spokeswoman

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.

UTPD ordered an evacuation of Bass Concert Hall on Monday night because of suspicious activity and a bomb threat.
Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Bass Concert Hall and Texas Performing Arts Center were evacuated Monday after a bomb threat was reported to the Butler School of Music.

UTPD responded to a call that reported a bomb threat in the Butler School of Music area around 8:50 p.m. The Performing Arts Center and then the Bass Concert Hall were evacuated completely in response to the threat.

This event is the second threat to UT this semester — the first being to a food trailer in West Campus this February. There was also a threat in September 2012 resulting in the evacuation of the entire campus. In both cases, UTPD did not properly notify students. 

UTPD did not send out an email notifying students of Monday’s potential threat, but the official UTPD Twitter account sent out two tweets about the threat. 

Although both buildings were cleared for entry, there was confusion among UTPD regarding the location of the threat.

“The PAC was also evacuated,” UTPD Lt. Darrell Birdett said. “Originally, the PAC got evacuated, and then we came over here. There was some confusion, I think, about what building the actual threat came into.” 

Birdett said he was not sure how many people were evacuated in the threat, although UTPD mandated a full evacuation of all possible buildings.

Attendees of a concert at the Performing Arts Center were evacuated to the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium for 30 minutes. James Ellerbock, an attendee and teacher at Bowie High School, said there were armed police officers on the scene.

“We were watching a show, and this woman came in and said there was a serious threat, and we were asked to leave,” Ellerbock said.

Students rehearsing and preforming in the Butler building were asked to leave, as well. While most were evacuated, UTPD failed to notify music performance sophomore Adam Lundell of the threat.

Lundell said he was rehearsing in a practice room when the evacuation began. He said a group message between other music students notified him of the threat. Lundell was in the building for about an hour before leaving.

“I texted one of my friends, and he said he told an officer what room I was in, and he came in, and [the officer] came in and got me,” Lundell said. 

Lundell said it was exciting at first,  but then he grew nervous because he knew he should not be in the building. 

“I was scared for a little bit, so I kept playing the piano to calm my nerves,” Lundell said.

Music studies junior Hugo Ramirez said he was asked to evacuate after a concert, but he was not too shocked by the threat because he was previously evacuated during a previous University bomb threat.

“At this point, this is, like, the second time that I’ve been here that this has happened,” Ramirez said. “I was a little surprised, but in the end I wasn’t too shocked.

Additional reporting by Wynne Davis

Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft operated out of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) under temporary permits during this year’s South By Southwest, although ABIA had originally said only Lyft would be allowed to operate.

The two companies signed an agreement with ABIA on March 13, allowing them to pick up and drop off passengers there for 45 days.

While Lyft signed a yearlong agreement ABIA offered to the two companies on March 6, Uber did not. The agreement on March 13, just a week later, nullified Lyft’s yearlong arrangement. 

“The airport granted Uber a temporary permit, so we could have more time to negotiate a permanent solution,” Uber spokeswoman Debbee Hancock said.

The terms of the agreements required the companies to give the airport 10 percent of their gross revenue, a common standard for concessions operating at the airport, ABIA spokesman Jason Zielinski said.

“We’re a City department, but we’re one of the few that doesn’t receive tax dollars,” Zielinski said. “Every business that operates at the airport provides a portion of their gross earnings to the airport.”

According to Zielinski, after Uber did not sign the yearlong agreement by the March 6 deadline, the company’s drivers faced consequences for operating at the airport without a formal permit.

“Lyft began operating under that agreement and Uber was not,” Zielinski said. “So on March 9, their drivers began receiving warnings. On the 10th, they started receiving citations. Under City code, operating without a permit is up to a $500 fine — a class C misdemeanor.”

After Uber was banned from the airport, many people were unable to use the transportation options they had expected to use, Zielinski said.

“We experienced a large number of warnings and citations, and that was leaving passengers without a ride,” Zielinski said. 

Airports around the country are struggling with how to regulate ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, Zielinski said. While taxicabs have been part of airport transportation for years, ride-hailing companies are a different animal.

“Cabs work on $1 per trip fee,” Zielinski said. “Cabs have different regulations within the city. … Every airport is struggling with [ride-hailing companies] because they’re unlike other transportation operators.”

ABIA’s proposal would have also required ride-hailing companies to follow all the same rules as taxicabs. 

Zielinski said Uber’s financial records would not have been made public with this proposal.

“The information we receive is private — it’s something we look at and don’t publish,” Zielinski said. “If we were to look at anyone’s books, it wouldn’t be public information [because] we would not publish.”

Lyft spokeswoman Mary Caroline Pruitt said Lyft was happy to be the official ride-hailing partner of SXSW.

“Austin is a city that embraces creative, innovative industries, and we were excited to be the first ridesharing partner authorized at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport,” Pruitt said. “We’d like to thank the ABIA staff for their leadership and commitment to preserving Lyft’s affordable, welcoming rides for Austin visitors and residents.”

Construction contractors work near the Cockrell School of Engineering Thursday afternoon. A UT student reportedly disrupted a nearby construction site last Friday. 

 

 

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

A UT student reportedly stole items from a construction site last week near the Cockrell School of Engineering. According to UTPD’s Campus Watch report, construction workers said the student ran through the site Friday and UTPD officers found a construction truck that had been disturbed. UTPD discovered the student blocks away with items believed to be from the truck.

Despite incidents like this one — which is still under investigation — the University routinely takes precautions to secure construction sites on campus.

The UT System Office of Facilities Planning and Construction oversees construction sites on campus. OFPC director Bob Rawski said most major construction projects are contracted by outside companies, which are responsible for enforcing safety and security requirements at their construction sites. 

“Our construction contractors by contract have care, custody and control of their construction sites,” Rawski said. “They are required to erect a fence around the entire perimeter of the site with locking gates and to monitor access into and out of the site.”

Despite incidents like the one at the site, Rawski said thefts are not common at construction sites on campus. 

“Our contractors have experienced some occasional thefts from their construction sites, but this has not been a pervasive problem,” Rawski said. 

According to Rawski, there are currently seven OFPC-managed major capital construction projects under construction at the University. Most of these projects are contracted by companies such as Hensel Phelps, which has worked on the San Jacinto Residence Hall, the Frank Erwin Center, and is currently involved in building the Dell Medical School. Hensel Phelps is also in charge of the construction site near the Chemical Petroleum Engineering Building, where the theft took place. 

Rawski said whether a project is contracted by an outside company depends on the project’s size and the construction techniques needed. 

“Major capital construction projects managed by OFPC are contracted through outside construction companies,” Rawski said. “Minor projects managed by campus groups, such as Project Management and Construction Services, may be done by outside contractors or by internal construction groups, depending on the size and nature of the work.”

UTPD spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon said UTPD regularly patrols campus construction sites to try and prevent thefts.

“In general, the construction sites are University property and are part of UTPD’s regularly scheduled patrols,” Weldon said. “If criminal activity is witnessed or reported, UTPD responds and investigates as appropriate.”

The incident last Friday is still under investigation.

University police alerted the campus of a subject carrying a knife near the Main Building on Wednesday morning, but determined shortly after the person did not pose a threat to those on campus.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said a staff member saw what they thought to be a knife, but when officers found the subject there was no threat at all. An all clear message was sent out approximately 15 minutes after the initial message after police found the subject.

The text notification came a day after UTPD alerted the UT community of an aggravated assault on Guadalupe Street on Tuesday. APD later determined the victim and suspects knew each other and posed no threat to the campus area.

 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Update (2:19 p.m.): In response to a man’s death by suicide Sunday night in front of Littlefield Fountain, the Counseling and Mental Health Center is making active attempts to spread word of suicide prevention resources through social media, according to CMHC Associate Director Jane Bost.

“That’s how we’re responding this morning — just making sure that word is out there, that we’re available if there’s a need for anyone enrolled as a student here to know about our services,” Bost said.

Bost said the center has reached out to Texas Parents and other groups since the incident occurred.

“We’re just acknowledging that this has happened and making sure that people are aware of the services at CMHC at this time,” Bost said.

A crowd of roughly 100 people gathered around the fountain after midnight Monday morning as rumors spread about the incident.

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said a campus police officer was present when the victim shot himself.

“We had gotten word that he was coming to campus because he put a post on Facebook,” Posey said. “An officer was walking up when it happened.”

Posey said the man was only determined to be a threat to himself and not the campus as a whole, which is why the University only tweeted about the incident and did not send a University-wide email or text message.

“We tweeted because other people were tweeting and wondering what was going on,” Posey said. “We try not to abuse the system, because we want people to always take our emails seriously when there is a serious threat. We try not to send out too many so that people become desensitized — so we only do that when we know it’s a threat.”

— Julia Brouillette

Original story: A man died by suicide Sunday night in front of Littlefield Fountain, according to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey. The man, who was not a UT student, faculty member or staff member, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being taken to Brackenridge Hospital, Posey said.

According to Posey, UTPD officers were notified about the incident at 11:51 p.m. when someone saw a concerning post the victim wrote on social media. The man was transported to the hospital at 11:57 p.m. and pronounced dead at 12:13 a.m.

"Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of the victim," Posey said. 

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, click here.

Correction: This article has been corrected since its original posting. Though a UTPD officer arrived at the scene during the incident, the man died at Brackenridge Hospital.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

University police arrested three people, including one UT student, during an immigration rights protest outside the LBJ Library during President Barack Obama’s address, according to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey.

The University has charged three protesters with criminal trespassing. Undeclared freshman Emily Freeman, United We Dream leader Alejandra Gomez and GetEQUAL member Patrick Fierro were protesting as part of several immigration-related demonstrations coordinated by University Leadership Initiative over the course of the week.

Diana Morales, linguistics junior and ULI member, said the group members knew there was a chance they would be arrested.

“We knew that the three people who were there were willing to take any risk to bring our message to Obama,” Morales said. “His administration has deported over 2 million people. This is something no other president has done, and his term is not even over.”

The protest began in front of the Tower, then the group marched to the Martin Luther King Jr. statue, which four ULI members had chained themselves to and slept Wednesday night.

After leading more chants, the group marched to the LBJ Library to try and deliver their message to the President. The arrests were then made and the protest dissipated.

Mechanical engineering senior Javier Huamani, who is undocumented, said he immigrated to the U.S. with his family from Peru when he was 8 years old because of financial issues and in search of the “American Dream.” Huamani said he and his family had to work hard to survive, and they experienced constant animosity from their surrounding community.

“I would have to be discriminated against in high school … and have to pretend I was not undocumented just so people wouldn’t make fun of me,” Huamani said. “There is no shame in being undocumented, whatsoever.”

According to the Pew Hispanic Research Trends Project, there were 11.7 million undocumented immigrants living the United States in 2012, a significant rise from 3.5 million in 1990. 

Mechanical engineering freshman Michael Rukavina said he thinks the current rate of deportations under the Obama administration is understandable.

“Maybe I just don’t know enough, but I don’t see what the problem is,” Rukavina said. “Obama may have deported 2 million people, but if you’re here illegally, you have to be deported — that’s the law.”

Photo Credit: Zoe Davis | Daily Texan Staff

With beer now being sold at certain University sporting events, campus police are closely monitoring games to catch any spikes or decreases in safety issues, according to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey.

The University announced Feb. 27 that alcohol will be sold at spring sporting events as part of a trial, which will help UT Athletics, UTPD, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the UT Athletics concessionaire determine whether or not alcohol should be sold at other sporting events.

“This trial will be in effect this spring for all remaining men’s and women’s basketball, softball and baseball games, and the fan fest area at the Texas Relays,” men’s athletics director Steve Patterson said in the announcement. “We could look into expanding it for other sports events next fall provided the outcome of the trial is positive.”

According to Posey, UTPD will oversee the trial along with UT Athletics and inform other University officials of any problems.

“They’re just watching closely, and that is what UTPD will also do,” Posey said. “We’ll be monitoring to report to athletics if there’s any difference.”

Posey said UTPD will not increase the number of police patrols.

West Virginia University — one of two other Big 12 universities allowing alcohol sales at athletics events — saw a 35 percent decrease in the number of game day alcohol-related incidents after authorizing the sale of alcohol at games, according to West Virginia University Police statistics. Posey said UTPD is not anticipating any changes in the number of alcohol-related cases on game days.

“We’re not expecting really anything; we’re just going to watch to see what happens,” Posey said. “We are in observation mode, just like athletics is.”

Excessive consumption of alcohol prior to fans’ arrival to the games is often a concern, according to Posey.

“We know that they pre-party when there’s no alcohol [sold at games], and now they’ll be drinking at the gate,” Posey said. “So we’ll be very diligent.”

Finance senior Sunny Das, a former student government representative who helped spearhead student efforts to implement beer sales at sporting events, said he thinks the beer sales will result in a safer, more enjoyable experience for students.

“Many people when they do get to the games still have a buzz going, but, by halftime, that buzz kind of goes away, and most students who do leave to continue drinking just never come back,” Das said. “By having beer there, they at least have incentive to stay at the game and keep their spirits high.”

Das said he believes the initiative could reduce the amount of drinking that happens before games and the amount of alcohol smuggled into sporting events.

“Because there isn’t regulated beer sold at football games, people take other methods to bring alcohol in,” Das said. “And if there’s beer there, they won’t drink as much because they know once they get to the game they can have that one or two beers during halftime rather than chugging one or two beers before heading to the game.”

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

When a bush caught fire outside the Belo Center for New Media on Monday, someone inside the building pulled the fire alarm and students in the building were ushered directly into the smoke-filled area. Despite the fire, evacuation was not the safest course of action, according to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey.

Posey will meet with University fire marshal James Johson and emergency preparedness director David Cronk as soon as possible to make changes to the building evacuation policy, Posey said, because in the case of an outdoor fire, students and faculty should dial 911 instead of setting off the fire alarm.

“The emergency preparedness website has all the instructions for what to do if the fire is inside, but it does not specify what to do if the fire is outside the building,” Posey said. “I have a feeling we will be adding that very soon.”

On its website, the Office of Emergency Preparedness outlines the standard safety procedures for building evacuations in the event of an indoor fire, but does not give specific procedures for outdoor fires.

The Office of Emergency Preparedness is responsible for providing instructions for a variety of possible emergency situations, including bomb threats and active shooters on campus. For indoor fire emergencies, the emergency preparedness desk reference manual instructs building occupants to pull the fire alarm before calling 911.

“You are putting people in danger by getting them out of the building and putting them near the area that’s on fire,” Posey said.

Posey said students’ first instinct may be to pull the fire alarm, but, in some situations, there may not be a safe exit from the building.

“I understand it seems counterintuitive,” Posey said. “But if the fire is outside, what happens is [that pulling the fire alarm] does what we call ‘dumping the building,’ which just means it empties the building. So we would prefer that people call 911 first if the fire is outside.”

University communications director Rhonda Weldon said she is unsure whether fire alarm occurrences are recorded. Johnson was unavailable for comment.

Business senior Aakash Batra said he believes the evacuation policy is not made as clear as it should be.

“I don’t know much at all about our evacuation policy,” Batra said. “I mean, I’m sure I could Google it, but I wouldn’t think to do that.”

Other students, such as biology senior Suwetha Amsavelu, said their first instinct would be to exit the building as quickly as possible.

“I would just run,” Amsavelu said. “I’ve always just assumed that you have to evacuate, and my first thought would be to try and get out of the building.”

Safety procedures are not always easy to follow in an emergency situation, according to speech/language pathology senior Jeanan Sfeir.

“Honestly, I don’t know if I would wait for directions,” Sfeir said. “I would pull the fire alarm if I saw a fire because I would assume that is the way to alert people.”

One clinic in Travis County can no longer provide abortions because of Texas’ most recent abortion law, and three clinics currently open will close next year when the remaining provisions of the law are implemented, according to Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Sarah Wheat.

Wheat said part of the law that has not yet been implemented includes regulations on sizes of janitor’s closets, parking lots and air vents in health centers, though, none of the clinics in Travis County meet the requirements that must be implemented by September 2014.

Planned Parenthood’s South Austin location is the only clinic in Travis County that has stopped providing abortion services because of the law, Wheat said.

Savanna Faulkner, Texas Students for Life president, said 43 percent of women seeking abortions are college-aged, and the bill will improve abortion safety for students by helping ensure that doctors are well-equipped to perform procedures.

“A lot of times abortions go really wrong,” Faulkner said. “[The provision] shows that these doctors are quality doctors and … an abortion is a surgical thing that happens, so why are they not held to the same standards as all other surgical doctors?”

Julia Quinn, an executive board member of Texas Law Students for Reproductive Justice, said the law makes it impossible for a woman to exercise her constitutional right to an abortion.

“The district court recognized in its ruling that the admitting privileges requirement served no medical purpose and had no relation to safety,” Quinn said. “We completely agree. The sad fact of the matter is that, because so many hospitals are affiliated with religious institutions, even highly qualified abortion practitioners will be denied admitting privileges on ideological grounds.”

On Oct. 31, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous ruling made by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, which declared two provisions of the abortion law unconstitutional. Although the plaintiff — Planned Parenthood and other organizations — asked the Supreme Court Monday to reinstate Yeakel’s ruling declaring parts of the law unconstitutional, the law will remain in effect until at least January 2014.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Danielle Wells said hospital admitting privileges are not necessary for an abortion to be safe.

“The Texas Hospital Association opposed this provision because it’s medically unnecessary,” Wells said. “It doesn’t help women. In fact, it hurts woman because it creates a barrier to safe medical care, so it’s clear that this provision was designed to limit a woman’s access to safe abortion and that it does nothing to protect the health and safety of women — just the opposite.”

Wells said although some providers are still open, the amount of abortions they will be able to provide may be reduced because some clinics may have some physicians without admitting privileges.

Faulkner said she supports the law because it will ultimately benefit women who have abortions.

“Pro-choicers call it a war on women, but really, it’s a war for women,” Faulkner said. “We are bettering the circumstances for women and their health. We’re not taking away abortion completely.”

Quinn said the law makes it unnecessarily difficult for women in Texas to obtain abortions because they will have to travel far distances to find an abortion provider.
“Austin still has clinics that offer abortion services, but at least one has stopped providing abortions in the wake of the law, making it more difficult for students to access abortion care,” Quinn said.