Gregory Vincent

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

President William Powers Jr., during his first State of the University Address in 2006, pledged to make diversity his highest priority as president — a commitment that led to the establishment of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, also known as the DDCE.

Powers, who will step down from his post as University president in June 2015, said he pushed to launch the DDCE in 2006 to improve the learning experiences of UT students and prepare them to work cross-culturally and in diverse environments once they graduate. 

“We’re a diverse state,” Powers said in an interview Tuesday. “We need diverse leadership.” 

The Division, which now includes former Longhorn quarterback Vince Young as a member of its staff, aims to ensure a diverse and welcoming learning community for University faculty, staff and students, said Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement. 

“When we talk about community engagement, it is really about connecting the resources of the University to the needs of the community, and whether that’s our local community here in Austin, or even at the regional, national and even, in some instances, international level,” Vincent said.  

DDCE currently supports several programs on campus aimed at promoting diversity such as the Gender and Sexuality Center, Services for Students with Disabilities and the Office of Institutional Equity. The DDCE has also partnered with outreach centers in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley to help prepare underserved high school students for college. 

Young, who graduated from UT in 2013 with a degree in education, joined the DDCE in August. He said he is responsible for leading fundraising efforts for the DDCE and speaking to children at different schools throughout Central Texas. 

“One of my goals was to be a middle school teacher, but the opportunity came here at UT to come be a part of DDCE and to go out and help promote what we’re doing,” Young said. “And basically what it’s doing is helping a lot of diverse kids understand the plans and programs about how to get to college.” 

Since Powers created DDCE eight years ago, Vincent said the Division has gone from serving about 300 students in its pre-college programs to about 1,000 students currently. He also said the initiative helped to improve the University’s relationship with East Austin, an area known for its high level of low-income households, through after-school programs and the UT Elementary charter school. 

Vincent also said thousands of students are engaged in DDCE’s volunteer activities each year, including “The Project,” one of the largest community-University days of service nationwide. 

“We have really expanded the student engagement work, and we’re giving students opportunities to have leadership roles both on campus and volunteer opportunities within the community,” Vincent said.

Powers said he anticipates the next president will continue to support the DDCE, especially in light of federal district and appeals courts ruling in favor of the University during the Fisher v. UT case.

Abigail Fisher sued the University in 2008 when she was denied acceptance to the University because her grades were not high enough to guarantee her admission under the top-10 percent rule. Her defense argued UT’s race-conscious admissions policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment since minority students were accepted with lower grades than hers.  

“What we know — and this is one of the central arguments in the Fisher case — is that diversity in our student body enriches the learning environment for all students, and having a diverse faculty and a diverse staff helps learning and also helps reflect our mission, because we’re supposed to serve the people of Texas, and, of course, our state is one of the most diverse in the nation,” Vincent said.

Starting next fall, the University will award high-performing, socioeconomically disadvantaged incoming freshman in 2015 with $15 million-worth of scholarships through a new initiative titled “Texas Advance.”

The program will also admit students to the college of their choice and give them exclusive access to organizations that aim to help them succeed at the University.

According to the University, a student can receive up to $5,000 each school year directly from the program. Combining "Texas Advance" with Pell Grants and TEXAS Grants, a student could receive up to $15,000 per year to students who have earned the scholarship.

Gregory Vincent, vice president of the Division for Diversity and Community Engagement, said one of the greatest barriers to access of higher education is the cost. He said his department does not only want students to pass their courses, but to excel.

“I think we are taking a giant step, and I commend President [William Powers Jr.] and Senior Vice Provost [David] Laude for their leadership — the BDCE is proud to partner with them,” Vincent said. “Making campuses affordable is always an issue.”

Vincent said an important aspect of the program is to ensure that marginalized students, especially those from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, feel comfortable once admitted to the University.

“I think one of the things we are very concerned about in the community is that we make sure college is accepting of students who come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds,” Vincent said.

There is still much work to be done to make campus inviting to all students, according to Vincent, but he says the University has done a great job at identifying which students need aid.

“Being a first generation, low-socioeconomic student of color presents many challenges,” Vincent said. “I think [‘Texas Advance’] will serve as a model for other universities.”

The “Texas Advance” application is designed to provide a holistic review of each student’s credentials, according to Associate Vice Provost Carolyn Connerat. She said it focuses on students with the highest performances and greatest needs for financial aid.

“There are always limited funds available to help all the students who have financial need in the state of Texas,” Connerat said. “We want to increase the number of students who apply to UT that come from economically disadvantaged areas, who otherwise would not have come to the University.”

Connerat said she believes financial need is an additional form of anxiety that can overwhelm students, and, in order to encourage them, “Texas Advance” aims to reduce that stress as much as possible. Student Government President Kori Rady said he believes the University is currently offering enough scholarship opportunities for students who deserve or need them.

“I’m sure we’re very competitive, or we wouldn’t attract so many students from different backgrounds,” Rady said. “There’s a reason we have such a diverse student body, and that obviously comes with opportunities for financial aid and scholarships.”

Correction: An earlier edition of this story mistakenly reported "Texas Advance" money stemmed from federal grants. It is, in fact, being soley funded by the University.

Former Texas quarterback Vince Young watches his old team take on West Virginia in 2012.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Former Longhorns quarterback Vince Young has accepted a position with the University’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement beginning on Sept. 1.

Young, who led the football program to the 2005 national championship, graduated from the University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in applied learning and development.

“After Vince finished his degree, he was looking for some opportunities to serve his alma mater,” Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, said. “It was just a really good meeting of the minds.”

Young will be working with alumni of division programs to help raise money for initiatives that promote educational success for first-generation college students and students from low-income backgrounds, such as the University Interscholastic League, UT Elementary and charter schools. His starting salary is $100,000 per year.

“The position with DDCE is a great way to stay connected to the University and help make a difference in the lives of underserved kids across the state,” Young said in a statement.

The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement works to create an inclusive environment for people of all backgrounds on the University campus and builds partnerships within the community to achieve this goal.

Vincent said Young is particularly passionate about the opportunity because he will be representing students from a background similar to his own — Young was the first person in his family to go to college.

In February, Young participated in "The Project," a community service event organized by the division.

“He’s been a wonderful partner and ambassador,” Vincent said.

The Campus Climate Response Team, or CCRT, released its first report Thursday of reported bias-related incidents that occurred from August 2012 to August 2013, which revealed nearly half of the reports filed involved race and ethnicity.

According to the report, 94 complaints were filed with the response team as a result of 82 separate incidents of bias on campus. The report states the most commonly reported incident involving bias was “the use of verbal harassment or slurs,” which constituted 47 percent of all filed reports.

According to Ryan Miller, associate director of Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives, the response team acts as a central point of contact for any student who is involved with or witnesses any incident involving bias.

“[Bias instances are] any instances against individuals or groups or offense that’s motivated wholly or in part [by] an individual’s or groups’ identity,” Miller said. “We’re talking about the categories that are in the non-discriminatory policy, like disability, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, etc.” 

Miller said the report is part of the response team’s efforts to provide “diversity education” to the community.

“For me, I hope that the report itself is an educational opportunity and that all students and staff on campus who aren’t aware of CCRT on campus can become aware,” Miller said.

The response team reports to Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement. Vincent said he thinks the team benefits the entire campus community through their actions.

“The first Campus Climate Trend Report produced by the CCRT offers an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to reflect on our campus climate and culture,” Vincent said. “Creating an inclusive campus is a responsibility for each of us at the University, and we hope this report prompts dialogue and reflection as we work together to achieve this goal.”

According to Miller, when a report is filed, a “lead team” of three administrators — including Miller — reviews the report and discusses possible courses of action.

“Our priority in all cases is reaching out to the individual who filed the report and doing whatever we can to provide and offer support for that individual,” Miller said. “There is not a certain playbook for each incident or even each type of incident. We really evaluate the options in all cases.”

Miller said the response team also tries to provide comprehensive diversity education to individuals who were mentioned in reports and to the campus community.

“We have a lot of educational conversations after reports have been filed because usually it gives us an opportunity to knock on a door or invite someone to come in for a conversation with us about the intent and impact behind a certain incident,” Miller said. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas have canceled a controversial mock immigration “sting” planned for Wednesday after the event was denounced by University officials, including President William Powers Jr. 

“After the University president and the vice president for diversity and community engagement released statements denouncing the event we planned as violating the University's honor code, I spoke with our chapters members, and they are both concerned that the University will retaliate against them and that the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers,” YCT Chairman Lorenzo Garcia said in a statement.

Gregory Vincent, vice president for the division of diversity and community engagement, said the decision to cancel the event was wise and that concerns of YCT volunteer safety and University retaliation are “completely unfounded.”  

“I’m just very proud of our students for voicing their protest in a respectful, civil way and I’m confident that they will continue to do that,” Vincent said. “I know that I speak on behalf of President Powers and the entire University of Texas community that we absolutely respect everybody’s freedom of speech right and we expect all members of the community to exercise those rights in a respectful way.” 

Garcia said students should be able to speak freely regardless of their political affiliations. 

"President Obama wants to address this issue during his final term and students on college campuses, conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between, should not be silenced when they attempt to make their voices heard about an issue that is so important to our futures," Garcia said.

Powers said the University honors the right of free speech for all students on campus. 

“We welcome the Young Conservatives’ decision and look forward to that group being part of a thoughtful discussion about the difficult questions our nation faces regarding immigration,” Powers said in a statement. 

Garcia said certain aspects of the event were misguided and the event was intended to maximize attention. 

“I acknowledge that decision to include issuing $25 gift cards during the event was misguided and that the idea for the event was intentionally over-the-top in order to get attention for the subject,” Garcia said. “It is a simple fact that illegal immigration is a concern in this country and that it is one we must face.”

Garcia said the public response to the event and personal attacks he received were shocking.

“Opponents of YCT have claimed that I am being used as a front man,” Garcia said. “I have been called an ‘Uncle Tom.’ I have received e-mails and comments via social media filled with obscenity. The reactions of some who claim that YCT is creating a demeaning or degrading environment on campus have been truly disgraceful.”

See our earlier article on the event for more background

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

UPDATE: as of 8:26 a.m. on Tuesday, November 19, the event has been cancelled. 

The UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas, or YCT, will host a controversial mock immigration “sting” on campus Wednesday, prompting responses from students and University officials.

Titled “Catch an Illegal Immigrant,” YCT will offer students $25 gift cards if they are able to catch individuals walking around campus wearing “illegal immigrant” labels on their clothing.

Faculty Council voted unanimously Monday to endorse President William Powers Jr.’s statement that the YCT event is out of line with University values.

In a statement, Powers said he takes offense to the event, but the University is in no position to ban freedom of speech. 

“Our students, faculty and the entire University work hard both to promote diversity and engage in a respectful exchange of ideas,” Powers said. “This Wednesday event does not reflect that approach or commitment.”

The organization has not announced any plans to alter the Wednesday event.

“The purpose of this event is to spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration and how it affects our everyday lives,” YCT chairman Lorenzo Garcia said in a statement on the organization’s Facebook page.  

Garcia is a former paid field representative for gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. 

“Our campaign has no affiliation with this repugnant effort,” Avdiel Huerta, Texans for Greg Abbott press secretary, said in a statement. 

Gregory Vincent, vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said YCT’s plan to carry out “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” would represent a disregard for the UT honor code and a misuse of the University’s value of free speech. Vincent also called YCT’s tactics both inflammatory and demeaning.

“And once again, they will have resorted to exercising one of the University’s core values to the detriment of others,” Vincent said. “Such actions are counterproductive to true dialogue on our campus, and it is unrepresentative of the ideals toward which our community strives.”

Student Government President Horacio Villarreal said the event is disrespectful, and that undocumented students help the University continue to be competitive and grow.

Student Government recently passed AR 16: In Support of Undocumented Students and Undocumented Longhorns Week, which outlines its recognition of the importance of all undocumented UT students and of Undocumented Longhorns Week, which is held in October.

“It’s just really unfortunate to see a group of students that go to school with students of all backgrounds, beliefs, opinions, whatever it may be, do something as disrespectful as that,” Villarreal said.

Members of the University Leadership Initiative protested “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” in front of the Student Activity Center on Monday to plan for counter action and to develop a strategy for educating the UT community on surrounding issues.

Melanie Diamond, sociology freshman and member of the initiative, said Wednesday’s event represents woeful ignorance on the organization’s part.  

“I think it’s classless, childish and racist,” Diamond said. “If they are willing to have an honest discussion about [illegal immigration], that would be OK.”

Government junior Payton Mogford said YCT’s approach to sparking debate over immigration is novel and effective.

“It is not personally a tactic which I would utilize because a great majority of witnesses clearly cannot get past the surface of what the group is trying to attend to,” Mogford said. “I do not disagree with them on principle necessarily, but there are better means of conducting a rational conversation.”

Juan Belman, engineering junior and leadership initiative  member, said the Young Conservatives do not understand the lives of undocumented students.  

“This is very difficult for us as undocumented [students] to know that someone’s playing with our lives, to know that they take this as a game,” Belman said. “We want to bring awareness that we need comprehensive immigration reform.”

Belman said the event goes against the UT community working together. 

“We’re supposed to learn together; we’re supposed to work with each other, and they’re not trying to work with us,” Belman said. “They’re just showing hatred language toward students who are here to get an education and help out the community.”

The mock sting comes after another controversial event hosted by the YCT in which students were charged different prices for baked goods depending on their race to exemplify affirmative action.

“And once again, in trying to be provocative, the YCT is contributing to an environment of exclusion and disrespect among our students, faculty and staff by sending the message that certain students do not belong on our campus,” Vincent said in a statement.

Vincent said undocumented Longhorns are entitled to attend state universities under the DREAM Act, signed in 2001. 

“[Undocumented students] are part of a growing diverse population on campus and in the state of Texas, a population that plays increasingly larger roles in our intellectual, economic, political and cultural communities,” Vincent said.

The YCT website describes the organization as a non-partisan, conservative youth organization.

A two-day conference honoring the Prairie View Interscholastic League brought together people who recounted their lives during legalized segregation and their transition into integration. 

The League is an organization that governed extra-curricular activities for Texas’ African American high school students during that time period.

The conference, “Thursday Night Lights,” kicked off Thursday with opening remarks by several coordinators of the event, including Gregory Vincent, UT’s vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. Vincent said he is proud to be a part of the league’s legacy.

“We often talk about segregation and talk about the pathology of it, and all that’s true, but what’s amazing about our people, we make a way out of no way,” Vincent said. “And somehow when we’re given these scraps, we turn it into a tapestry of gold, and that is exactly what the [league] is about.”

The league was formed in the ’20s as the Texas Interscholastic League of Colored Schools and at its height encompassed 500 schools who had students participate in the league’s state championship events such as football, baseball, track and field, music and extemporaneous speaking.

Keynote speaker William Rhoden, columnist for The New York Times, spoke Thursday about the prominent national figures who came out of the league, such as Barbara Jordan, a former politician and UT professor, and athletes including wide-receiver Charley Taylor and defensive tackle Joe Greene.  

“What was so interesting is I started really digging into the [the league], you realize that all around the country when you talk about black folks, whether you’re in Louisiana, whether it’s in Alabama, here, Chicago, you got these tremendous black athletics associations that flourished and turned out all these great people, that you would have no idea,” Rhoden said.

Frank Guridy, history associate professor and director of the University’s John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, which hosted the event, said this was the first conference on this topic to be held, and said he hopes it will be an annual event depending on resources. Guridy said the point of the conference was to view and analyze the history of segregation in the state.

“What can we take from that period is how can we learn about community formation,” Guridy said. “What lessons from that period can we take to the present, other than the fact than we don’t want to remember it. The spirit of the conference was more about how they made do, how did they create communities, how did they create futures in a period when people struggled. I think those are valuable lessons that we can take from that period.”

One session from the conference focused directly on the league’s legacy at L.C. Anderson High School, the only predominantly African-American high school in Austin during that time period. The session composed of a panel of distinguished alumni from the high school who participated in sports and other school organizations. They talked about their experiences during high school, and the challenges they faced.

“Being in a segregated environment was a positive experience,” said Diane Lang, a graduate from the original L.C. Anderson high school. “We knew about the other schools and we knew we weren’t being treated right, and we used that energy to try and make the best grades we could.”

Prairie View Interscholastic League, an organization that governed extra-curricular activities for Texas’ African-American high school students during legalized segregation, is being honored and celebrated during a two-day conference on campus.

The event is hosted by the College of Liberal Art's John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies.

The conference, “Thursday Night Lights,” kicked off Thursday with opening remarks by several coordinators of the event, including Gregory Vincent, UT's vice president for diversity and community engagement. Vincent said he is proud to be a part of the league’s legacy.

“We often talk about segregation and talk about the pathology of it, and all that’s true, but what’s amazing about our people, we make a way out of no way. And even when we are faced with insurmountable obstacles, we make an enduring legacy of excellence,” Vincent said.  “And somehow when we’re given these scraps we turn it into a tapestry of gold, and that is exactly what the [the leagure] is about.”

The league was formed in the 1920’s as the Texas Interscholastic League of Colored Schools and, at its height, encompassed 500 member schools who had students participate in the league’s state championship events such asfootball, baseball, track and field, music and extemporaneous speaking.

Keynote speaker William Rhoden, columnist for the New York Times, spoke about the prominent national figures who came out of the league, such as politician Barbara Jordan and athletes including wide-receiver Charley Taylor and defensive tackle Joe Greene.  

“What was so interesting is I started really digging into the [the league], you realize that all around the country when you talk about black folks, whether you’re in Louisiana, whether it’s in Alabama, here, Chicago,  you got these tremendous black athletics associations that flourished and turned out all these great people, that you would have no idea,” Rhoden said. 

Hearings for Fisher v. University of Texas are scheduled to be given for the second time on Nov. 13 in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case was initiated by Abigail Fisher, who sued UT in 2008 after she was denied admission into the University. Fisher, who has since graduated from Louisiana State University and currently lives in Austin, claimed the University violated her right to equal protection because its admissions policy considers race as a factor for students who do not automatically qualify under the Top 10 Percent Law.

Judges Carolyn King, Patrick Higginbotham and Emilio Garza will hear oral arguments from both sides. The judges heard the case when it last reached the Fifth Circuit Court in 2009 and the appeals court originally determined the University could use race as a factor in its admissions policy.

After hearing the case in October 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in June that the Fifth Circuit Court did not apply strict scrutiny to UT’s admissions policy when it ruled in the University’s favor. In the 7-1 decision to relegate the case to a lower court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg provided the only dissent.

Applying strict scrutiny will require the court to look into whether the University’s diversity goals can be achieved without using race as a factor in admission decisions, according to Gregory Vincent, UT law professor and vice president for diversity and community engagement. 

“[UT has] to demonstrate that there are no other race-neutral ways to meet that [goal],” Vincent said. “The University feels that it met the strict scrutiny standard.” 

UT law professor Joseph Fishkin said the Supreme Court decision means the appeals court will have to more thoroughly analyze UT’s admissions policy.

“The Fifth Circuit thought it was applying strict scrutiny,” Fishkin said. “The Supreme Court basically concluded that the Fifth Circuit had been too deferential to UT about the question of whether this kind of program was really needed.” 

Fishkin added that the Fifth Circuit Court might send the case further down to the district court so that UT’s admission policy can undergo even further analysis before the Fifth Circuit makes another ruling.

Vincent said the case eventually could reach the Supreme Court a second time.

“Once the Fifth Circuit has determined those questions, I am sure there will be an appeal in whatever they decide,” Vincent said. “I am sure that the Supreme Court will have to consider that again.”

According to Vincent, the use of race in admissions has long been a point of debate in federal courts. 

In the 1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case, the Supreme Court decided institutions of higher education could consider race in their admission decisions. In 1996, the Fifth Circuit ruled in the Hopwood v. Texas case that Texas universities could not use race in their admissions policy. The Hopwood ruling was overturned by a 2003 Supreme Court ruling in the Grutter v. Bollinger case. UT has since used race as a factor in its admissions policy.

In discussing the history of affirmative action cases, Vincent noted that race is not the only factor used by universities in admitting students.

“One of the things that we note from Bakke, as well as the Grutter decision, is that race is just one among many factors,” Vincent said.

According to UT spokesman Gary Susswein, law firm Latham & Watkins will again defend the University at the Fifth Circuit hearing, as it did before the Supreme Court. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott defended the University when the case first reached the Fifth Circuit.

Edward Blum, director of the Project for Fair Representation, which has represented Fisher in the case, could not be reached for comment. 

Student Government president Horacio Villarreal said the Fisher case could impact the demographical make-up at universities.

“Not only is it a case that could potentially affect students across the nation, but it could change the diversity on our campus,” Villarreal said. 

Gregory Vincent, vice president for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, issued a statement to UT students saying that water balloon attacks in West Campus are more than just “school yard pranks.” But according to the victims, criminal investigations into the attacks may be fizzling. 

According to Eduardo Belalcazar, an international relations and global studies junior who had a water balloon thrown at him outside 26 West on Sept. 7, authorities in charge of handling his case have been lax in their follow-up investigation, although he said he has not pressed the matter further.

“UTPD hasn’t contacted me [and] neither has APD,” Belalcazar said. “The University just gave me some type of outreach, but when I asked what the school was doing about it, they didn’t respond. It’s just a very disheartening thing for me to see the lack of importance that this has on my campus. I honestly don’t know what else I could do.”

Because he was not actually hit by the balloon, Belalcazar is at a legal impasse, according to UTPD chief of police David Carter.

“If there’s no crime that can be prosecuted because it fails to meet the criteria listed in the penal code, then we’re limited to what we can do,” Carter said. “That’s why we wanted to know if there was bleach or some caustic chemical in the balloon that can hurt somebody. That would be more than a class C misdemeanor and could conceivably be prosecuted.”

An attempted water balloon attack that does not cause physical harm would fall well below what is considered “criminal,” Carter said. 

“If somebody attempts to commit a crime, it’s usually considered one level of offense below, in terms of the penalty group,” Carter said.

According to Carter, penalty groups include capital felony, first-, second- and third-degree felonies, as well as misdemeanors A, B and C.

“A Class C misdemeanor for assault, which refers to assaults by physical contact, is the very lowest of its kind,” Carter said. “There’s nothing below that. So if an assault is attempted, it’s not even on the legal spectrum. It can’t be prosecuted.”

University Towers is currently investigating the Aug. 22 balloon attack on government senior Bryan Davis, which occurred outside the apartment complex. Davis said police have suspended his case until further evidence is produced.

Ronnie Davis, community manager for University Towers, said the complex could not give specific information as to whether anyone has been caught or evicted.

Gina Cowart, a spokeswoman for American Campus Community, which manages several West Campus apartment complexes, including 26 West, could not be reached for comment.

Carter said he ultimately thinks incidents such as water balloon attacks are issues best handled at the administrative level.

“Just because certain incidents can’t be prosecuted as crimes, that doesn’t mean that [they’re] not wrong,” Carter said. “It may mean that the incident should be handled at the administrative level. For instance, there’s Student Judicial Services, and their jurisdiction is primarily on campus, but they can respond to certain incidents that occur off campus.”

According to Vincent, students responsible for the attacks in West Campus are held accountable under the University’s disciplinary system.