Cindy Posey

Power restored in eight campus buildings after reported outages

Eight buildings on campus experienced power outages this morning. UTPD received a call about the outages at approximately 9:55 a.m., according to spokeswoman Cindy Posey.

The university's load controller, which ensures power stays on despite any major fluxations in usage, failed to adequately deal with the power being generated and contributed to the outage, Posey said. 

Outages were reported in the Perry Castendena Library, the University Teaching Center, the Harry Ransom Center, the Speedway Garage, North Office Building A, the Charles E. Seay Building and both the McCombs School of Business and the Graduate School of Business buildings.

The University sent out an alert email at 10:18 a.m. stating power has been restored in all buildings.

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

UT campus will close at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and remain closed until 1 p.m. Thursday because of inclement winter weather.

Classes will resume at 2 p.m., and UT shuttle services will start at 12:45 p.m.

University officials are concerned about precipitation freezing throughout the night, causing icy roads and poor driving conditions for those trying to get to the campus, according to University spokeswoman Cindy Posey. 

Posey said the safety of students, faculty and staff was the main concern and determining factor when officials looked at the conditions.

"We take into consideration students and employees traveling by foot, public transportation and car," Posey said. "We want everyone to be safe." 

The University issued a preliminary warning Wednesday afternoon saying officials would monitor the situation closely before making any decisions.

Posey said University officials will continue monitoring the situation tomorrow morning.

UT Incident Meteorologist Troy Kimmel said some areas in Austin are projected to have a quarter inch of ice and that it could take until afternoon for the ice to melt.

"The main thing I would suggest is that people not be on the rode after 10 p.m. tonight and should remain off the roads through the morning hours based on what we're seeing," Kimmel said.

AISD cancelled school for the entirety of the day.

Students, staff and faculty wait for the lights to come back on at the entrance to the PCL on Tuesday morning.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

The University of Texas does not have specific protocols to deal with blackouts but will begin to form new procedures for dealing with possible future power outages, according to University officials.

“We have protocols in place to deal with emergency situations [but] not specifically to blackouts,” University spokesman Gary Susswein said. “Whenever there is an emergency on campus, the president convenes the top leaders on campus to figure out what to do. They were gathering information and trying to decide what the course of action was..”

Tuesday morning, the University experienced a campus-wide power outage. The University will form new protocols for dealing with blackouts because of Tuesday’s power outage, according to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey.

“That’s the great thing about these incidents when nothing too bad happens — nobody was hurt and we learned a lot,” Posey said. 

Posey said UT’s communication system stopped working during the blackout, forcing her to find new ways to communicate with students, faculty and staff.

“We couldn’t get any emails out,” Posey said. “I learned to turn to other methods, and we did. We went to Twitter because the systems weren’t working. We also texted a message out. I learned to not spend so much time trying to get an email out on a system that doesn’t work. I kept trying, and Plan B is Twitter and text.”

Although University officials did not cancel classes, professors are permitted to cancel class if they see fit, Susswein said.

“Professors always have the discretion to let out class if needed, and many, many professors did that,” Susswein said. 

Over the past six years, the Union Building, along with the Student Activity Center, Jester Center, Webb Hall and the Perry-Castaneda Library, has been the site of more criminal trespassing violations than any other building on campus. These buildings are particularly vulnerable because of heavy foot traffic and the likelihood of unattended belongings. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

A homeless man stabbed another homeless man with a knife inside the Union Building after the two got into a fight Wednesday evening. 

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said neither of the men, who were not affiliated with UT, were taken into custody. One man sustained minor injuries but refused services and treatment from emergency medical personnel. Posey said an investigation is ongoing.

“They just came in through the doors, and they were pushing each other and then it escalated pretty quickly,” actuarial science senior Kirby Nguyen, who saw the fight take place, said.

One of the men pushed the other to the ground, and the fallen man started yelling that he had been cut on the wrist, Nguyen said.

Government junior Patrick Duchala said he did not witness the fight, but saw the aftermath. 

“There was just a bunch of blood on the ground, and then there was a trail of blood that went past that first elevator to the underground and all the way down the hallway,” Duchala said. 

Nguyen said he was far enough from the scene of the incident that he didn’t see the injury, but the injured individual announced he had been cut as emergency services were being called.

“[The man who was cut] as he was leaving said, ‘This dude has a knife and cut me on my wrist,’ then he showed everyone his wrist and then he said [the man who shoved him] tried to cut a homeless lady,” Nguyen said.

The men left before UTPD officers arrived, but officers told students they were able to find the injured man and confirmed he had suffered minor injuries from a stab wound, Nguyen said.

Because of Dell Medical School construction, the University removed hundreds of “C” parking spots in lots near the Frank Erwin Center and School of Social Work, causing frustration among some commuting students as they returned to campus for the spring semester.

According to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey, Lot 108, south of the Erwin Center, lost approximately 290 spots at the end of the fall semester. All of Lot 80, near the social work building, is being used to construct a chilling station for the Dell Medical School complex, Posey said.

“About 200 spaces will be returned to this lot at the completion of the project,” Posey said. “The parking needs when these spaces return will dictate the designation for these spaces, but I am certain that student parking will be a part of the mix.”

Austin Hill, mechanical engineering senior, said students who commute to campus often have difficulty finding a place to park.

“Today, I drove around for almost 10 minutes in circles waiting for a spot to open up — along with about five other cars,” Hill said. “And, sometimes when you find a spot, it’s a carpool spot, which I didn’t know was a thing until I got a ticket for it last Thursday.”

Hill said he used to park in Lot 80, but, because of the closure, he now tries to park mainly in Lot 70, just north of the closed-off area. Hill said he does not park in the lots east of I-35 because of how far they are from his classes. If he can’t find an open spot, Hill said he just pays to park on the streets around campus.

Dennis Delaney, operations manager for Parking and Transportation Services, said there are a sufficient number of empty parking spaces east of I-35.

“Before Lot E was closed on any given day, we had anywhere from 200 to 300 empty spaces on the other side of I-35,” Delaney said. “We’re still finding those locations empty — not as many as before, but there are still empty spaces that can accommodate people with a ‘C’ permit.”

Delaney said the parking services department has sold 2,264 “C” permits and 1,635 “C+” permits over the course of this academic year.

“Basically, we sell as the demand is there, so, if people are asking for them, we’ll sell them,” Delaney said.

English senior Heather French said she does not regret purchasing her “C+” permit, but she is still frustrated with her
parking situation.

“The PTS site makes it sound like parking across 35 is an easy option, when, in reality, the bus system is so unreliable that one has to plan a ton of time for taking the bus, which is not a viable alternative,” French said. 

The University is building a new parking garage near the site of the new medical school in order to make up for lost spaces, Posey said.

“The garage will have 100-plus spaces, and it will serve the medical school district, including students,” Posey said. “The overall net gain for parking spaces on campus because of the Dell Medical School will be about 600-plus spaces.”

Delaney said the new parking spaces at the medical school garage will be accessible to all students.

“At the medical school, the only people who are probably going to want to park over there are the nursing school students and medical school students, so the demand that’s there from them is what’s going to drive how popular that garage is,” Delaney said.

Police departments across the nation now use Yik Yak, a social media app, to monitor crime reports. 

Campus police departments in South Dakota and Wisconsin started using Yik Yak, which functions as an anonymous, GPS-based message board, to monitor criminal activity on campus and aid in criminal investigations. Under the application’s privacy policy, information is disclosed to law enforcement officials when necessary to prevent or respond to illegal activity.

According to UT police spokeswoman Cindy Posey, UTPD is not currently monitoring Yik Yak activity on and around campus.

“It’s a possibility, but I can’t say for sure that we’ll do it,” Posey said.

Posey said she was informed of other campuses’ use of Yik Yak at a social media conference in January.

“I thought it was very interesting that they were doing it, and I got on it and looked at it and checked it out,” Posey said. “I can see where it could be useful for law enforcement.”

Biology senior Makenzie Harris said she thinks UTPD might benefit from monitoring UT’s Yik Yak feed, but she hasn’t seen any posts involving
illegal activity.

“From what I’ve seen, Yik Yak is more about jokes than drug exchanges,” Harris said. “But if most of the investigations lead to a dead end … I don’t see the point in obsessing over an iPhone app that just seems to provide entertainment for procrastinating and bored college students.”

Posey said the department does monitor other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, for potentially useful information. The department has public profiles on both sites.

“We keep an eye on everything, just looking for anything that might rise to the level of concern … just like any other police department would,” Posey said.

Alex Patlan, communication sciences and disorders senior, said he thinks it is intrusive for police to monitor student social media activity, even when posts are public.

“Plenty of people use social media as an outlet, and I am all for [being cautious about] what you put on the Internet, but I know I don’t intend for law enforcement to read up on my profiles,” Patlan said.

Starting in January, students could receive citations for talking on a cellphone while driving or biking — but only if they are stopped by an officer from the Austin Police Department, not UTPD. 

City Council passed a new cellphone ordinance on Aug. 28, which bans the use of portable electronic devices while operating a vehicle or bicycle. The ordinance goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, and it strengthens the current law, which only prohibits texting. Drivers will still be able to use their devices hands-free if they’re stopped on the side of the road or in the case of an emergency. 

The Council also added an exception that allows drivers to use their devices when stopped at a red light or stop sign. According to a statement from APD, violation of the ordinance will be a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, beginning in January 2015.  

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said unlike APD, UTPD does not enforce city codes, so UTPD officers will not be enforcing the new ordinance on campus.  

“If we see someone driving erratically or doing something they shouldn’t, we can still issue them a citation,” Posey said. 

Health promotion junior Kelly Boudain, who bikes around campus, said she thinks the ordinance is a good idea, but she is glad UTPD will not enforce it on campus. 

“I think a lot of people talk on their phones or do other stuff when they’re driving, which is not very safe,” Boudain said. “I think [the ordinance] is a good idea, but [UTPD] would probably get a lot of people if they enforced it on campus.”

Boudain said although the ordinance makes sense for drivers, she’s not sure how much it applies to bicyclists. 

“I never use my phone when I’m biking … I don’t really think it will have as much of an effect for bicyclists,” Boudain said. 

Hannah Drake, applied learning and development sophomore, who uses her car to drive off campus frequently, said she thinks the new ordinance will help cut down on distracted driving.

“I use my phone almost every time I drive, for directions or listening to music,” Drake said. “I have been distracted by it, even just by looking down for a few seconds, so, hopefully, people will be safer now.” 

UTPD still recommends that students be safe when biking or driving on campus, Posey said. 

“We highly encourage people to be safe — while using or not using devices, in all modes of transportation — biking, walking, driving or skateboarding,” Posey said.

UTPD officers arrested a non-UT subject  earlier this week found sleeping on a couch on the fifth floor of the Gates-Dell Complex. According to the UTPD crime log, the subject had previously been issued a written criminal trespass warning.

Criminal trespass incidents like this one are common on campus, especially when colder temperatures drive homeless individuals to seek warmth in campus buildings, according to UTPD. 

 UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said the top three buildings for criminal trespass on campus are Walter Webb Hall, the Union and San Antonio Garage. Posey said criminal trespass incidents increase at varying rates throughout the year, but the the most active months are during the fall.

UTPD has reported nine additional criminal trespass incidents so far this month, four of which involved individuals sleeping in campus buildings.

Posey said UTPD follows a specific protocol through the county attorney's office to determine whether to arrest individuals who trespass on campus.

"UTPD will warn a person in writing the first time they are found in a criminal trespass situation.  The written notice serves as notification that entry is forbidden to non-UT affiliated persons who do not have legitimate business to conduct in the building or the building is closed," Posey said in an email.

"The [criminal trespass] warning is for all UT buildings and is valid for two years," Posey said. "The officer will assess the situation to determine the facts and make the decision to arrest if the situation warrants."

Posey said UTPD officers will sometimes provide homeless individuals who trespass on campus with information about shelters or other resources.
 
"The officer will assess the situation and, if warranted, some officers will tell the trespasser about churches in the area that serve breakfast and allow sleeping on church property," Posey said. "The officers also tell them about The Salvation Army shelter."   

Jan Gunter, communications and community relations director at The Salvation Army of Austin, said The Salvation Army has two shelters in the city, both for emergency housing.

Gunter said the organization has a specific cold weather plan that collaborates with other groups throughout the city — churches, recreation centers, APD and other shelters — to provide places for homeless individuals to stay when the temperature drops.

According to Gunter, the shelters get a total of about 310 individuals on normal nights, but, on cold nights, that number increase by as many as 400 individuals.

"On cold weather nights, The Salvation Army will provide additional spaces at other locations, and we allow for a later check in at the shelter," Gunter said.

With the increase in clients on colder nights, Gunter said both Salvation Army shelters usually do exceed their capacities. 

"Our goal is to collaborate and make sure that no one has to sleep outside in the cold," Gunter said.

Editor's note: Information in this article about The Salvation Army shelters have been clarified for accuracy.

Daytime residential burglaries in West Campus and North Campus have increased over the past few weeks, according to the Austin Police Department.

APD senior officer Veneza Bremner said there have been six residential burglaries in the West and North campus areas from Aug. 24 to Sept. 26. 

According to Bremner, the burglaries occurred mostly between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and the residences were left unlocked in all cases. 

Bremner said students can take certain common sense safety precautions to prevent daytime burglaries. 

“Lock your doors and windows, and close blinds, curtains and shades so that criminals cannot see inside your residence,” Bremner said. “Talk with your neighbors and ask them to call in if they see suspicious persons or suspicious activity.”

UTPD statistics report around two to three burglaries per month. In 2013, UTPD reported 41 burglaries total.

English junior Luyou Sun, who lives in West Campus, said her friend was robbed when she left her apartment door unlocked last year. 

“She came back after school and noticed that the TV was gone,” Sun said. “The only things they stole were a TV, which cost about $2,000, and a pair of women’s shoes.”

Sun said she thinks students have generally become better at protecting their belongings, especially after a string of burglaries in West Campus in 2012.

“I think, after you have something stolen once, you’re not going to have it happen again,” Sun said. “I’m generally more cautious now.”

A non-UT subject sustained serious injuries after falling from the San Antonio parking garage Wednesday afternoon.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said the subject fell around 1:30 p.m. He was conscious when EMS personnel arrived at the scene, Posey said. 

According to Austin-Travis County EMS officials, the subject fell more than 30 feet from the garage. He was transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge with potentially serious injuries, ATCEMS officials said.

UTPD is still investigating the cause of the incident, Posey said.