Dean of Students

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

An investigation conducted by the dean of students office found no connection between UT’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and a racist chant the University of Oklahoma’s SAE chapter was punished for singing last month.

A video of members of the OU SAE chapter singing a chant that included lynching references and anti-Black slurs went nationally viral in March. Three weeks ago, an OU investigation found the students learned the chant on a cruise sponsored by SAE’s national organization, its use was likely widespread.

Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly said an investigation into UT’s SAE chapter, launched in the wake of the video, found the chapter was not connected to the song.  

“Following the events involving the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity chapter at the University of Oklahoma, our office was made aware of online rumors of similar behavior at our local chapter of SAE,” Reagins-Lilly said in a statement. “Our review of these statements included contacting current organization leadership and speaking with alumni of different periods, who all stated no knowledge of the chant and that such behavior had no place in their organization.”

Reagans-Lily said the investigation was complete.

“At this time, our office has received no official complaints or reports of this behavior and found no evidence in our review,” she said.

The Actions of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma that came to light via a Youtube video first shared by OU Unheard were pretty despicable. I applaud President David Boren for severing “all ties and affiliations” with the fraternity and expelling two students associated with the event.

However, the inaction of UT’s Dean of Students in reprimanding our own Phi Gamma Delta fraternity for their border patrol party earlier this year perpetuates the good ol’ boy attitude of the South.

It is unfortunate that the term wetback and the offensive actions of dressing as construction workers (ironically, likely the same workers who just finished renovations on their own house) is not considered to hold the same level of vulgarity as those students over at OU’s SAE saying the “n-word” in a similar off-campus situation. 

The inaction of the UT administration and Dean of Students Sonica Reagins-Lilly in not punishing Fiji promotes the idea that you can get away from trouble if you are born into privilege and that Hispanics are still only second-class citizens.

At what point will UT instill some of the same accountability that Charlie Strong brought campus?

I thought UT stood for the core values of integrity, honesty, trust, fairness and respect toward peers in our community.

But apparently Dr. Boren is living up to those values more than the people who head the Dean of Students’ Office. Perhaps we need to change our campus before we change the world.

— Ruben Mendoza, chemical engineering and physics senior.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

Two days after a viral video showed Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members from the University of Oklahoma chanting racial slurs, President William Powers Jr. announced the dean of students would investigate whether UT’s SAE chapter has traditionally used a similar chant.

In the viral video, SAE members use multiple anti-black slurs and reference lynching, singing, “You can hang them from a tree, but they’ll never sign with me.”

In the hours following the release of the video, OU President David Boren severed ties between OU and the SAE chapter and ordered all fraternity members to move out of the SAE house, effective immediately. Boren also expelled two students who, he said, played a “leadership role” in singing the chant.

In Powers’ press release, he said Boren’s actions raised questions about UT’s response to a “border control” party the Fiji fraternity held in February

The dean of students investigated the event, in which guests wore ponchos, sombreros and construction gear with names such as “Pablo Sanchez” written on them, and concluded the party did not violate any University rules and would not result in any penalty for the fraternity.

“Both of these incidents were hurtful and offended many,” Powers said. “I deplore this behavior, which is contrary to the core values of The University of Texas at Austin.”

Powers said the dean’s office is still working with Fiji.

“Our dean of students has worked extensively with the group to educate its members on the harm it has caused and to reconcile it to the greater community,” Powers said. “The FIJIs have apologized, have been fully engaged with the dean of students’ efforts, and have reached out to Latino groups. … Much work remains but this is a positive start.”

In the statement, Powers also referenced a widely-circulated document of alleged Fiji pledge rules. The rules, which include "No interracial dating" and "No Mexicans," were originally posted on the internet in 2007 and have never been authenticated.

"Through its programs, through its efforts in the U.S. Supreme Court, and through its student and faculty recruiting, The University of Texas remains committed to creating a diverse campus," Powers said in the statement. "I remain committed to a campus that welcomes everyone."

Who decides your fate? Who has the right to make life-and-death decisions on your behalf? You may not know it, but, for many of you, it happens be the University of Texas at Austin. I am writing this article to bring to the student body’s attention a policy that, at its very core, violates a right to which each and every one of us is entitled. It is the right of medical determination that many of us may be signing away without even realizing it. 

Let me start by describing who I am and why I am writing this. My name is Vance Roper, and I am a graduate student and disabled Army veteran. I am writing this as a student, disabled veteran and concerned citizen. I suffered a severe, traumatic brain injury during my service, and, as such, have very specific medical needs. I do not speak about my injury often or publicly, and I hesitate to do so now; however, my history drives my motivation and action on this issue. I joined the Army and served my country proudly with the belief that, as a country, we stand for so much that is right: the freedoms we espouse and the rights we hold firm. When we, as a people, lie down in the face of violations of our rights, we are no better than those who strive to strip our rights away from us.

Time and again, courts and public opinion have affirmed that a student does not give up his or her rights just by attending a particular school. Yet that is exactly the situation we face today. I recently learned that the University of Texas at Austin requires any student traveling to an event that happens to be sponsored/sanctioned by the University to fill out a medical authorization form titled Authorization for Emergency Medical Treatment. This form, in its complete and utter vagueness, removes the medical determination right from University students. Take the phrase at the bottom of the form:

“I, the undersigned, do hereby authorize The University of Texas at Austin and its agents or representatives to consent, on my behalf, to any medical/hospital care or treatment (including locations outside the U.S.) to be rendered upon the advice of any licensed physician.” 

This statement is problematically vague. The term “agents or representatives” can be construed to cover just about any University of Texas employee or representative. This could include secretaries, landscapers, cooks, clerks at the bookstore and a plethora of other personnel. These individuals, while talented, are likely not medical experts. With consent to this form, though, any of these agents or representatives can authorize a wide array of medical treatment as long as a licensed physician recommended it. In essence, any of the people I mentioned could authorize an amputation, brain surgery, blood transfusion or innumerable other medical procedures.

I attempted to clarify what this statement meant with the administration; I was told that procedures are in place that require any request for medical treatment to be forwarded to the Dean of Students’ office. At the time of this writing, it is still unclear if these procedures are written or merely a verbal policy. 

There are several problems with this system. First, procedures are not always followed and mistakes can be made. Second, verbal directions or information on how a policy is supposed to work does not supersede a signed authorization. The fact that a person is supposed to pass the decision on to the Dean of Students does not mean that he or she is required to do so. Further to this point, there is no liability against the University’s agent or representative if the decision is not passed up to the Dean of Students’ office. 

It is not the place of the University to insert its will in place of our individual rights. It is not the place of the University to supersede our family in making medical decisions for our well-being. A family member or loved one should have the right to make medical decisions in the event that any of us are unable to do so. However, this document, if signed, would brush aside those rights with the stroke of a pen. A stranger who has no idea of our needs or wishes is placed in a position to decide our fate. Is that truly what we should accept? Should the school we attend have the power to decide what happens to us regardless of our wishes and the wishes of our family? 

I am truly saddened that the University of Texas denies students the opportunity to participate in University-sponsored events unless they relinquish their right to medical self-determination. No student should be required to give up any rights in order to fully participate in the University experience. We should certainly not have to give up rights in order to represent the University. A school of higher education should strive to protect the rights of students. Expression, understanding and thought are the hallmarks of what we expect out of the student body, and the University ignores these hallmarks when its thoughts on our medical determination are substituted in place of our own. 

I do not write this piece to be difficult, confrontational or denigrate the school that I love. I bring this issue to the forefront out of my sincere desire to rectify an obvious wrong and hold the University to the high standards of individual opportunity to which it aspires. I have fought too long and too hard and sacrificed so much for my beliefs in this country; I watched many of my closest friends perish before my eyes in the name of defending our rights. I cannot stand idly by and have those rights held hostage in order to participate in the University experience. 

In fairness, several administrators have been supportive of my concerns and have attempted to address this situation. I greatly appreciate this, but ultimately the policy remains in place. An exemption applied to me does not solve the issue of students’ rights being superseded by this policy now or in the future. 

I feel it is my responsibility to continue to fight for the individual rights of myself and of other students. As such, I intend to work with rights groups and the Texas Legislature to right this wrong. I encourage any of you who feel the same way to join me in this endeavor by emailing me at vanceroper1@gmail.com.

Roper is a public affairs and community and regional planning graduate student.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

A student was arrested May 8 after the University failed to remove a warrant placed on him for violating several parking regulations. The student, ethnic studies junior Keenan Palmer, said he paid off the $955 warrant nine months ago.

Near the end of the spring 2013 semester, Palmer said he had received several parking tickets on campus before his car was booted. Palmer said he unsuccessfully attempted to remove the boot, which resulted in more fees from Parking and Transportation Services.

“I wasn’t really sure what the penalties were,” Palmer said. “I couldn’t pay all of the tickets I needed to pay at the time to have the boots removed, so the University actually ended up auctioning my car off.”

Jordan Metoyer, former Student Government chief of staff, said tampering with vehicle boots typically prompts PTS to contact the dean of students.

“For whatever reason, [PTS] decided not to contact the dean of students, and rather to place a warrant on the student, which never happens,” Metoyer said. “It is University policy and practice to immediately contact dean of students when something of that nature happens, so why that wasn’t the decision made is beyond me.”

Representatives from Parking and Transportation Services declined multiple requests for comment.

Palmer said he was able to pay the fees before registering for classes in the fall 2013 semester and assumed the warrant had been removed.

“As far as I knew, I had taken care of that,” Palmer said.

On Thursday, Palmer said he was pulled over by an Austin police officer because his passenger was not wearing a seatbelt, which eventually led to his arrest for an outstanding warrant.

“The officer came to the driver side door and said ‘please step out of your vehicle, we’re placing you under arrest for an outstanding warrant,’” Palmer said. “I wasn’t sure what he was talking about or what he was referring to.”

Palmer said he spent one night in jail before he was released on bail the following morning.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been arrested, first time ever getting into trouble, this is a totally new experience for me,” Palmer said. “My family is furious. My mother really thinks up to this point, the punishment has been excessive almost to the point of harassment because they auctioned off my car, I paid the fine and on top of that they also arrested me.”

Palmer said he received an email from PTS acknowledging an administrative error between PTS and UTPD that led to Palmer’s arrest. Palmer said he plans to work with an attorney to review PTS’s actions.

“We might have to hire two lawyers, one for the criminal case and one to review PTS’s conduct,” Palmer said.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said the case is under investigation.

Palmer faces a Class B misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief and up to 180 days in jail, according to the Travis County Court Docket. Palmer is scheduled to appear before a county judge on May 23.

After members of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity painted a mural depicting sexually graphic images, the UT dean of students has left the disciplinary process up to the chapter. With more than three weeks of “evaluation,” the chapter judicial board has not decided on a verdict for the members responsible.

ZBT members met with the UT dean of students’ office in response to the mural that was painted over last week with other provocative images — including a woman clothed in a bra and jeans bending over with an armed gunman firing a missile toward the woman with the words “REP ANAL.” 

Phil Butler, coordinator of Greek life for the dean of students office, said the private conversations with the chapter over the controversial murals concluded Monday. 

“We met with the incoming and outgoing leadership earlier this week, and I feel like, at this point, it was a good conversation and we feel like we have addressed what we need to with the organization,” Butler said. 

No resolutions were mandated by the dean of students’ offices.

The members responsible for painting the mural for the fraternity’s annual “Pat O’Brien’s” party attended hearings conducted by the chapter judicial board. 

UT alumnus Laurence Bolotin, executive director of ZBT national headquarters, said the chapter is holding the members accountable for
their actions. Bolotin said the meetings between chapter leadership and the University have been productive.

“[The Chapter] looks forward to continuing to build a strong fraternity experience for their brothers while collaborating with those who are there to assist,” Bolotin said. “All chapters have areas that need improvement and we look forward to partnering with our local chapter and the University in building upon the chapters strengths while also focusing in on areas that can be improved upon.”

A backyard mural painted by members of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, commonly known as ZBT, was painted over last week with other provocative images.

The new depictions were displayed at the fraternity’s annual “Pat O’Brien’s” party hosted Saturday. The images included a woman clothed in a bra and jeans bending over with an armed gunman firing a missile toward the woman to the words “REP ANAL.” Other depictions involved an illuminated “Kazi Osbourne” sign advertising a bar serving kamikaze shots and a graffitied wall with the words “Chinese Whore House” next to a door leading to an unknown room.

The office of the dean of students is currently investigating ZBT members for the production of the original murals. The office was not available for comment. 

The murals are a part of the many decorations on wooden platforms placed in the ZBT yard, which were designed and created by newly inducted members of ZBT. Fraternity officials declined to comment.

The ZBT members responsible for the mural’s previous depictions are currently going through hearings conducted by the chapter judicial board, with a sentence to be delivered soon. 

The former depictions included sexually graphic images involving children’s television characters and U.S. Army veterans. 

Clarification: The Dean of Students is currently looking into Zeta Beta Tau fraternity through an informal investigation.

"We are engaging in an open and ongoing conversation with the organization," said Elizabeth Medina, assistant dean of students who handles discourse involving Greek life, when asked to comment on the Office's actions.

Members of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, commonly known as ZBT, met with the UT dean of students office Thursday to discuss sexually graphic mural depictions involving children’s television characters and U.S. Army veterans as part of decorations for an upcoming party.

Elizabeth Medina, assistant dean of students who handles discourse involving greek life, said discussions between the two parties are ongoing — although she did not disclose what exactly was discussed in the meeting. 

Members of ZBT declined to comment on the current status of the Pat O’Briens party — for which the murals were designed.

Psychology senior Elyssa Klann said she found the mural’s depictions discouraging.

“I do find it offensive towards women,” Klann said. “I think that portraying women in a sexually objectified way makes women appear as objects. … Women are valuable, contributing, intellectual, talented members of society.”

The ZBT members responsible for the mural’s creation are currently going through hearings conducted by the chapter judicial board, with a potential sentencing to be decided within a few weeks.

Several representative positions are available for student applicants until Friday for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the board’s committees, which influence public policy in Texas.

UT is looking to nominate five students for the non-voting student representative position and two students for each of the five advisory committees, according to Marilyn Russell, deputy advisor to Dean of Students. 

At each university, student government nominations are sent to the president, who then sends it to the governor. The governor will ultimately appoint the student representative. The advisory committee representatives are selected by the committee members. The student representative serves for one year, while the advisory committee representatives serve for two. 

Student Government President Horacio Villarreal said funding has increasingly become a priority as the state makes cuts to its budget. He said he would like to see student representatives speak on behalf of college students across the state to increase funding to higher education institutions.

“I know UT-Austin has been under a tight budget, as well as other public institutions across the state,” Villarreal said. “I think the student representatives to both the committee and the boards need to possess a strong will to increase funds for UT and other schools and translate that to the others on the coordinating board on behalf of the students.”

In addition to focusing on financial resources for the University, Villarreal said he hopes to see transparency from the student representatives surrounding policy making.

“I hope the student representatives are visible on campus so others can voice their opinions and wants, so they can relay those onto the appropriate people,” Villarreal said.

Texas A&M University student Alice Schneider, a current student representative, said her position has afforded her opportunities she would not have had otherwise.

“Being in this position allows me to have dialogues with presidents of community colleges [and] state senators on higher education committees [and] to hear different opinions,” Schneider said.

Schneider said being on the board and shaping public policy on higher education while being a student was a new experience.

“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, policy-wise,” Schneider said. “There was a steep learning curve. In the legislative session this spring, I had no idea higher education policy-making was so intensive.”

Since the positions opened in 2008, Russell said seven UT students have served as representatives on advisory committees, but not one has served as the student representative on the board.

“We always want our students in leadership roles, and any representative from this institution would have access to this student body,” Russell said.

The application can be found online at the Dean of Students’ website and must be submitted to the Dean of Students office in the Student Activity Center 3.104 by 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8.

On Saturday, April 13, the University honored former Dean of Students Sharon Justice by endowing a scholarship in her name. The award is well-deserved. Back in the 1990s, I served as a member of  Student Government, on the Student Services Fee Committee, in the Office of the Students’ Attorney and as The Daily Texan’s Legal Research Director. In these roles, I had the opportunity to interact with and learn from Dean Justice on many fronts. I witnessed her passion for higher education and her unwavering commitment to protecting and improving student life. During her years of service, Sharon Justice did many things to enhance the University. Yet each mission expressed one common, unifying theme: She always put students first.

Our University is justifiably proud of its illustrious faculty and staff. Since 1883, many fine men and women have graced the 40 Acres with their time and their efforts. Although I never had the privilege of meeting the great Harry Ransom, I can assert with great confidence that the University has had no finer administrator or dean in its history than Sharon Justice.

Hook ‘em.

David C. Barranco
Plan II 1994
UT Law 1997