Edwin Dorn

Recent events surrounding fatal encounters with unarmed citizens have sparked a nationwide debate over the accountability of police forces.  

For instance, take the indictment of South Carolina police officer Michael T. Slager after a video of him killing a man during a traffic stop surfaced or, even closer to home, the indictment of former APD Detective Charles Kleinhart after the accidental shooting death of a robbery suspect.

These instances and others have pitted two diametrically opposed groups against each other. While some claim no harm would have come to the victims if they had just cooperated with the police, others believe discrimination and excessive force came into play.  

The two arguments will inevitably continue, but no one disagrees that we should find a way to reduce the number of violent encounters between police and citizens. 

I think the reform should start with the police. Police departments should reform the way they’re trained to handle seemingly dangerous situations. If they feel a citizen is getting violent, they should analyze whether to go for a baton or taser first and aim for a less harmful spot if a gun is completely necessary.  

Another element of strife is the distrust communities feel toward largely white police forces. Edwin Dorn, race relations expert and UT professor of public affairs, said that officers, while certainly needing better training to de-escalate situations, also need to reflect the communities they serve — a vital factor in keeping encounters as fair as possible.  

In cities like Ferguson, Missouri, where citizens claimed police were biased against the black population, just three out of 53 officers were black while 67 percent of the population is black.  

Across the nation, local police officers in any given community are about 75 percent white, regardless of racial makeup of the city. This is not to say that white officers are inherently racist, but rather that a diverse city deserves a diverse force, to ensure discrimination does not prevent justice from being served.  

Although black Americans are thought to be disproportionately targeted by police, as reported by sites like NAACP.org, Dorn believes resisting arrest is not the way to fight back. 

“It saddens me to say this, but in the short term, the best advice is the advice that all black parents give to their sons: If a policeman stops you, don’t argue, don’t resist and don’t run,” Dorn said. 

If racism or bias comes into play, little can be done by a citizen to protect his or her life at the hands of a corrupt cop. However, respecting the commands of an officer can prevent further trouble.  

Whether an officer has probable cause or not, if someone is stopped, they should fully cooperate. While many, however innocent, may wish to withhold identification, it’s not worth the risk of escalating a potentially simple situation. For example, former Texan columnist and associate editor Eric Nikolaides refused to comply with police demands when he refused to let the cops enter without a warrant after receiving a noise complaint, resulting in an arrest on his formerly clean criminal record.  

I myself have been in a similar situation, as a loud party I attended in College Station was interrupted by a noise complaint. The police showed up to find several inebriated students, some of whom were underage, and simply asked that we comply and answer questions truthfully.  

Several anxiety-inducing moments later, we were free to continue — at a lower volume, of course. While I understand not every police encounter goes this smoothly, I also recognize that my compliance protected my clean criminal record.   

As students with our entire lives ahead of us, no one wants to be the smart mouth who intensifies a situation or the unfortunate victim of police brutality. While we all should push for police to re-examine their methods, we should also take necessary precautions. Police exist to protect and serve, so citizens and cops alike must do their part to ensure innocent individuals are released and criminals see their day in court. 

Griffin is a journalism freshman from Houston. Follow Griffin on Twitter @JazmynAlynn.

President William Powers Jr. and Kedra Ishop, vice provost and director of admissions, listen to suggestions made by the Senate Higher Education Committee regarding methods of increasing student diversity outside of the top 10 percent Wednesday morning.

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

As the University celebrates what could be considered a victory in the Fisher v. University of Texas case, one has to wonder what there is to celebrate. Sure, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit seemingly gave a stamp of approval to UT’s holistic admissions review process, which allows the University to take race into account, but, unfortunately, the capacity to use race as a decision factor narrowly benefits racial minority groups that are in vogue, while another — black applicants — is disadvantaged by the system.

Let’s be frank. When the term “affirmative action” was first associated with race, the intended beneficiaries were black people who had historically experienced de facto and de jure discrimination based on their skin color. Positive discrimination, or affirmative action, was used to correct legal inequalities that had oppressed the black community for such a long time.

UT, along with many universities in the South, is certainly no stranger to racial controversy concerning admissions. In the case of Sweatt v. Painter, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that the University could not deny admission to the Law School based on race. Edwin Dorn, the former dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, once said, “The University desegregated slowly and reluctantly.” And, while today, admissions numbers do not reflect a university reluctant to accept all minorities, the numbers do show an institution headed in the wrong direction as far as black students are concerned.

Over the past few years, the percentage of undergraduate students who identify as black has constantly declined from a number that wasn’t so high to begin with despite an increase in the black population in every major city in Texas besides Austin. In 2009, black students comprised 4.9 percent of the undergraduate population, and enrollment for the fall semester of 2013 was down to 1,701 students, which is now 4.3 percent of the undergraduate student body. The number of black graduate students is even lower with roughly 300 black students total enrolled in graduate programs. Conversely, Hispanic students, correlating with an increase in the state population of Hispanics, have the second highest representation on campus behind white students, making up 21.7 percent of the population, which is equivalent to more than 8,000 students. The percentage of Asian undergraduates has remained relatively constant. Certainly, it could be argued that black students have been and will continue to be underrepresented because the number of applications submitted by black students barely exceeds 2,000, but the admissions rate is still lower for black students than it is for the largest minority groups on campus.

The lack of a substantial black population, which includes a faculty of which black teachers make up roughly 3.7 percent, is quite noticeable. Homecoming coronations, probates and step shows are probably foreign ideas to most students who aren’t black. Yet any given student has probably heard of the Holi festival held during the spring semester every year, for example. The importance of diversity does not lie within simply increasing the number of non-white students on campus. Diversity fosters understanding between cultures, and black culture is not highly prevalent on UT’s campus, leaving few people aware of what it means to be black. Of course traditions often associated with historically black colleges and universities are not the only aspects of black culture, but they are good introductions to the community on a college campus.  

The University should take advantage of the opportunity to increase diversity on campus, but extended opportunities for admission cannot be unique to “buzz minorities.” The decision by the appellate court means nothing if UT continues to maintain a black student quota of just over 2,000 students out of more than 50,000 total students enrolled at the University. With this ruling, the administration has the responsibility to move forward and not just allow the number of black students on campus to dwindle.

Davis is an associate editor. He is an international relations and French junior from Houston.