abduction of over 30,000 children in northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic.

“Just because it’s not happening in the U.S. doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve our attention,” Moody said. “There’s lots of times we’re just bombarded with horrible things and we just tune them out, but people are being tortured and [children] are being abducted. We should care about other human beings.”

However, with the advent of the LRA Crisis Tracker, a real-time mapping platform and data collection system created to illustrate the path of the Lord’s Resistance Army, the number of civilian deaths has begun to decrease.

“It’s beginning to weaken,” said international relations freshman Caroline Thomas. “They’re making these yellow cards in different African languages and hanging them up across the jungle, so everyday people are learning more and more about the LRA.”

This year, Invisible Children’s goals are to raise enough money to set up radio towers in at-risk areas of Africa that would serve to alert and monitor civilians vulnerable to the army.

“Many times, there’s no cell service and villages can’t communicate with other villages,” Moody said. “We want to help them establish communication so that it’s no longer an invisible war.”

Invisible Children also plans to build rehabilitation centers to provide psychosocial support, safety and counseling for the former child soldiers while also educating the community of the risks.

To make this possible, Moody hopes to fill the SAC auditorium to capacity tonight and even purchased a tan sheet, so once the seats fill up. “Tony” can still be projected outside and no one will be turned down from the event. Her goal, and that of the others involved, is to not only fill the auditorium but also to raise the most money for the protection plan and create change.

“It’s a youth movement. It’s giving youth a voice,” Moody said. “It’s to see something that’s wrong and change it.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 as: Shedding light on Ugandan atrocities

The Student Services Budget Committee approved new allocations of money from student fees to five University organizations who displayed particular needs, the committee’s former chairwoman said.

Former Student Government Vice President Muneezeh Kabir, who chaired the committee, said the nine-member group of students and faculty reviewed budget requests last year from 17 university centers, offices and programs vying for added funding, Kabir said. She said the committee decided to use money from the SSBC’s reserved funding to support programs that seemed most beneficial to the University and those in most need of financial assistance.

“People would come and give detailed presentations about how their programs contributed to the University and why they needed funding,” Kabir said. “I would say that recommendations were reflective of who we felt needed our funding most.”

The committee will distribute funding to the Gender and Sexuality Center, the Forensics Program, the Counseling and Mental Health Center, the shuttle bus system and the Office of Student Financial Services’ Bevonomics program, Kabir said. She said funding will be distributed Sept. 1 — the beginning of the fiscal year.

The SSBC distributes about $42 million in student fees each year. Funding to all other organizations SSBC allocates student fees to retained their previous funding levels. Groups include the Campus Environmental Center, Texas Student Media and Student Government.

Once the committee finalized its recommendations, it submitted them to Vice President of Student Affairs Juan Gonzalez for approval, which he gave in May. The recommendation became official last week.

Gender and Sexuality Center Director Ixchel Rosal said the funding from student fees have been the only source of income to run the center and expand it. She said she went before the committee last spring to ask for their continued support.

“I shared with them our current budget, talked about trends and things that we were noticing in the new space. They helped us get at the new Student Activities Center,” Rosal said.

Rosal said the center will receive $10,000 from the SSBC to be distributed in two increments at the beginning of each of the next two fiscal years. She said the center has seen an increase in student traffic, and the money will help hire student workers to help incoming students.

Jane Morgan Bost, associate director for the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said the center has received an increased number of visitors since an on-campus shooting Sept. 28. She said the center asked the council for funds to be able to handle more students.

“The funding will help us hire more workers to help students find the help they need through a system called triaging,” Bost said. “Through the system, we do a quick assessment of students who walk in here, find out what it is that they need and explain to them what we offer.”

Many students go to the center needing long-term counseling, while the center offers sessions that are meant to council students that need immediate assistance but do not require continuous sessions, Bost said.

She said the triage system cuts down on waiting time and prevents students from having to talk to multiple people before they find the assistance they need.

Gonzalez said some years the University does not have funds to add to the SSBC reserves. He said the recommendations from the SSBC were well thought out and did not require too much spending on their behalf.

Gonzalez said before approving the recommendations he consulted with his Associate Vice President Donna Bellinghausen and spoke with representatives of a number of organizations that will receive the money.

“I made no changes but had several considerations to address before I made the final approval,” Gonzalez said.
Kabir said Gonzalez was not able to approve the committee’s request for a 10th member.