In the midst of official reports indicating an absence of bleach in the balloon attack of government senior Bryan Davis, the Black Student Alliance organized a rally at the West Mall on Tuesday afternoon to plan for further activism and to oppose a climate of intimidation perceived by minority students at UT.
UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said Davis’ clothing and balloon fragments collected at the scene on the Aug. 22 incident were sent to an independent forensic lab for further testing.
“The lab has indicated that through their visual, microscopic and spectroscopy tests, all samples of clothing — shirt, shorts and socks — as well as submitted balloon fragments show no indication of bleach or other contaminant,” UTPD officials said in a statement.
At the rally, students and staff voiced their dissatisfaction with the University’s handling of reported balloon attacks against minorities in the West Campus area. Speakers at the rally said the ensuing controversy — whether bleach was in fact used in the balloons — glosses over an overarching safety and civil issue.
Davis said despite the reports that bleach was not used in his attack, student concern over the issue is still very much alive.
“These targetings and attacks, as I’m sure all of you know, won’t stop until the University more seriously considers them to be an issue that isn’t going away until a proper solution is found,” Davis said.
Chas Moore, a former student who spoke at the rally, said he does not think every balloon attack in West Campus that involved a minority student is necessarily racially motivated. But Moore did say such attacks will not be taken lightly by minority students.
“If [my racial demographic] makes up only 3 to 4 percent of the student population on this campus, and I’m getting balloons tossed at me from elevated levels in West Campus, I am going to internalize and think about those incidents in a different way than my non-colored constituents,” Moore said.
Eduardo Belalcazar, an international relations and global studies junior, who is the latest victim to speak out against the attacks, shared his story at the rally. Belalcazar said he has not heard from UTPD regarding his investigation.
English professor Snehal Shingavi said the “boys will be boys” narrative used to justify or dismiss the balloon attacks evades what he considers some of the worst behavior on campus.
“It’s irresponsible to cite prankish behavior as an excuse for what is clearly a climate of intimidation,” Shingavi said. “The fact that it happens to sorority women more is not an excuse. It’s actually disgusting that sexism is being used as an apology to forgive racism.”
In response to the incidents, Reva Davis, African and African diaspora studies senior and president of BSA, announced that the group will be starting a letter-writing campaign to further voice student sentiments and the perceived racial tension on campus. Reva said the BSA will draft letters and send them to city and University officials.
“It’s time for us to initiate change,” Reva said. “If people knew more about the demographics on color, they would empathize with the way these attacks are perceived. Every victim that has come forward has been a student of color. We need to cater to our reality.”