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Juan Sanchez, vice president for research, will step down from his position in August of this year. 

“It has been a pleasure and a privilege for me to serve this great university of ours as VP for research,” Sanchez said.

Before he started at UT in 1989 in the mechanical engineering department, Sanchez was a materials science professor at Columbia University from 1987–1989 and a renowned researcher worldwide.

During his service as vice president of research, Sanchez established the Office of Research Support to increase faculty research support, extended the University’s research collaboration with the private sector and contributed to the tenfold increase in revenues for technological commercialization, according to the Office of the Provost.

“Dr. Sanchez has led the research enterprise at UT with distinction, and I am grateful for his leadership,” said Gregory Fenves, executive vice president and provost and next UT president, in a statement. “UT Austin has developed a worldwide reputation for successes in research and scholarship by faculty, students and research staff with support from the Office of the Vice President for Research.”

J. Tinsley Oden, associate vice president for research, said Sanchez has raised the school’s reputation as a research university. Under Sanchez, the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, Bureau of Economic Geology, Applied Research Laboratories and several other UT research units have become top research enterprises in their respective areas in the world, according to Oden.

“His remarkable work as vice president of research will have a lasting impact on UT’s research image and record,” Oden said. “He has been an extraordinary administrator, an indefatigable worker, an international spokesman and advocate for UT-Austin and a superb manager during those years.” 

Sanchez will go on to lead a research program as a faculty member, as well as teach in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The search for his replacement will commence in the next few weeks.

In the future of research, the University will build on Sanchez’s successes by expanding opportunities in areas such as medicine and health care to advance the University’s mission to create knowledge, according to Fenves.

“He certainly will leave the office of the [vice president for research] in sound shape and well-positioned to continue its growth and service to UT and the state,” Oden said.

Sanchez’s official last day will be August 31.

Bryan Davis, government senior and co-author of AR 6, answers questions during the Q&A session regarding the resolution.
Photo Credit: Jackie Wang | Daily Texan Staff

The Student Government Assembly voted 24–1–1 in favor of a resolution, AR 6, which supports all student-led efforts to raise awareness and stop the repetition of racism and sexism at UT.

Several representatives voiced concerns about the resolution’s suggested pamphlet, which would include examples of previous instances of racism or sexism at the University and would be distributed to students in cultural diversity-flagged courses. But co-author and government senior Bryan Davis said the resolution is intended to focus on all student-led efforts that raise awareness of discrimination on campus.

“A lot of people in the African-American community are watching Student Government right now,” Davis said. “There is a sentiment that Student Government does not care about issues that are facing us as a demographic. I want that to be known that a lot of eyes are on us as an institution, and a lot of people are hoping SG does pass this resolution tonight.”

Evan Barber, economics sophomore and member of the Society of Cultural Unity, said this resolution is important to educate students about culturally sensitive topics.

“We need to make sure our students know what’s culturally sensitive,” Barber said. “Many students around campus don’t know that what they’re doing is offensive.”

Since the pamphlet has not yet been finalized or approved, a handful of representatives opposed the resolution. Dylan Adkins, business representative and business freshman, asked whether having a pamphlet would alienate certain organizations, such as fraternities or spirit groups.

“I don’t want alienation of any organizations on any standard,” Adkins said.

Lizeth Urialdes, ethnic studies junior and co-author of the resolution, emphasized that the pamphlet is simply a draft.

“It’s going to change consistently through the higher levels,” Urialdes said. “[We want to] make sure that we see it through and hope to maintain consistency or positive change that the message is going to be taken the way we want it to. The point is to find a way to end sexism and racism on campus. You are doomed to repeat history if you don’t know what history is.”

The members of the Assembly also voiced their concern in ensuring SG’s involvement in the pamphlet’s creation. Barber clarified that the purpose of the bill was to show SG’s support for combating racism.     

“SG, by passing this legislation, will be saying we like the idea of students combating racism,” Barber said. “You would not be passing a specific pamphlet. You would be saying it’s a good idea to have a pamphlet. If a pamphlet comes about saying fraternities are terrible places, that’s not what we’re trying to do. But SG also has nothing to do with that pamphlet. We like the vague idea of students combating this. … You guys are promoting the idea that something should happen.”

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

UT’s portion of the Permanent University Fund (PUF) might be cut in half to help fund The University of Houston. 

Last week, Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) laid out a bill and constitutional amendment before the House Higher Education Committee that, if passed, would be a step toward adding UH to the PUF, an endowment that is currently designated to fund university operations at the UT and Texas A&M systems through the Available University Fund (AUF).

Chief financial officer Mary Knight said this could have a significant financial impact on the university.

“As far as the overall budget, a hundred million dollar reduction to any of our sources would be a very major reduction to the budget,” Knight said. “A lot of research and scholarships are funded from the AUF, so we would have to make reductions somewhere to be able to account for this.” 

Since the state constitution dictates that only UT and A&M receive the funds, the constitution must be amended to add UH to the short list of the fund’s recipients. Additionally, Turner’s complimentary bill must pass.   

Currently, $263 million of UT’s $2.658 billion budget comes from the PUF, according to Knight. UT receives two-thirds of the $17 billion fund, while A&M receives one-third of the money. Turner’s proposals would cut UT’s portion and transfer part of it to UH, granting each institution one-third of the fund. 

At Wednesday’s hearing, Turner said he thinks The University of Houston is underfunded compared to A&M and UT. This year The University of Houston received $143 million in general revenue state appropriations compared to about $262 million and $252 million at UT and A&M, respectively. 

The University of Houston, which is Texas’s third tier-one research institution alongside UT and A&M, should become Texas’s third flagship university, according to Turner. 

“We do need to have a major conversation, and we do need to find ways of making sure we have additional flagship universities that are funded at the same or similar levels to benefit other students as we move forward,” Turner said at the hearing Wednesday.

Shaun Theriot-Smith, civil engineering junior and University of Houston student government president, said he believes UH is deserving of the PUF funding but said it should not come at the financial expense of UT and A&M. 

“As far as the student perspective goes, any chance to increase funding for the University is always a good thing, but I don’t think any [UH] student is really interested in a situation which might compromise another University, such as UT or A&M,” Theriot-Smith said. “It would result in A&M or [UT] receiving a smaller slice of the pie, but there’s a way to apportion for [UH] in a way that would not compromise the financial stability of [UT] or A&M.” 

University spokesperson Gary Susswein declined comment on the legislation, which is pending in committee. 

Student government president Xavier Rotnofsky said he thinks legislators should consider the impact that cutting PUF funds will have on UT when engaging in a conversation around adding The University of Houston to the PUF. 

“Public institutions in Texas should be involved in the dialogue of appropriations, but we have to keep in mind the impact that cutting from PUF to UT would have considering the population size of not only UT-Austin but also the UT system as a whole,” Rotnofsky said. “We get a lot of our funding from PUF, so it’s a huge asset of ours. We have to keep in mind the impact of adding another entity.”

Issues such as racism and sexism have been in the spotlight in many places during the past few years, and UT is no exception. Past and present victims of racism and sexism have tried to speak up and let their voices be heard, and it is important that students understand these issues and be aware of how they have affected campus.

The Student Government Student Affairs Committee seems to be in agreement, as they discussed a resolution April 29 that, according to The Daily Texan, would “support all student-led efforts to raise awareness of racism and sexism on campus.”

One of the aims of the resolution is to “reform” classes carrying Cultural Diversity flags by distributing a pamphlet that chronicles incidents of racism and sexism at UT over the past 75 years.

This is an interesting idea. While UT, like every other college campus, has no doubt had its share of incidents involving racism or sexism, such moments tend to be unknown to much of the student population. Many students have limited knowledge of UT’s history in general, and most of them probably aren’t combing through archives trying to find mentions of racism or sexism.

The pamphlet would be a good way to begin to educate students on how these issues have affected UT. While a single pamphlet obviously would not encompass the entire scope of the issues, it would be a way to make students more aware of the ways that racism and sexism (and the movements against them) have played a part in both day-to-day interactions and larger events on campus. Students would be able to use them as a pathway to discovering more about UT.

Obviously, the idea of distributing a pamphlet in Cultural Diversity classes isn’t perfect. It would be naïve to think that many students wouldn’t just throw the pamphlet away or ignore its contents. There is also a question as to how the pamphlets would be integrated into these classes. Would there be time given to discuss the pamphlets in class, or would students just be given the pamphlets with the expectation that they would read them?

Distributing a simple pamphlet to students might also seem somewhat … simple. Most college students have a good deal of knowledge about racism and sexism, and the pamphlet would probably reinforce many things that they already knew. However, as resolution author and government senior Bryan Davis pointed out in the Texan, the pamphlet “isn’t meant to be an end-all be-all to the racism discussed…just a beginning to the entire process.”

Despite the reservations some may have, what makes the proposed pamphlet stand out is the fact that it deals with specific events in UT’s history. While it is easy to give students general facts about racism and sexism, giving them a document about incidents that have affected campus makes the issues seem a lot closer to home. As with many issues, it is easier to raise awareness about racism and sexism if students know how those specific issues in the past have affected how they live their lives in the present.

It is all too easy to look at racist or sexist events that happen in other states or countries and dismiss them because “they don’t affect me.” However, when one is confronted with specific events that have occurred in the places they live and work, it becomes harder to ignore those same issues. The pamphlet could go a long way in making students realize that racism and sexism are present everywhere, and that it is important fight against them whether they are highlighted on campus or across the world.

Racism and sexism will unfortunately continue to be present in society. However, even a pamphlet could help raise awareness of these issues among students and encourage them to fight against them. Pamphlet or no pamphlet, it is important that we continue to strive for an equal and fair society.

Dolan is a journalism freshman from Abilene. Follow Dolan on Twitter @mimimdolan.

Photo Credit: Crystal Marie Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Slide the City, a Utah-based water slide company, wants to transform the streets of Austin into a 1,000-foot vinyl slip and slide.

The company tours the country, making stops in more than 20 cities each year. Austin is on this year’s list of locations, but the company has not set a date, partly because of the water conservation concerns the City of Austin posed.

The summer tour is coming amid a stage-two drought, which is defined as when water in lakes Travis and Buchanan fall below a minimum supply level, according to Austin Water Utility. 

“Our reservoirs are a little over half full, and this is only exacerbated by the growing population,” said Lauren Hodges, geography sophomore and Green Events student leader for the Campus Environmental Center. “It’s a pretty contentious issue.”

According to Slide the City’s website, the slide is designed to have minimal environmental impact, and it treats and recycles the water efficiently. The slide circulates approximately 12,000–20,000 gallons of water per day.

Austin Water Utility has advised that this type of water use is currently prohibited because of the drought, and Slide the City will have to find alternative methods.

“Our city manager has enacted Drought Response Stage 2, which prohibits operation of fountains with an aerial emission of water or aerial fall of water greater than four inches,” Austin Water Utility spokesman Jason Hill said. “This is the case whether or not the intent is to recapture the water.”

Slide the City states on its website that it donates the water back to the community centers, parks, golf courses and other places when city officials allow. These techniques are not enough for efficient water conservation, said Jaclyn Kachelmeyer, international relations and global studies senior and director of the Campus Environmental Center.

“We will waste a lot of energy to pump the water and then clean and recycle it,” Kachelmeyer said. “It’s also impossible not to lose a lot of water from evaporation and it sticking to people, etc.”

Last fall, Austin declared a two-year moratorium on non-traditional events, such as Slide the City, in the downtown and South Austin area, specifically bordered by Oltorf Street and Barton Skyway, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The moratorium would disallow new events to shut down streets in those areas, 

Kachelmeyer said she thinks the slide would be an unnecessary waste of water.

“We don’t need to pump water and set up slides to have fun in Austin,” Kachelmeyer said. “We can take advantage of Austin’s wonderful local elements, like Lady Bird Lake, without being wasteful.”

Radio-television-film sophomore Katherine Brookshire said she thinks the water slide would be fun to see.

“I would want to go see it just to say I was there,” Brookshire said. “I don’t think I’d actually want to go do it. … It sounds kind of dangerous.”

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Student Government Assembly heard a resolution Tuesday in support of a pamphlet that would be distributed in courses carrying a cultural diversity flag. 

As the resolution stands, the pamphlet outlines historical incidents of racism and sexism at UT. The authors of the resolution said the pamphlet would help stop the repetition of this racism and sexism in the future.

“We understood that talking about these things wasn’t going to make people comfortable,” said Bryan Davis, government senior and author of the resolution. “But given the history of things that happened at UT over the years, … we kind of want [the pamphlet] to drive home the point that these are issues that need to be taken very seriously.”

The resolution was originally not on the agenda because an SG representative did not turn a copy of the resolution in on time. After several students spoke during open forum and asked the Assembly to hear the resolution, the Assembly voted to add the resolution to the agenda.

Davis said he wanted the Assembly to hear the resolution so it could have the chance to approve the resolution before the end of the semester.  

“I came in here thinking that the bill was dead,” Davis said. “I’m at a loss for words. I didn’t think this was going to happen.”

The resolution will move to the Student Affairs committee and, if passed, will be taken to a vote in SG next week. If SG approves the resolution, the University would still have to approve the pamphlet before it could be distributed in courses with a cultural diversity flag.

Ana Hernandez, UT Amnesty International chapter vice president, standing, hosted a forum discussing racism, guns and assault in Benedict Hall on Tuesday evening.
Photo Credit: Jack DuFon | Daily Texan Staff

Different student organizations focused on human rights discussed campus racism, gun safety and sexual assault at an open talk Tuesday at Benedict Hall.

UT’s chapter of Amnesty International, a global human rights movement, hosted the event, which sought to educate students about the three topics and begin a wider discourse on campus, according to Amnesty International Vice President Ana Hernandez. 

“These three topics affect the daily lives of students, and they are issues that we have here on the UT campus,” Hernandez said. “As students, it is our responsibility to have honest conversations about these issues. As a human rights organization, we feel that it is our role to help facilitate those conversations about the rights that students have to their bodies, property and well-being.”

In a presentation to the 15 people gathered, Hernandez reviewed the University’s past problems with racism, highlighting racist fraternity parties beginning in the 19th century, alleged “bleach bomb” incidents at UT in 2013, a series of controversies that have surrounded the Young Conservatives organization and a party the Fiji fraternity hosted this semester which guests said was themed “border patrol.”

Hernandez said leaders at UT have not stepped up enough to take stands on these issues, making accountability by students critical.

Accountability for sexual assault has also plagued campuses such as UT, according to a different presentation given by Amnesty International members. According to the presentation, 81 percent of students at universities in Texas report experiencing sexual harassment, but presenters said statistics show many incidents go unreported.

First-year law student Heather Kerstetter, who said she experienced sexual assault at while UT and reported it, said she believes the University was not there enough in her time of need.

“I feel like UT kind of brushes things under the rug as far as sexual assault goes,” Kerstetter said. “From my own experience, the person who I’ve had an issue with still walks the campus, and I still see them. The University needs to have better policies set up so [students like me] feel safer.”

On-campus safety, including sexual assault, should be further discussed because of campus carry legislation passed that could allow handguns on campus, said Hannah Guernsey, a member of Students Against Guns on Campus who spoke at the discussion.

While Guernsey argued that guns on campus would make the University more dangerous because of factors such as binge-drinking, drug abuse, mental health issues and accidental shootings, she said students need to more openly debate this issue to form a student voice legislators can hear.

“The rights to security of people has to be open to argument,” Guernsey said. “This debate directly impacts [us].”

More students need to participate in these dialogues to create change, Kerstetter said.

“I wish more people knew about [events such as these] and had access to them, because I really think the more communication there is around campus and society, the better,” Kerstetter said. “These topics aren’t
discussed enough.”

Photo courtesy of Marsha Miller.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of Q-and-A’s with UT’s deans. Manuel J. Justiz is dean of the College of Education. He assumed the position in 1990.

Daily Texan: Could you start off by telling us about the most interesting projects going on in the College of Education? 

Dean Justiz: We are the largest college of education in the country in size. We are a non-traditional school, meaning that we are very performance-based with a heavy emphasis on student performance and research. If you look at our national rankings, we were ranked  number one among publics for four years in a row. We have been ranked number one in research expenditures among public and private [universities] for five or six years. We place heavy emphasis on being interdisciplinary. 

We are cofounders of the UTeach program within the Natural Sciences [college] preparing math and science teachers. We’re also cofounders with Cockrell [School of Engineering] on UTeach engineering. Those are examples of some collaborative efforts. We took the lead with Governor Richards on STEM initiatives. At her request, we developed the only proposal for the entire state on STEM education. We’re working with Governor Abbott’s office on their current education initiative. Internally, we have the Office of Educational Research to improve the participation of faculty, and we have the third highest research expenditure at the University, which is strange for a college of education. It’s a very large college with a comprehensive mission, but we are very proud. 

DT: What percentage of undergrad students go into graduate school immediately versus going into teaching? 

Justiz: Our undergraduate population are the ones wanting to be teachers. Probably 85-90 percent of undergrads go on to teach. The rest are going to graduate school. We have 100 percent job placement and have a 100 percent pass rate in our Teacher Certification Exam. I think a lot of our graduates will come back after a few years for graduate programs.  

DT: You are the first dean we’ve talked to that has mentioned working with gubernatorial administrations. Is that something the college tries to initiate or do those different administrations reach out to you? 

Justiz: They reach out to us. I think that speaks to how well regarded the college is. I’ve been here 25 years, I’m the senior dean at UT. When I came here, the first initiative we had came from Governor Richards, with whom I traveled extensively and visited schools. She chose our STEM proposal to send to a federal level. We’re being asked to take the lead on Governor Abbott’s initiative. We don’t look inward, we look outward.  

DT: What brought you to UT and what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your time here? 

Justiz: When I was selected in a national search for a dean, I had been in a subcabinet post heading up the Research Agency in Education in Washington. I came to UT because it was a great opportunity. I fell in love with Austin and UT. It has been a great privilege for me to be a dean at the university. 

When I came, the college was under review. There were questions about academic integrity and the quality of our degrees. I felt this place could only go up. It was a low-risk situation. If I could build a team of people with the same vision, I knew I could improve the college and help it fulfill its promise. It is a work in progress, there are still problems and we need to make sure the leadership team is always working together. I’ve probably hired 92 percent of the college faculty by now.  

DT: Have you seen any changes in the types of students coming into the college? 

Justiz: When we started, most of our graduates were going into teacher education. Kinesiology has grown. Less people are going into teacher education and more into the health sciences.That isn’t so different from the rest of the university.  

DT: How large of a role does diversity play in your college? 

Justiz: Anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of minority graduates at UT graduate with a degree in education, and we have a strong, diverse faculty. In fact, I was the first minority dean in the history of the university.  

DT: What do you think will be the next big change in education? 

Justiz: We’ve been talking about creating a unique marriage between pedagogy and content in education through gaming. How do we bring the best facets of gaming to teaching and learning? How do we build that into a challenging curriculum that really engages you? How do you bring these practices in without compromising the integrity of the content? We think we need a public-private partnership to do this, but those are the kind of discussions we are having.  

Meghan McGowan and Kelsey Barajas chat with visiting professor Iris Apfel. 

Photo Credit: Kelsey Barajas | Daily Texan Staff

Iris Apfel, the 93-year-old “Rare Bird of Fashion,” has held many honors to this day: an exhibit dedicated to her style at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, her own line of clothes on the Home Shopping Network, a fashion spread for Italian Vogue and advertising campaigns for Coach and Kate Spade. She has been the face of MAC Cosmetics and is the subject of an Albert Maysles documentary. Apfel is also a visiting professor at UT, a title she holds dear. 

Each year, 15 students dedicated to the fashion industry are chosen for the School of Human Ecology’s UT in NYC course that takes place every May. 

Under the direction of Nancy Prideaux, the program coordinator and a senior lecturer in the Textiles and Apparel Department, selected students thoroughly research industry leaders and events. Then they meet with Apfel in New York City for a number of company visits. This unique opportunity allows students to take their classroom to the heart of the fashion industry and learn from firsthand experience.

The UT in NYC program is unparalleled. While many universities with fashion-related programs take trips to New York City to explore the industry, none are led by an industry icon as notable as Apfel. Apfel opens doors to the likes of J. Crew, Bergdorf Goodman, Kate Spade and Alexis Bittar — retailers, designers, public relations firms and more with a lot of prestige in the industry. 

Students are selected for the program through a competitive application, which includes an interview and faculty recommendations. The program itself seeks to incorporate students from varied backgrounds and experiences to participate in a robust exchange of ideas with each other and industry members.

When Sue Meller, BA ’75 and member of the school advisory council, visited the Met-debuted “Rare Bird of Fashion” exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum in Boston, she was unaware of the series of events that would unfold. 

During her visit, she commented to a docent that the exhibit would be a wonderful experience for UT students. To her surprise, she received a call from Apfel herself soon after, curious about our school. Apfel felt a true connection to UT, commenting that other schools didn’t seem to be as interested in their students. Notable faculty, including former College of Natural Sciences Dean Mary Ann Rankin and others from the School of Human Ecology, met with Apfel in New York City over dinner in December 2010. Then, with the oversight of Prideaux, the course was born, and the first UT in NYC course occurred five months later.

The trip to New York City is a treasured networking experience for the students, who connect with industry professionals and all textiles-apparel grads in the city at an alumni event at the trip’s culmination. 

Supply chain management senior Meghan McGowan attests to how the trip shaped her career: “It’s invaluable to hear from leading professional influences — hearing their stories and the different experiences they have in their toolbox that got them to where they are today.” 

Apfel’s star power certainly isn’t lost on her students or Prideaux. Merchandising senior Kelsey Cowan Barajas believes visiting professor Apfel has had a huge impact on industry executives because she is “not afraid to be uncompromisingly herself or speak her mind.” 

As the faculty member who has worked with her to develop this program, Prideaux describes it as “‘truly a once in a lifetime experience to be in the presence of a creative genius and most astute businesswoman.’” 

Apfel began her career at Women’s Wear Daily and founded Old World Weavers, a textile mill, with her husband Carl Apfel. The textile mill produces replicas of historical textiles, many of which have been enlisted for the White House.

The UT in NYC course has truly influenced the Textiles-Apparel Program and elevated it to compete with other programs nationally. The University’s experience with Apfel allowed it to become a member of the YMA Fashion Scholarships Fund organization. The camera crew for Albert Maysles’ documentary “Iris” — set to be released April 29 — filmed portions of the first UT in NYC course during the students’ time with Apfel in New York City. 

Apfel will be in Dallas for the launch of her documentary at the USA Film Festival later this month. The documentary has received critically acclaimed reviews and is set for private viewings in New York and other venues. We are fortunate to have the support of a fashion icon with so much wisdom, clout and exuberance under her belt. The guidance of visiting professor Apfel provides students the encouragement and enthusiasm to follow her lead in this competitive industry.

Patel is a business honors, finance and textiles and apparel junior from Sugar Land. 

Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse and Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

When radio-televisionfilm sophomore Holly Cook first came to UT, she had never taken a formal health or sex education course. Cook, who attended Clear Lake High School in Houston, learned what she knew about sex from her father, who is a biology teacher, and from friends and the Internet.

Cook’s story is not unique. Many Texas high schools do not offer any sex education whatsoever. Most high schools that do offer sex education focus heavily on abstinence. Across the board, UT freshmen arrive on campus with wildly varying sex education experiences.

“The breadth and depth of how sex ed is taught is really determined locally, so you can have quite a difference in approach within one county,” Texas Education Agency spokesperson Debbie Ratcliffe said. “In one community they may only talk about abstinence, and in the other ones, they may have lengthy discussions about all the different types of contraception. ...It can impact [students] pretty dramatically.”

Five years ago, Texas stopped requiring that high school curriculums include health class, in which sex education was usually taught. When sex education is offered, the state’s guideline is that the curriculum must “present abstinence as the preferred choice of behavior for unmarried persons of school age” and “devote more attention to abstinence than to any other behavior.”

Beyond that, sex education is up to the discretion of each individual district, Ratcliffe said. The result is a state-wide patchwork of sex education levels. In summer and fall 2014, the University enrolled 6551 first-year students from a combined 908 feeder schools.

Santiago Sanchez, Plan II and biochemistry sophomore, attended Seven Lakes High School in Katy, where a health course was required. Sanchez said the course emphasized abstinence above all else.

“I do not consider my sex education to be have been ‘good’ or useful,” Sanchez said. “How to properly put on and store a condom – the latter was not covered at all, if I remember correctly. Consent is another critical component of sex education that was, at least, conspicuously absent from my school’s curriculum.”

Michelle Zhang, Plan II and business honors freshman, took sex education as part of an optional health course her sophomore year at Westwood High School in Austin. She said she does not recall learning safe-sex or contraceptive methods.

“I just remember it being really weird for everyone, and I remember, ‘these are different STDs, and here are the symptoms for them,’” Zhang said. “It made me pretty scared about STDs, so they accomplished one thing.”

Although he took an online health class while at Highland Park High School, Thomas Mylott, Plan II and American studies junior, said the majority of what he learned about sexual behavior came from his parents, on the Internet and a middle school program promoting abstinence.

“My parents instilled in me a good sense of being responsible,” Mylott said.

Susan Tortolero, a public health professor at The University of Texas School of Public Health who researches sex education in Texas, said she has found even the best courses are only so effective on students and, ultimately, parents have the most influence on sex education. The type of sex education taught is not as important as the effectiveness of the curriculum.

“It really only matters if the curriculum is effective in making behavior changes,” Tortolero said. “There have been some abstinence-only programs that have been shown to be effective in changing behavior.”

Last month, the Texas House approved a budget amendment that would move $3 million from the state HIV and STD Awareness fund to further fund abstinence education.

The amendment will not take effect unless it is included in the final state budget jointly determined by the Senate and the House.

UT does not require that students take health classes — or any classes — that address sexual education. The extent to which sexual issues are covered for all incoming students is at freshman orientation, when orientation advisers act in a play called “Get Sexy, Get Consent.”

Still, Zhang said, she feels she figured out what she needed to know eventually.

“I feel like most of the dialogue surrounding sex doesn’t come from class — it comes from the people around you and living life,” Zhang said. “Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with who you hang out with — and with the personal experiences everyone has.”